Fulltime Killer (2001)
Directed by Johnnie To
& Wai Ka-Fai
O (Takashi Sorimachi) is a top assassin for hire who lives a rather solitary life. His only extracurricular activity outside of killing for money is to watch (from a distance) pretty women clean up one of his hideout apartments - the latest "employee" is Chin (Kelly Lin), a Japanese video store employee by day, who is instantly fascinated by her mysterious employer.
He is challenged by Tok (Andy Lau), an up-and-coming hitman, to a battle of skills and wits to see who is the top killer.
At first, O ignores the challenges but Tok eventually insinuates himself into O's life by stalking him and "stealing" his jobs. Whereas O generally avoids creating a scene on his hits, Tok is the opposite - big guns, big explosions, big show. On top of that, Tok also befriends Chin and uses her as part of his plan to take over O's position and life.
Meanwhile, Lee (Simon Yam) and Gigi (Cherrie Ying) are two detectives determined to hunt down O and Tok and put them behind bars.
The whole situation comes to a head in a big shoot-out between O, Tok, and the police, and concludes in a fireworks warehouse battle of cat-and-mouse. Who will become #1?
A very stylish action film with some very interesting character studies. At first, I thought the movie was going to be a rip-off of Assassins, a crap Hollywood film with Antonio Banderas and Sylvester Stallone that followed the "I want to be #1" premise. However, it became clear that FullTime Killer was intended as an homage to all action films with a central killer character. Tok makes reference to films such as Desperado, Leon, and even Assassins, as he emulates some of the killing methods used in those movies.
Lee is just a bizarre cop who is obsessed with catching O and Tok without realizing the dangers behind the chase. His character takes a sharp turn after the big shootout between the cops, O, Tok, and Chin - he simply goes nuts!
Chin is that nerdy and plain looking girl that you know is really hot underneath the frumpiness. Because she works in a video store, she knows all about action films and makes plenty of references to them, too.
O is just the brooding assassin type - much like Leon. Not much more than that - the writers try to inject some character in him by adding in his weird voyeuristic tendencies but he remains a mystery to the audience.
The action is intense at times but the movie is mostly about dialogue. I figure the producers wanted the movie to go international since the dialogue varies between English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Japanese - Andy Lau takes the cake by covering all four languages throughout the movie!
But, hey, with the movie titled the way it is, you're in it for the big shootouts...and there are plenty. The movie starts out with two assassinations (one in a Thai prison, the other on a train station). Further hits include one with Tok wearing a Bill Clinton mask and sporting a pump-action shotgun and one involving O in a motorcyle and limousine duel. Finally, there is the aforementioned shootout with O, Tok, Chin, and the cops and the final showdown between O and Tok in a warehouse full of fireworks. All done with the Hong Kong style and done loudly (damn, that cop shootout was as loud as the heist battle in Heat).
Anyway, if you're looking for a reminder that Hong Kong is still tops in the action department, Fulltime Killer is a good example. The movie ended up with a box office of $25,000,000 HKD which put it in the top 10 box office hits in Hong Kong for 2001.