Fox // 1992 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // July 30th, 2003
Hot Asian lesbian assassins...need I say more?
Kitty is an angry young woman who channels her aggression in less than helpful ways, usually against the more amoral members of Hong Kong society. When a horny hairdresser hits on her in front of his pregnant girlfriend, the vicious Kitten stabs him repeatedly in the groin with a rat-tailed comb. This gets the attention of Tom, a disgraced police officer recently back on the force after accidentally killing his own brother. The fizzled flatfoot falls instantly in lust with the wild woman, but she has other perverted fish to fry. When her father is killed by an adulterous letch, Kitty seeks revenge by breaking into his office building and killing several hundred people. But her escape is not guaranteed, and just when it seems she will be caught, a haute couture hit woman named Sister Cindy helps her escape. Cindy offers to train the anti-social angel in the art of the professional assassin. Soon, the deadly duo are crisscrossing the globe, committing all manner of murders for hire. But when fellow female executioners Princess and her gal pal lover Baby (both former students of the glamorous Cindy) become adversaries to Kitty and Company, it sets up a tantalizing game of erotic catfight and mouse between the four fatal females with the troubled Tom caught in the middle. Who lives and who dies in this deadly world of honor, loyalty, and lesbianism will be determined by who is the most skilled, the slyest, and the most capable of being a cold blooded Naked Killer.
It's like nothing you've ever seen before, not even in your wildest, most freaked out girl-on-girl fantasy. Imagine taking a small bit of John Woo's The Killer, adding a sprinkling of A Chinese Ghost Story, incorporating Daryl Hannah's deadly gymnastic replicant from Blade Runner with some of the over the top cinematic style of Peter Jackson circa Dead Alive, and mixing with a heavy dose of erotic Asian lesbianism featuring some incredibly fine looking Chinese chicks who kick all kinds of ass, and you've got just a small idea of what the Naked Killer is all about. Except it's much more than this. It's a meditation on feminism and chauvinism. It's a telling cultural commentary on the paternalistic nature of Hong Kong/Chinese society. It's a take-back-the-night style empowerment statement about sexism and perversion. But mostly, it's a fantastic, unbelievably entertaining look at four vivacious kung fu killers, vigilantes of vice who are equal parts beauty and beast, uniformly capable of inflicting pleasure and pain with their deadly hands. Naked Killer uses stylized sets, unusual camera angles and lens, super model montage moments, and your typically brilliant quick-cut Asian action set pieces to create a world unto itself, a place where the police are bumbling incompetents, where fashion plate divas are highly skilled and trained terminators on the destruction prowl for the sexually sick and twisted, and where there is admiration and redemption amongst even the most vicious slayers. Naked Killer is like witnessing the creation of a new form of film language, one in which the cartoon, the carefully choreographed, and the cautionary tale are weaved into one wild, wacky, totally satisfying entertainment experience.
It's hard to describe, in simple terms, why Naked Killer is so special. It's like a decadent, deadly Pachinko game come to life. It's a stylized girlie graphic novelization of psycho hot babe killers as channeled through and re-imagined by Quentin Tarantino -- here's hoping Kill Bill is half this good. It's violence made feminine and therefore, far more brutal and precise. With its hierarchy of anti-heroes and villains, we see the seductive and manipulative Sister Cindy sitting on top and playing the battling factions of the dominating Princess, the ersatz innocent Baby, and the femme fatalism of the cruel Kitty against each other until it becomes an entire Asian fetish magazine collection moving and murdering in the flesh. But this is not a film completely bathed in the nonsensical nudity of its cast; in reality, there is very little skin shown here. What we get instead is a sensual, shocking experience where the same sex overtones each character has for the other is far more spicy than any actual bed aerobics. Indeed, the action scenes are much more passionate and provocative than any babe-on-babe ballyhoo could be. When Cindy and Kitty battle to escape a high rise building parking lot together, the deadly duo's tag team reign of terror and destruction is far more erotic in its Sappho sisterhood than some softcore exchange of cheek pecks. Between the oversized firearms in Kitty's "claws" and Cindy's supersonic throwing daggers, the phallic weapons of man turn the tables on their testosterone fueled creators, helping the "weaker" sex beat and blast their brains out. Naked Killer is girl power gone gonzo, a geek's wet dream doused with libido lightening messages about Chinese society's misogyny.
Still, this isn't all serious political grandstanding. Naked Killer acknowledges that nothing beats incredibly attractive Chinese women massaging and fondling each other, all in the name of honor and power. And the stars are all drop dead(ly) gorgeous. Wai Yu's performance as Sister Cindy is a combination of socialite and scholar, teacher and terrorist. The fact that her fashion is as deadly as her fists is what makes her such a standout center to the film. Chingmy Yau's Kitty is dangerously ditzy, the out of control novice who needs a few hard knocks to understand her own inner skills. As the sinister and seductive Princess, Carrie Ng combines menace with exotic mystery perfectly. And Madoka Sugawar as Baby personifies her name, looking childlike and cold-blooded at the same time. As the sole male lead, Simon Yam as the befuddled cop Tom is also very good, but he does occasionally seem to be lost in a far more intense drama about personal blame and attempted redemption. He doesn't seem able to capture the proper camp qualities that his cast mates can. Still, under Fok Yiu Leung's masterful direction, with its eccentric perspectives and brilliant compositions (an overhead shot of Kitty and Cindy lounging is particularly memorable) everything comes together delightfully. See, aside from all the gratuitous violence, kinky sex, and hidden sociological agendas, Naked Killer is first and foremost a fun filled rollercoaster ride with a great group of fetching female action stars. What more could you want from a movie?
As it did with The Magnificent Butcher, 20th Century Fox goes all out to give this forgotten gem of Hong Kong cinema the best possible sound and vision...and wow do they succeed. For a film made over a decade ago, the transfer of Naked Killer is flawless...flawless. It looks brand spanking new and crystal clear. The colors jump from the screen and the image is rich in detail. Thankfully preserving the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the anamorphic widescreen picture proves that Asian action films can be artistically, as well as adrenaline, satisfying. One the sonic side, Fox again provides the welcome option of hearing the original Cantonese (with some excellent English subtitles) or a fairly good, if occasionally goofy, American dub. Unless the unusual cadence of the Chinese language bothers you, stick with the original soundtrack. Even the Dolby Digital 5.1 provides some nice atmospheric touches, especially in the multi-directional fight scenes.
Finally, Fox bats 1.000 by giving us the necessary contextual bonus content to understand Naked Killer and its place within the overall output of the Hong Kong film industry. A series of interviews with writer/producer Wong Ling, director Fok Yiu Leung and actor Simon Yam act as an ersatz commentary, as each explains their part in the film's creation and success. Even though none of the foxy females are present and Yam's English is substandard at best, these are still wonderfully informative Q&A sessions (especially enlightening is Leung's modesty over making such a "racy" film, and how he hasn't made another one like it since). Along with profiles and galleries and promotional material, we get a nice overview of the production and people involved.
So, if you want hot Asian action, both physical and lethal, or if you think Charlie's updated Butt Babes are the last word in ass kicking gal pals, just check out Naked Killer. But be warned. These girls ain't no angels.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, dubbed)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese, original language)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Exclusive Interviews with Cast and Crew
* Hong Kong Beauty Stars Animated Photo Gallery
* Movie Photo Gallery
* New and Original Trailers
* Original Promotional Materials