"If John Woo had only half an ass, he might make a film like this."
Ballistic Kiss (1998)
Literally: Kill Some People Dance a Little
Director: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan
Producer: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan
Writer: Bey Logan
Action Director: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan
Cast: Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, Annie Wu (Ng San-Kwan), James Wong Ka-Lok, Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Yu Rong-Guang, Karen Tong Bo-Yu, Michael Woods, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu
Running Time: 90 min.
Plot: Cat (Donnie Yen) is a professional killer. During a routine mission he mistakenly bumps into an old nemesis. This opens a new personal mission for Cat. In the process of his new founded mission, Cat falls in love with a beautiful officer named Carrie (Annie Wu). Together they face whatever it takes to survive.
REEFER'S REVIEW: Donnie Yen plays a betrayed NYC cop turned HK hitman with a depressingly sullen demeanor and some dopey Roy Orbison glasses. This guy is so off-the-charts pathetic that he dances in his apartment alone pretending to have a partner. He's lonely. I get it! Somebody at least get him a blow-up doll!!!
Nonetheless, Cat (his character's name) seems to enjoy his work. He shoots guys and beats the hell out of them in interesting and violent ways. Prompting many a gush of blood and crackling bones. What is the problem with that, you ask? Well, Yen films it in the hyper sped-up style of a 5 year old on crack. I don't understand it. This guy definitely has the moves without these FX.
This movie also seems to suffer from John Woo overload. Meaning lots of slow mo gun battles, slow mo fights, slow mo reaction shots, slow mo coffee drinking, etc. Woo had a reason for using slow motion. Yen seems to use it so the movie will run more than 90 minutes.
Anyway, there is an accidental kidnapping of a female cop (who seems more giggly school girl than Dirty Harry), many poorly edited duels with large groups of goons, and then finally the showdown with his ex-partner whose sent him to prison. The end.
REEFER'S RATING: 3/10
NUMSKULL'S REVIEW: I'm tempted to say "nice try".
If John Woo had only half an ass, he might make a film like this. Cat is a lonesome, depressed assassin who wears goofy-looking sunglasses with rectangular frames. He shoots and beats up lots of people while looking very bored. Carrie is a police woman who, during a conference about Cat's activities, comes to the awe-inspiring conclusion that such an efficient killer must live alone and not have any friends. Cat just happens to live near Carrie's house and has delusions of romantic bliss with her. He solemnly dances around his living room, leading an imaginary partner. Then he engages in elaborate masturbation rituals involving gerbils, telephone cords, and cottage cheese.
OK, I made that last part up. But, considering how uninvolving this movie can be, the imagination has a tendency to wander elsewhere. The story of how Cat was betrayed by his buddy in New York City, went to prison, and now itches for payback is so bland I actually found myself looking forward to the ham-fisted dialogues between Cat and Carrie for a change of pace. The shootouts are choreographed adequately but lack any real emotional punch. Cat's character plays a big role in this. He goes through most of the movie with the same tone of voice and the same facial expression. I guess he went to the Jean-Claude Van Damme School of Acting. And, even though he supposedly has two big motivating factors in his life - his love of Carrie and his desire for revenge - he doesn't seem to give a damn whether he lives or dies.
Now, one thing that really pisses me off is when a movie starves for lack of substance and the film makers try to make up for it with style. A lot of the action here takes place with his pale blue light illuminating everything. Sorry Mr. Yen, but making the characters look like Smurfs does not make them any more or less sympathetic. There's some really annoying use of heavy shadow, too.
This movie is not entirely without merit, though. The music fits quite nicely...I sat through the closing credits to hear it. The radio DJ whom Cat regularly calls was a nice touch. And it's one of those rare HK action films that actually has an ending that leaves the scene of the final act of violence. But none of this is enough to save Ballistic Kiss from being filed under "cookie cutter".
NUMSKULL'S RATING: 4/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: The first and major problem with Ballistic Kiss is the story. Sorry Bey Logan, I know it's hard to stay original these days but man, you borrow from some very popular "action" movies - "The Killer", "The Professional" - - uh, we didn't forget about these. We've seen it all before and the "loner-assassin" premise got old. There were also a couple of action scenes where I didn't know what the hell was going on - one was filmed so close and so dark that all you can say is "huh!?", even in widescreen mode. On a minor note, If there's going to be english dialogue in a HK film, I wish they'd hire actors that can at least act half decent. Some of the way these actors say their english-jive-lingo sounds so terrible that it makes me want to give Don "The Dragon" Wilson an Oscar! One more thing I'd like to point out: what's up with that sex scene that popped out of nowhere? Was it really necessary? You could of at least thrown in one with Annie Wu, who happens to be the only thing interesting in this film.
Ballistic Kiss is barely watchable, and that's being too nice. With a little improvement on the story and more defined action, it could of been what it was trying to be - an average action flick.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 4/10