Review: Naked Killer: The Director’s Cut
Chingmy Yau stars as Kitty, a ruthless wannabe assassin whose ultra-violent actions (including castration- The first red flag for sensitive viewers) and seeming hatred of men can be attributed to her rage over her father’s murder at the hands of her stepmother’s boyfriend (Got that? Good). Her trail of bodies draw the attention of the police, especially troubled copper Simon Yam, who is still dealing with having accidentally killed his own brother. They only briefly meet, but hopelessly romantic Yam is head over heels, and wants to be Kitty’s knight in shining armour. Kitty runs into a bit of trouble on another assignment, but is saved by Sister Cindy (Kelly Yao, AKA Wai Yiu), a well-dressed professional assassin. Sister Cindy takes the unseasoned Kitty under her wing, teaching her how to use weapons of the non-firearm variety. Before long Sister Cindy sets her latest pupil to work, but trouble comes brewing when a former pupil, the psycho lesbian Princess (Carrie Ng) arrives on the scene to carry out a hit on the duo, with poor Yam out of his depth stuck in the middle. Madoka Sugawara plays Baby, the rather dopey lover/sidekick of Princess.
Back in the 90s when I was coming of age here in Australia, horny teenage males like me who were far too interested in cinema to have much interest in traditional porn often found our ‘fix’ on SBS television, a TV station that at that time (it’s all class now) catered to the multi-cultural demographic. Basically it was the ‘foreign channel’ and it often played films with quite ‘adult content’, more so than any other station on TV (this was before cable was a big deal here). Saturday nights in particular were must-see TV for me (I wasn’t much into the ‘arthouse’ side of foreign-language cinema at the time, nor has that changed much since), as it was the Cult Movie night. Here an assortment of either grotesquely violent, or wonderfully ‘naughty’ films were the order of the day. It was here that I discovered the likes of; “Erotic Ghost Story”, “Vampyros Lesbos”, “She Killed in Ecstasy”, “The Devil’s Nightmare”, “Nude For Satan”, “The Weatherwoman” (and its mediocre sequel), and “The Seventh Curse” to name but a few of the delights that kept me up late watching TV instead of having a social life. “Naked Killer”, a sexy, violent 1992 Clarence Fok action-thriller was one of my favourites from this period in my life.
The film gets off to a great start with some sexy Bond-esque titles, as we also get the revelation that this film was written and produced by the infamous Wong Jing (who wrote the excellent “The Seventh Curse”, but also directed Jackie Chan’s hideous “City Hunter”). With Wong Jing involved, you might not be sure of the quality, but you know you’re in for a pretty extreme film. Personally, I think this is the classiest film I’ve seen Wong Jing (often referred to as HK’s equivalent of prolific Spanish Schlockmeister Jesus Franco) associated with, take that as you wish. The cinematography by Peter Pau (“Double Team”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Forbidden Kingdom”) and William Yim is particularly crisp, with bright, colourful lighting (I believe Pau only did the title sequence, though). Either the director or the cinematographers are big fans of blowing curtains and see-through fabrics. Luckily I’m a fan, too. Visually, at times it plays a bit like a Wong Kar-Wai (“Chungking Express”, “Ashes of Time”) film...only really, really kinky and violent…and unpretentious. The bedroom scenes in particular are really pretty, almost to the point where you’re not looking at the sex on screen. Almost. Hell, the costumes are marvellous too, which is weird given the film’s title. The opening scene really made me lament that HK cinema (let alone any Asian cinema, really) hasn’t been the same since the days of the Cat III flicks like this. It also had me wondering whether the gorgeous Ms. Chingmy Yau really needed to squish a guy’s head with a pair of dumbbells and shoot him in the balls? I ask again: And shoot him in the balls? That scene also works to defy expectations as Yau is being stalked in the scene, it seems, only to turn out to have trapped her stalker, being the predator not prey, all along. God these Cat III films were oodles of fun. I miss ‘em. Despite the lurid title, I’d argue that this film has more violent action than sex or nudity (though the violence isn’t on the level of “Kill Bill” in terms of sheer quantity or graphic detail), and I’d actually have little problem recommending this action/thriller to non-Cat III connoisseurs. The parking garage scene alone is bravura action stuff that even John Woo fans might get something out of. The big showdown between the characters played by Kelly Yao (Wai Yiu), Carrie Ng, and Madoka Sugawara is terrific stuff and well-choreographed. It also features an interesting twist on the whole poisoned drink motif.
There’s no doubt that this is a very sexy film, but oddly enough the sexiest scene for me was during the assassin training session between Chingmy Yau and her mentor played by Kelly Yao (Wai Yiu). It’s a typically shameless Cat III scene (the whole film is like “La Femme Nikita” on acid and directed by Russ “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” Meyer), but it’s more about tension and arousal than mere T&A and cheap titillation. I could’ve done without the scene where Chingmy Yau is left to fend for herself against a slimy paedophile as part of the training, but with a Cat III film, bad taste is just par for the course (as anyone who remembers the ‘Hello Pervert’ scene from “The Weatherwoman” knows). For real exploitation, there is the memorable pool scene, which is gorgeous, erotic, repulsive and gory all at the same time. It’s the kind of scene that never works, but it does here (as does the film’s nihilistic ending, come to think of it).
The film also has some very interesting (almost Freudian) stuff going on here on a thematic level. Whilst most of the women are killers and are used in an exploitative, voyeuristic manner for a large part, I’d still argue the film has merits in its strong depiction of females. This is especially so when you add the Simon Yam character, who by contrast is a real wuss of a man, being seduced and bewitched by a woman (at one point remarking ‘I’m lost without her!’) and paralysed by guilt and a traumatic past. In fact, all of the males here are either weak or sleazy. The subtext is pretty overt, as Yam is rendered paralytic by the very sight of a gun pointed at him, the very same kind of weapon (a phallus substitute) the women in the film wield with such authority and precision. This in addition to another weapon the women have, their bodies. At one point a female character is even heard to remark ‘All men are bastards!’, driving the point home further. If the Sapphic leanings of several of the women weren’t indicators enough that this film views its women as powerful and independent, Yam’s constant vomiting (hilarious, by the way) definitely beats you over the head with the point. These women are in full control, even sexually, as they use their bodies as a weapon of seduction (and not always against a man). With women helping themselves and using weapons usually associated with men, are men even necessary? Some might at first glance baulk at the idea of bisexual or lesbian women indulging in such violent and often villainous ways (even if Princess looks awful spiffy in her white suit, chomping a cigar), but it’s clear that the character of Sister Cindy is a lesbian just like Princess and Baby, but she’s not evil (Princess is outright sadistic and psychopathic).
Chingmy Yau makes a memorable, sexy anti-heroine, and Simon Yam is fine too (as a guy who wants to be a masculine hero but is either out of his depth or simply not necessary), whilst Madoka Sugawara is just plain adorable as the bubble-brained ‘Baby’. This is the film “La Femme Nikita” (or the American remake) should’ve been in my view. Hell, it was just about my favourite guilty pleasure when I was around 15. If you like your stylised ultra-violence with a side order of Freudian analysis, Sapphic tension and a healthy smattering of T&A, this is your movie.