You just know something terrible is going to happen to the rotund protagonist at the centre of Billy Tang's excessively grim Run and Kill, yet another entry in my veiled, and some might say, misguided, attempt to seem less lame by watching a shitload of Category III films. Well, for starters, you used the word "grim" to describe it right out of the gate. Yeah, but remember, Billy Tang directed Red to Kill, one of the grimmest movies ever made. In other words, you shouldn't be that surprised that a film he made might come off as a little grim. Oh, man. How should I put this? This film is more than "a little grim." It's bleak, it's disturbing, it's violent, and it's dark as hell. Anyway, since I got sidetracked, I'd like to finish my original point. And, if memory serves me correctly, the point I was trying to make went something like this: I knew a terrible tragedy was about to befall this film's tubby lead judging by the overly good mood he seemed be in when he wakes up. You can just tell that this isn't going to be his day. Wait, "isn't going to be his day"? You make it sound like he's about to get the mother of all parking tickets. I would like to think that someone who is forced to watch their daughter burnt to a crisp would use stronger language than that to describe their day. How about being forced to watch a man get stabbed in the leg with a piece of bamboo? What kind of language would that entail? I don't know, but it sounds like this guy's being forced to watch a lot heinous stuff over the course of a single day. Actually, a lot of it occurs over the period of a couple of days, maybe even a week. Either way, every horrible thing you can imagine happening to a chubby Chinese man takes place in this film. And, yes, at one point he even accidentally knocks off the charred head that was once attached to the equally charred body of his recently flame-broiled daughter.
As I let that mental image sink in a bit; which, I'll admit, it's definitely something you don't see transpire that often. I'm going to try to piece together the events that led up to that shockingly awful incident–shockingly awful even by Category III standards–by walking us through the series of unfortunate decisions made by Cheng Ng (Kent Cheng), or "Fatty," as he is more widely known.
In case we had any doubts whether or not Fatty was living the good life, the films opens with a shot of a framed photo taken on the day Fatty and his wife (Lily Lee) got married. Smiling from ear to ear, the photo is a reminder of the martial bliss Fatty and his wife experienced on that day. Are things still as blissful? Well, judging by the cheerful demenour Fatty displays as he wakes up, things couldn't better. After taking his daughter, Pinky(!), to school, he heads to work. The owner of a successful petrol station, Fatty would appear to have it all: a leggy wife, a daughter who is too adorable for words, and the respect of the community (his jaunt down the street reminded me of the opening credits of The King of Kensingston).
Informed by his mother that today is his wedding anniversary, Fatty grabs a wad of cash out of a drawer. Before heading out to buy a present or some shit, Fatty drops by the apartment to wish his happy anniversary. As he enters, Fatty hears the sound of moaning. In typical Fatty fashion, Fatty begins to mimic the moaning sounds. However, the mimicry comes to screeching halt when he realizes that his wife is the one doing the moaning, and the moans are being caused by another man's cock.
Obviously depressed by what he just saw, Fatty wanders the nightclub district of Kowloon City in the mopiest manner possible. Stopped on the street by a childhood friend, scratch that, a classmate from school that he barely remembers, Fatty and the former classmate, a bi-curious ladies man, grab a tequila at the '97 Bar. (Quirky fun-fact: Tequila is the nickname of Chow Yun-Fat's character in Hard Boiled.)
I don't know how to put this, but one of the unexpected pleasures that come from watching Category III films, and Hong Kong cinema in general, are those rare moments when a white person appears onscreen. Spotting a white person standing in the background is one thing, but if they start speaking Cantonese, I lose it. White people who speak Cantonese are awesome. Don't tell anyone, but one of my favourite past times is searching the internet for videos that feature white people speaking Cantonese.
After about a dozen or so tequilas, Fatty is clearly drunk out of his mind. Since the former classmate has long since left, Fatty is reduced to mumbling to himself like an imbecile. Enter the alluring Fanny (Esther Kwan), a vision of loveliness in a saucy headband. Sitting on the stool next to Fatty, Fanny humours him by letting him pay for her drinks. Her attitude, however, changes immediately when she spots the wad of cash in his wallet (a wad he was supposed to use to pay for his wife's anniversary gift). Telling him that he should get back at his wife, Fanny grabs 5,000 from his wallet and instructs Fatty to wait here while she summons a friend who knows a thing or two about revenge.
It turns out that the friend Fanny summons is a low level gangster. And when he approaches Fatty near the john, all he can make out are the words "wife" and "dead." Putting two and two together, the low level gangster assumes that Fatty wants to put a hit out on his wife. Of course, we all know he didn't say that. Nonetheless, the low level gangster grabs 100,000 from his wallet as a down payment, and leaves Fatty in a heap.
Eventually making his way home, Fatty finds that his wife and her lover are still going at it. Unaware that assassins are about to come crashing through the door, Fatty tries to come an understanding with his wife; one that involves her not using their flat for adultery purposes. In typical Billy Tang fashion, the violence that comes through Fatty's door is swift and merciless. Knocked unconscious by the assassins during the attack, Fatty lies on the floor as his wife and her lover are murdered.
After being questioned by Inspector Man (Danny Lee) down at police headquarters, Fatty comes home to an empty apartment; oh, and, don't worry, Pinky is staying with his mother. Still oblivious to the fact that he was the one who ordered the hit on his wife, Fatty receives a phone call instructing him to come to the '97 Bar. Slowly but surely, Fatty begins to learn the truth.
Arson, blood drinking, torture, children set ablaze, impromptu puppet shows that boast puppets that are made from the corpses of charred children, hostage standoffs, porno theatre kung-fu fights (could you guys go kick each other in the face somewhere else, I'm trying to watch The Second Coming of Eva up in this Guangdong smut palace), crazy shootouts, and slit throats (complete with arterial spray) are what Fatty has in his future. Now, I don't know exactly who's to blame for Fatty's unique dilemma. But I do know one thing, a psychotic veteran of the Sino-Vietnamese War named Ching Fung (Simon Yam) is determined to make Fatty's life more of a living hell than it already is. If you doubt his life can't get any worse, than it's obvious you don't know Ching Fung. Blaming him for the death of his brother, Ching Fung does things to Fatty that will leave certain audience members aghast. Luckily, I'm not one of those "certain audience members." That being said, what occurs during the film's final third will shock even the most jaded fans of Hong Kong cinema.
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