NAKED KILLER (not to be confused with NAKED GUN or NAKED LUNCH) is a 1992 Hong Kong action movie, one of the good ones that colors outside of the lines of reasonableness. An unhinged plot, extreme behavior and acrobatic, sometimes gory action make it fun, especially since those qualities tend to overlap.
The film’s central theme is a collision of violence and sexuality – the female lead is an assassin trained to seduce men and then kill them, the male lead is a cop who has been impotent since accidentally shooting his brother to death. It’s kind of a romance, and how’s this for a meet cute? Tom (Simon Yam, BULLET IN THE HEAD, LARA CROFT is the TOMB RAIDER in THE CRADLE OF LIFE) and Kitty (Chingmy Yau, LEGEND OF THE LIQUID SWORD) are in the salon getting their hair cut at the same time. Another hairstylist is hitting on Kitty when his pregnant girlfriend comes in to confront him. Kitty pretends to take his side until she attacks him with a cigarette and stabs him repeatedly in the groin with his scissors. Tom chases her and she steals his gun, which triggers his trauma and makes him puke, so she feels sorry for him and gives it back. This story would make an amazing wedding toast!
Afterwards she decides to make him her plaything, showing up at the police station with phony claims just to mess with him, not giving him back a pager he dropped, making him drive her around, rubbing up on him as a taunt. At first he acts grossed out, until he suddenly gets real horny for her and then (spoiler) is obsessed with her for the rest of his life.
Clearly there would be way too much drama in this relationship no matter what, but it’s complicated by a family incident and a crazy coincidence. The family incident is that Kitty’s dad (Chang Tseng, BULLET IN THE HEAD) catches a Triad (Ken Lo, AH KAM, PARADOX) sleeping with his wife, and dies in a struggle with him. The crazy coincidence is that Kitty goes to the Triad’s office and massacres the shit out of him and his entire security force exactly when an accomplished assassin named Cindy (Yiu Wai, IMMORTAL STORY) was there to do the same thing. Not realizing that, she takes Cindy hostage on her way out and is surprised that she helps her, using her fancy hat as an explosive, flipping around on top of cars, kicking through a windshield into a guy’s head, doing a DIE HARD style firehose escape, etc. Best hostage ever!
Next thing you know Kitty wakes up in her underwear at a fancy house where Cindy has removed her fingerprints, renamed her Susie and made her an apprentice. “I specialize in cleaning up unwanted men. People like Cody who deserved to be killed. I just kill scumbags. People who really have it coming to them.” That includes the zombie-like serial rapists she keeps chained up in her basement for training purposes. Kitty gets trapped with one and kills him in three minutes and seven seconds – “way too slow.”
Cindy spars with Kitty, talks about murdering dudes with toothbrushes, and caresses her, supposedly to teach the power of seduction. There’s so much lesbian flirtation in this movie it’s hard to take the openly lesbian villains as homophobic. It’s been too much of a celebration for that.
On Kitty’s first mission they target a triad by dirty dancing together at a club. He walks in slo-mo with shades like Chow Yun Fat in THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS and it draws him in like a magnet. As they rub up on him there are some quick cuts to them practicing using a wire to spectacularly behead a mannequin, and I think also (what is supposed to be) a real person?
Honestly I can’t figure out what is supposed to happen here, because it kind of seems like they exploded him on the dance floor, but it immediately cuts to what looks like the same guy elsewhere and another killer named Baby (not to be confused with Baby Firefly, Baby Spice, Baby Huey or The Boss Baby, and played by Madoka Sugawara) lures him in with an offer of “a hot sex game” which includes backwards handsprings out the window, slicing off his clothes with a couple of knife slashes and diving into the pool with the knife between her teeth. Come and get it!
Whatever the deal is there, you can see how Kitty’s new identity and occupation would complicate her relationship with Tom. When he goes to interview “Susie Kwan” about the murder of this guy she insists she’s not Kitty, no matter how much she looks like her. He thinks his friend David (Yu Kwok-Lok, CRIME STORY) will recognize her, but he doesn’t, and then walks out the door and is immediately hit by a car! (I didn’t get that part either.) But Tom knows it’s her because, as he confesses to his partner Jerky (Hui Siu-Hung, ROYAL WARRIORS), he had been impotent after the death of his brother, but woke up “hard as a rock” after meeting Kitty, and had “the same reaction” when he saw this woman. Identification by boner. Convincing, but would it hold up in court?
A new fling starts between Tom and supposedly-not-Kitty. They go at it in the rain on a car, it cuts between them in different locations, masturbating at the same time, etc. Eventually Cindy decides that Kitty is in love and won’t be a good killer anymore, and she likes her enough to let her go. But Kitty’s not out of the killing business yet because she gets into a conflict with another protegee of Cindy (and girlfriend of Baby) named Princess (Carrie Ng, CITY ON FIRE, ANGEL TERMINATORS), who I just realized is the titulastic “Naked Killer” because in the opening scene she surprises a target by being in his shower when he comes home. She shoots him, does some barbell reps while he tries to crawl away, then (as you do) does a flip and hangs upside down from a bar and slams the barbells on either side of his head, shooting blood everywhere. And does a bunch of flips and kicks him across the room into the exercise equipment before hitting the ground and shooting him in the balls. When the police investigate we learn that she also murdered an elderly couple because they talked to her about her cute dog in the elevator.
Of course the climactic battle pays off this heightened (and super horny) world of combat that has been established. There’s a ton of flipping and cartwheeling, caressing, black lace, bustiers, silver dresses, a swimming pool makeout that turns into a fight, gimmicks like poison lipstick, a big shootout. And that’s all of a piece with the stylish look of the film, with its colorful set design, show-offy camera moves and angles and frenetic action editing. There are two cinematographers credited – the great Peter Pau (DOUBLE TEAM, CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON) and William Yim (ONCE A THIEF, ZU WARRIORS). Good job, fellas.
This being a Hong Kong romantic action movie (SPOILER) it ends in a double suicide. I’m not saying this is good or bad, but you don’t see the two leads purposely blowing themselves up at the end of the American action romps. And if they ever did it probly wouldn’t have them having sex superimposed with flames under the end credits. In my opinion. Prove me wrong, BAD BOYS 4.
I’ve seen NAKED KILLER recommended by various people that I follow on Twitter, and a while back I tried to rent it but mixed it up with Ching Siu-Tung’s even crazier international production NAKED WEAPON (2002). I don’t think they’re technically supposed to be connected, but they’re both written by Wong Jing (MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG) and both are about secret cabals of young women trained to be assassins who use the art of seduction and who have an older woman in charge of them who caresses them and drinks wine and might give them their freedom and one of them falls for and has wet outdoor sex with a cop/agent. This one is directed by Clarence Fok Yiu-leung (THE ICEMAN COMETH, SPECIAL ID) so it doesn’t tell physics and realism to fuck off quite as poetically as the Ching one does. Still recommended.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.