Posted: 05/19/2003


Killers from Beijing


by Del Harvey

This DVD is available for purchase at

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Killers from Beijing is another morality tale following the dogma of absolute destiny so common in Chinese films. The weak impetus for four friends in the military to become crooks comes in the first five minutes, as they finish a display of martial arts for their superior, whose response is to tell them they are all relieved of duty and to become crooks, since that’s probably what they could do best.

About half of Killers from Beijing is comprised of meaningless scenes like this, with the actors looking deep and meaningful while listening to their friends espouse on something equally deep, but typically without having any real effect on the story. Except to add as filler. The rest of the film gets down to business and follows a storyline wherein our boys, bursting with military training, become killers for hire for a member of a Hong Kong triad named Chick (Ma Tak Chung). The four friends (Patrick Tam, Chin Kar-lok, Michael Tong and Tuen Wai-lun) kill several people, including Chick’s boss, whom they execute as a favor to Chick upon learning his boss was sleeping with Chick’s wife. Chick shows his appreciation by turning in the four friends. Trapped with no way home, they set out to get revenge on Chick.

In it only for the money, the friends find a way to escape back to the mainland, where they find that the leader’s girl (Annie Man) has been kidnapped by the Village head, who bears some evil intentions of his own. As things spiral downward for our ersatz heroes, destiny rears its ugly head and their only option becomes painfully obvious.

As mentioned earlier, director Bowie Lau pads the film with lengthy scenes of the actors chewing up the set with melodramatic monologues and long, moody silences or so much silly background insight into each character that we are practically numb to the action, when it finally comes. There are glimpses of hope in the film, but these are quickly dashed by these long, dry scenes without purpose.

Killers from Beijing isn’t bad, if you know what you’re getting yourself into. For action purists, however, this film will barely satisfy.

Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly, a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.

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