That Killer Instinct

There's no getting around comparing the lurid Hong Kong lesbian assassin flick Naked Killer with Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Like Meyer's cult classic, this over-the-top romp from the busy workshop of prolific filmmaker Wong Jing details the deadly shenanigans of a handful of lusty, bloodthirsty felines (two of whom are a glamorous-ruthless lesbian couple not unlike Faster Pussycat's Varla and Rosie) who derive kicks from dispatching useless males. As if that weren't enough to invoke parallels, Jing named his main character Kitty. Coincidence, you say? Like the scores of hapless men who fall before Jing's murderous babes, you obviously don't know who you're dealing with. Jing is a master of the sneaky put-on. Consider: The film credits a Clarence Fok Yiu Leung as director. Fok Yiu? You don't suppose the moniker could be an inside jibe at American audiences' difficulty pronouncing Chinese names, do you?

Naked Killer doesn't so much follow a narrative flow as it careens and thrashes about with the incomprehensible logic of a nightmare bursting from the id. Bizarre reversals are the order of the day; the film opens with what appears to be a straight (in either sense of the word) woman-in-jeopardy scenario -- an elegantly dressed lovely (maybe too elegantly dressed for this neighborhood) walks nervously down a deserted, rain-slicked street in the middle of the night. She pauses, as if fearful she is being followed. A strange noise sends her skittering into an apartment building. Safe! She enters an apartment, flips on the stereo, and steps into the shower. Oh no! Hey lady, haven't you seen Psycho? A creepy tattooed man carrying a pistol slowly opens the bathroom door. But when this guy pulls aside the shower curtain, he doesn't find Janet Leigh cowering in the tub expecting to be offed. No, the bathing beauty freezes him with a coy killer smile before producing her own gun and blowing off the man's elbows and kneecaps. Turns out this is his apartment. And this showering shootist is one rude guest. After a bit of male bashing -- both physical and verbal -- she finishes off her unfortunate host with a final emasculating bullet to the groin. Say hello to Princess (Carrie Ng vamping her wicked little heart out), the naked killer of the title.

Ling's clever screenplay toys with audience expectations based on traditional male-female dynamics. It's as if all the female villains from the Bond movies came back to life specifically to wreak havoc on the masculine gender, and in particular on any hombre unenlightened enough to still be following 007's arrogant misogynist lead. The movie is feminist in the sense that the women in the picture wield all the power. This Princess doesn't kiss frogs; she dissects them. And the homicidal bitch-goddess is only one of several of Naked Killer's kick-ass-and-take-names femmes fatales (albeit the meanest and most colorful). No man who crosses her -- nor several who innocently cross her path -- lives long enough to brag about it to his buddies. Of course, Naked Killer implies that the terms "innocent" and "man" are mutually exclusive. But while Ling creates a movie world of strong women and weak men, the aura of old-fashioned male titillation still dominates; Naked Killer's nubile actresses may not display the bounteous cleavage of Meyer's supervixens, but they're all babes. And, as Faster Pussycat clearly proved decades ago, the prospect of watching beautiful lesbians in action does not exactly drive off most heterosexual men. Sexploitation king Meyer should be proud; Ling has learned his lessons well.

As quickly as she appeared and dispatched her victim, Princess vanishes, not to reappear until midway through the film. Transitions? Who needs transitions? Instead of explaining who Princess is and where she came from, Naked Killer jump-cuts to the police investigation of the murder. The film's focus shifts to young homicide detective Tinam (Simon Yam), who is promptly dismissed from the case because of his cockamamie theory that a woman perpetrated this murder (which happens to be the third in a string of killings marked by the common denominator that all the men have had their penises, as the film's charmingly bad, malaprop-prone subtitles quaintly put it, "broken").

"About the last two cases, that was caused by sex dispute," Tinam's boss scolds him. "And this one must be a punishment by the triads. How can woman have such force?" Ah, chief, you sexist fool. You will pay for that archaic attitude.

On his clean-cut superior's orders, Tinam goes to a salon for a haircut and a shave. A few chairs away, a leering Lothario of a hairdresser flirts with and styles the coif of Kitty (ravishing Chingmy Yau). The hairdresser's distraught, pregnant ex-girlfriend shows up. He acts like a cad. Comely Kitty, clearly relishing the hairdresser's blatant pick-up attempts only moments earlier, sharply objects to this insensitivity. So sharply, in fact, that she stabs him in the eye and testicles with scissors to teach him a lesson. Tinam watches in amazement. When the distaff attacker flees, the off-duty cop pursues. He catches her. Or, to put it more correctly, he catches up to her. Kitty wheels about and holds the scissors to the cop's jugular, then takes his gun. But Tinam is no macho man in blue. He mistakenly shot and killed his own brother six months earlier in the line of duty; ever since then he's been impotent, and so squeamish that merely touching his weapon causes him to vomit uncontrollably. He promptly upchucks. Kitty retracts her claws at the sight of such helplessness and vulnerability; a moment later she's purring beside him. Avenging angel and neurotic cop fall madly in love.

But Tinam and Kitty are destined to work opposite sides of the law. Kitty's violent tendencies get the better of her once again when a gangster first cuckolds and then accidentally kills Kitty's father. The grieving daughter retaliates by single-handedly storming the bad guy's office and spraying him and his henchmen full of lead. But she spares the only woman in the office, who just so happens to be Cindy (Kelly Yao), a trainer of fine young female assassins. As luck would have it, Cindy's previous top gun was -- you guessed it -- Princess!

And so it goes, the outrageousness of the plot twists and the hell-bent-for-leather pacing rivaled only by the unrestrained campy exuberance of the actors. Even the stunts go a step beyond -- these hit women quadruple-backflip at will, leap out of tall buildings with impunity, and traverse entire rooms in a single bound while delivering perfectly placed kicks to their opponents' heads. Most Hollywood action films come up with just enough good parts to fill a promotional trailer; the rest is dull exposition to pad out the running time to 90 minutes. Naked Killer reverses that formula, offering a delirious Harley ride through 90 minutes of nonstop sex and violence webbed together with minimal exposition.

Wong Ling's script dives into the pseudo-Freudian psychosexual fireworks that Joe Eszterhas-scripted teases like Jade and Showgirls only skirted. Ling shamelessly cribs from La Femme Nikita and Basic Instinct and even Death Wish, but his absurd, trashy, live-action cartoon pulses with a vitality all its own. Like his furious anti-heroines, the creator of this gratuitously sexy and violent Naked Killer offers no apologies. Faster Kitty! Thrill! Thrill!


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