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Thoroughly perverse and twisted example of HK nastiness
Billy Chung Siu Hung's (the bloody swordplay film Assassin from 1993) film Love To Kill (Hong Kong, 1993) is among the strongest products of the Category III boom that inhabited the HK cinema in early nineties. It consisted of films with strong sex, nudity and violence, more or less gratuitous and shock valued only. Love To Kill definitely belongs to the "more" category with some unforgettable ideas and pieces of celluloid sickness.
The HK psycho Anthony Wong (from the award winning The Untold Story by Herman Yau, from the same year) plays a business man and a husband who likes to torture, humiliate and rape his young wife (Elizabeth Lee Mei Fung) who for some reason doesn't leave him and save herself and their little son from the disturbed tormentor. A policeman (Danny Lee, the famous police character actor from films like Dr. Lamb (1992) by Billy Tang (and co-directed by Lee) and The Killer (1989) by John Woo to name just a few) however sees the problem and starts to protect the wife and the son but Anthony naturally doesn't like this at all, and leads it all into the typical ultra-mean spirited and graphic finale during a rain storm.
The film is almost completely without any serious merits as it's just a piece of exploitation in order to cash in when these kind of films were so popular. The imagery and happenings are something never found in the Western cinema, at least in mainstream, and it all becomes even more mind-blowing when some/most taboos for Westerners, like violence and perversions witnessed by a child, are broken in these films so often that reading the plotlines alone would make most viewers feel sick, and that goes perfectly especially for this film too.
The film still has a rather interesting and creepy soundtrack in the tradition of the mentioned Dr. Lamb which practically started the whole boom in 1992. Usually the music and soundtrack in HK films is interesting and adds to the imagery, especially in these terror films. Also the cinematography is worth mentioning as the film bathes, especially in the finale, in blue colors and camera lenses (as does Assassin, too), and the raging storm is captured nicely on the camera. Otherwise there's nothing that would rate the film any higher other than on the nastiness-meter.
The actors and actresses are talented and professional and so don't make the film any worse with their acting. Still the film has the usual HK humor in it which makes the sick goings-on even sicker as some "humor" is thrown into the soup. That includes some jokes about Danny Lee's erection and so on..Something that could never be found in the Western "serious" films either. And that thing usually destroys mane otherwise noteworthy HK films as the humor is just so obvious way and attempt to entertain the audience and masses.
The film has a very high outrageousness level as it has numerous scenes depicting the abuse of Wong's wife in various ways. She gets raped and molested, beaten and kicked by her husband. We also get to see some flashbacks from Wong's own childhood which turns out to be equally violent as his own father killed too and turned his young son into what he is now. These flashback scenes, mostly at the end of the film, include also some totally unexpected experiences as the imagery is speeded up (for example the hits of an axe) and that creates completely insane and mean spirited atmosphere to the scene. Again something that only HK exploitation makers seem to be able to come up with. The ending itself includes plenty of sudden and shocking gore as the madman wields his axe and meets also some nails, for example, on his furious way.
The film is also genuinely pretty "suspicious" in my opinion as the violence and terror is realistically painful and deals with things that should NEVER be taken as entertainment, mostly I mean rape. The version I saw (I've seen two versions) includes a very long and completely nauseating rape scene that just tries to be as sadistic as possible. I'm not sure does the HK audience really like imagery like this but I think no one with some sense for morality in films/entertainment would never accept or make something like it. Women get brutalized and killed in the most sadistic and low ways so that the fates of the men seem almost tame when compared to the females.
The other version I saw, the newly released DVD in HK (without subtitles) has this "table brutality" scene in a much longer form than the subtitled Taiwanese DVD which is otherwise identical to the HK version. I've also heard that the old HK Laserdisc is different from these two and since the end credits are filled with scenes and images not found in the actual film, it is impossible to say how "uncut" versions these that have been released or shown theatrically are. Obviously plenty of footage has been cut out, possibly even before the theatrical release.
The film is written by Law Gam Fai and Lau Wing Kin, the former having written also films like Dr. Lamb, The Untold Story and Gunmen (Kirk Wong, 1988) but out of his other films that I've seen, Love to Kill is the most gratuitous. Dr. Lamb and The Untold Story both are very brutal and violent but have also some attempt to some criticism towards the authorities and men in general as how it is easy to turn into a beast when chasing or fighting one. The harrowing torture imagery of The Untold Story, the victim being the criminal, is very strong and definitely has its impact to change something that may be rotten in the society and among the police for example. But there's none of this in Love to Kill, it is just honest, calculated and fastly made exploitation which is, by the way, produced by a veteran director Kirk "Organized Crime & Triad Bureau (1993), Crime Story (1993)" Wong!
Love to Kill earns no more than 2/10 from me as I don't have too high appreciation on films like this. (HK) Cinema is meant to be and can be more and films like Love to Kill are only commercial parasites living among the real pieces of the art.
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