Well Go USA
For showtimes and locations in North America, please visit the official English website.
Too Cool To Kill (这个杀手不太冷静) is too hot of a movie to handle. After its debut during the Lunar New Year in China as This Killer Is Not Too Calm–with terrific box office results–it’s coming to North America so Wei Xiang‘s comedic talent can be recognised.
The joy is in how this zany film pulls you into the life of Lyingtown with its sweeping Tim Burton style cinematography and iconic Euro style setting. The name of this sleepy seaside hamlet is intentional, as it foreshadows everything to come! Even the soundtrack establishes a Henry Mancini style tone.
After meeting the supporting cast of Mr. Harvey (Chen Minghao) nearly shot by the assassin Karl (Allen AI), we are introduced to Wei Chenggong (Xiang), a hasbin stand-in and part-time actor who hopes to make it big in Chinese Hollywood. But after the director MIller (Huang Cailun) chides him for his overacting, he’s asked to star in a bigger movie by the star of the show, Milan (Ma Li). The two happen to be siblings. But there’s a secret, the cameras will be hidden, and her agenda isn’t all that pure.
To see Wei’s transformation is classic Stephen Chow. In this famous comedian’s movies, the protagonist’s transition from nothing to something often focuses on how confidence is gained. This man has to put on the charm if he’s to convince his peers his ideas are good. This up and coming performer (in real life and fiction) is more pure of heart than the other two, and it makes for an amusing contrast, since they’re scheming to avoid getting out of debt from Mr. Harvey. This crime lord has been financing their films and recently, those movies haven’t been profitable.
After Milan learns about the assassination attempt on Harvey, she hatches a plan to trick her boss with Wei, but can he become this mysterious Karl everyone fears in a movie within a movie?
But for Wei to go from being a random “‘Red Shirt” from Star Trek to Vincent (John Travolta) from Pulp Fiction, takes talent, and he surprisingly pulls it off well. He’s not as wildly offbeat like Inspector Clouseau would in The Pink Panther. Just how much of a smooth operator he becomes depends on whether he knows the cameras are rolling.
To say anymore would ruin the hilarity the later acts revel in. Wei wants to know where the hidden cameras are, and I often wondered which fourth wall he’d break. He hams it up when he believes they are rolling. His transition from a confident killer to a gimp and back is fun to watch, and ultimately Xiang’s charm is key to make both roles amusing.
First-time writer/director Xing Wenxiong has a terrific film that’s certainly a crowd pleaser. As a filmmaker who’s not afraid to mix a few genres up, even those transitions are smooth. What we see is a Comedy, Gangster film and a Spaghetti Western. We recognize the latter because the hints are there. One of the sets pays tribute to the works of Sergio Leone. Since this film is also a love letter to the Golden Age of cinema, we have tropes galore and a presentation of how enamoured some Chinese filmmakers have with the movies from this age.
Not everyone knows Too Cool to Kill is an adaptation of the Japanese film, The Magic Hour. Both are fundamentally the same and the only difference is in how this work introduces viewers of Asian cinema to the new talents destined to take over; it’s no longer a playground of big names like Tsui Hark or Stephen Chow. Instead, it’ll be one for Generation Z to shape the new stylings of Chinese comedies which I’ll never grow tired of!
4½ Stars out of 5