Kung Fu Killer is a sad attempt to take advantage of the two iconic roles that David Carradine has had in his life. There’s more than one reference or nod to the popular Kung Fu television show. The name of his character is Crane, instead of Caine. Here Crane is the master, and he has his own “Grasshopper” moment with his own student. There is a flute driven theme that could have easily been lifted from one of the television episodes. As if that wasn’t enough, the filmmakers wanted you to also think of Kill Bill. Carradine is reunited with his fellow Kill Bill star Daryl Hannah. Unfortunately, they share less screen time together than Pacino and DeNiro in Heat. There is also a bit of an attempt to capture the unique editing style of the Kill Bill fight scenes, but these don’t even come close. Carradine is old now and looks like he’s putting almost zero effort into the fights. He barely seems to move, and his punches are ridiculously soft. This direct to video film has almost nothing going for it. I guess Carradine fans won’t be able to resist. It’s what originally sold me on watching it. I was hoping for a revitalized return to the old days, but if Kung Fu Fighter proves nothing else, it’s that you can not go back.
The plot is a simple one of revenge. Crane (Carradine) is teaching a student when a warlord who has made a coup on the government of China attacks the monastery. Most of the inhabitants are killed, and Crane is left for dead. He does survive and plots an extremely complicated revenge on the warlord. There are moments that this appears to be a Mob film. Gary Peterman walks around the streets as Hoggins, a corrupt British representative. He struts around like Don Fanucci from The Godfather Part II. He finally gets his in much the same way. No one in this film seems to care a whole lot about playing the part. Most appear to sleepwalk through their parts. There are some fights, but no Martial Arts junkie is going to get a good fix off these poorly edited stunts.
Kung Fu Fighter is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The crew took the time and money to go to China and shoot in some nice exotic locations. Unfortunately they didn’t bring a competent cinematographer. The image is soft and has some of the poorest contrast I’ve seen on a DVD. Colors are weak, and black levels are almost nonexistent. I’m afraid the video was a waste of what must have been a wonderful location shoot.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track attempts to fill out the sound field but fails at almost every turn. Dialog is fine most of the time, and there are moments of a sweet flute score, but there is almost no range here at all.
The film is simply an attempt to exploit Carradine’s career plain and simple. I can appreciate that they went all the way to China to shoot the film, but what did they end up with after all of that work? It’s an overly complicated revenge story. “It’s not fair. Why can’t I seek revenge?”