Red to Kill


Jun 17, 2011

Red to Kill (1994)
Director: Billy Tang
Writers: Ho Wa Wong
Starring: Lily Chung, Money lo and Ben Ng

The Plot: Ming Ming (Lily Chung) is a special needs little girl whose father has recently died in a car accident. Ka Lok (Money Lo) is a social worker who is handed her case and helps her become comfortable within her new home for the mentally handicapped. This large school is run by Chan (Ben Ng) who is beloved by most everyone that knows him. Unfortunately, Chan has some serious issues that no one else knows about. For the most part he is the sweet and sentimental character that everyone sees him as, but whenever he sees the color red… he absolutely loses his mind. He strips off his clothing and looks for the first woman that he can rape. Muscular, covered in oil and wearing very little, he continually finds young women to take his aggressions out upon. However, when his attacks strike too close to home, Ka Lok will be the one to help avenge his injustices!

The Review
As someone who is a wee bit late venturing into the gritty and overly nasty world of CAT III cinema, I am quick to jump at the opportunity to find any new piece of truly transgressive and disturbing cinema. After all, what purpose does the CAT III rating really offer if not for utterly repugnant films? Well, in my new-found search I discovered This Week in Sleaze, which is an amazing Podcast dedicated entirely to CAT III films (and for a brief explanation of CAT III, read my review for Run and Kill) which is a part of the Podcast on Fire Network. The hosts King Who? and Sleazy K both mentioned Red to Kill in an earlier episode which started my search for the movie. Touted as a disturbing and overtly nasty title that was just blatantly “mean”, I knew this was truly Varied Celluloid territory.

I kick-started my venture into the work of “Bloody” Billy Tang with his magnum opus Dr. Lamb, but I have been steadily clawing my way through his other works such as the similarly titled Run and Kill, as well as this film here. A director who may not have a vast catalog of films, but it is a filmography chock full of incredibly subversive and disturbing material. His contributions to the world of CAT III cinema in particular proved to be genre-defining. His “go for the gusto” attitude and his cinematic lawbreaking made him a unpredictable filmmaker, which obviously makes him one of the more fun filmmakers within Hong Kong genre cinema. However, any review for Red to Kill deserves no mention of the word “fun” because if ever there was a movie that was the antithesis of that particular adjective, this may very well be it. Red to Kill is the movie that absolutely defines the nastiest reputations that CAT III movies have been given over the years.

While I think that Run and Kill had some of the more depraved moments between these two titles, Red to Kill definitely pushes the buttons of any person who might be slightly offended at the prospect of rape. Along with this consistent theme of rape, the movie also takes place in a mental home, so the thought of seeing those who are mentally handicapped being abused and denigrated is the other large attribute that this movie carries with it. Without a doubt this is the type of movie that doesn’t even know HOW to pull its punches. In fact, this is the sort of picture that you are going to have a hard time defending as a piece of entertainment on your shelf. There are many movies out there that deal with both the issues of rape and murder, but few deal with the subject matter with as much gleeful violence as this one does.

The moment you see this group of “special” kids, as someone familiar with Run and Kill, you might already start squirming in your seat. Right from the start there’s no question about what the intentions are in this movie. It’s here to push buttons. Yet, for a movie that is as vile and as disgusting as this one really is, the project is both visceral and beautiful looking. Even in some of the most brutal moments, Billy Tang and his crew still decided to keep an artistic direction flowing throughout their film. During the introductory rape sequence, where we see our then-obscured Ben Ng defiling a beautiful woman, this concept seems most apparent. The sequence is dominated by shots of flexing muscles, sweat and eruptions of steam. The sequence is the polar opposite of ‘sexual’ and seems to bring to life the animal spirit involved in the heinous act. During this sequence Tang takes advantage of a rather special set-piece revolving around a series of triangular metal columns that seem to stretch out into the infinite. Peculiar and bizarre, these stylistic choices are unnecessary but absolutely welcome.

Ben Ng is absolutely legendary in his role as Chan. Consistently overacting throughout, he emotes more in this film than the culmination of every extra in every Charley Chaplin film combined. His oeuvre of moves consists of strange faces, heavy breathing, twitching, making more strange faces, twitching whilst breathing heavy and also… this guy can make some pretty strange faces! He even does all of this before he goes absolutely maniacal and shaves his head during the final third of the film. Ng is in fantastic shape here and Tang keeps him oiled up and flexing throughout many of his earliest scenes. Although his character is an outright monster and not one that ever elicits even the remotest feelings of sympathy, I would be an outright liar if I said I wasn’t entertained with his performance here. If there are any entertaining factors within Red to Kill, it is the performance of Mr. Ng. The rest of the cast all sell their roles just fine, including Lily Chung who is perhaps the sweetest and most sincere leading woman that you could possibly want in order to garner sympathy from the audience.

The Conclusion
Overall, Red to Kill is a bit of a hit or miss kind of project. If you come into it expecting a cruel and unusual film, then you will most likely be left appeased. However, if you’re expecting anything other than a very average piece of exploitation, then you might want to look elsewhere as this one rarely goes off the beaten path. I give it a solid enough three out of five.