Love to Kill

Reviewed by YTSL

I've said it about call girl movies, and I'll state it again re this absolutely NOT-for-the-easily-squeamish film whose Category III rating is well earned:  If anyone had told me a year ago that I would be watching productions like this, and finding some value in them...Not only that but I would argue against the infamous Thomas Weisser's assessment of it as "an amazingly distasteful horror film" even while knowing what he means in writing that "if you want to see the newer extremes of HK depravity, it's here" (In his "Asian Cult Cinema", 1997:122).

LOVE TO KILL centers on a wife abuser (Sam Wong is played by Anthony Wong) and his long-suffering wife (Jade is portrayed by Elizabeth Lee), whose considerable torture and torment is shown in vivid and realistic-looking detail at various stages of the film.  Although Danny Lee has top billing, his cop character is somewhat tangential to the main story.  I would not go so far as to say that his Fire Ball Hung is just there to provide comic relief (Perhaps some people need it but this was definitely one Hong Kong movie which I would have preferred to not have tonal changes.  As it was, this film's one disconcertingly inappropriate section involved that otherwise honorable -- though obviously imperfect -- character having sexual fantasies about the woman he was seeking to protect from her husband).  Still, he is for the most part as much on the side lines as the main couple's young son and the wife's aged mother; an unmarried man who does not fully understand why Jade doesn't just leave Sam and whom she cannot rely on to scare her husband off (despite the policeman's assertion that he and his gun can do so).

Granted that it may be difficult to get beyond the painful enactments that some people will find erotic and others harrowing.  If you do though, my sense is that certain of the details in those scenes as well as others in LOVE TO KILL will be found to be very telling -- and chilling -- in a socio-cultural commentary kind of way.  For example, as the camera zeroes in and follows Jade's hands while they are tied up or forced by her husband to touch sensitive parts of herself, what is being made more clear to see -- along with other things -- is the wedding ring on one of her fingers.  Taken together with Sam's constant reminders as well as assertions that he is her husband (never mind the father of her son and the family's sole financial provider) and she his wife, it looks to serve as an indictment of sorts against the traditional marital vows and ideas of the woman being beholden to and needing to obey her husband "'til death do us part".
Considering that producer Kirk Wong is perceived by such as Shelly Kraicer to be someone who is not too respectful of the law in many of his movies, it also surely means something that the villain of this piece is a lawyer who delivers explicit statements about his society being a law-filled one (to protect himself against the police and use against his wife) even while he illegally procures opium and administers it to his mother-in-law as well as severely punishes his wife and others for crimes -- specifically, adultery -- she didn't commit.  Along with these provocative details are those elements found in one subplot which parallel those in another of LOVE TO KILL's subplots, and consequently seem to presage scary possibilities...that, even if they don't get realized in the movie, look like they can occur later on in the lives of the characters who do end up coming across as very real people or -- at least, and this truly is the rub -- representative examples of such.
It would have been so easy for Sam Wong to have been depicted and portrayed as a complete psycho.  Similarly, Jade could have come across as pathetic and passive rather than beleaguered, scared and -- yes, for too long -- overly-caring.  That this is not so owes much to Anthony Wong and Elizabeth Lee along with LOVE TO KILL's scriptwriters (Law Gam Fai and Lau Wing Kin) and director (Billy Chung; strangely enough, the same one as for the definitely sub-par "Lady Super Cop"); and is what largely makes this (re)viewer consider it to be a good -- even if more disturbing than entertaining (but this was surely the design?) -- cinematic product.
My rating for this film:  7.5