Xing Wenxiong’s remake of the Japanese comedy The Magic Hour (2008) by Koki Mitani stars Wei Xiang as Wei Chenggong, a bit-part actor with dreams of being a leading man.
When actress Mi Lan (Ma Li) and her director are confronted by the notorious gangster Ha Wei (Chen Minghao), they agree to introduce him to “Killer Karl”, the hitman who was hired to kill Ha Wei. Neither Mi Lan nor the director actually know the assassin, and no one actually knows what the real hitman looks like, but they come up with a plan to save themselves from the gangster by enlisting Wei Chenggong to play Karl. They lure the actor in by telling him they are making a special movie where he would not see any cameras or crew, but he will be playing a famous assassin.
The initial meeting between “Karl” and Ha Wei is hilarious, with Ha Wei inviting Karl to join his gang, after Wei has gone through numerous “takes”. After an odd meeting between an Italian gangster and Ha Wei’s top lieutenant, with “Karl” along as a translator, the gangster realizes something is off and confronts Mi Lan. In order to save themselves, they now must have the actor playing Karl actually kill Ha Wei. Stunned, Mi Lan tells Wei that they are shutting down the movie. The actor has other ideas, and pushes on, even after discovering the truth.
Too Cool to Kill is highly entertaining with excellent performances and direction. One especially enjoyable aspect is the frequent nods to other films. Wei shows up for his “scenes” looking like Vincent Vega (John Travolta) from Pulp Fiction (1994), as well as The Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) from Desperado (1995). We even see the Gene Kelley rain dance sequence from Singin’ in the Rain (1952) recreated briefly. There are other nods to films within the film, which those with keen observation will likely spot. Also, the sets are beautiful, reminiscent of the 1950s from the cars to the cobblestone streets to the costumes. There is also a brilliant sequence where we learn the kind of person Wei Chonggong truly is, which is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Wei Xiang is masterful in his portrayal of an actor who doesn’t have any talent, but still insists that he does.
Right through to the end credits, which feature some outtakes, Too Cool to Kill is fun to watch. Indeed, it’s really one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen in a long time.
Colleen Wanglund is a self-described bookwhore, gorehound, and metalhead. She can usually be found with a book in her hand or on her laptop, either watching movies or writing about them. Colleen has also been known to frequent midnight screenings of some of her favorite flicks, as she lives in New York City—the best city for seeing movies.