Jackie Chan stars in this kitsch tale of revenge where the wire work action scenes are almost as exciting as the eyebrow make up…
While it’s always fun to see a young Jackie Chan donning a wig and kicking some ass, To Kill With Intrigue doesn’t live up to its promise of being an epic tale of revenge and love.
The premise of the film is that the Killer Bee gang have finally come to exact their revenge on Cao Lei’s family (Cao Lei played by Jackie Chan). Their enigmatic leader, Chin Chang Yin (Feng Hsu), kills all the family members except Cao Lei who she takes an interest in. Cao Lei’s attempts to preserve his family line by sending away his pregnant girlfriend, Chin Chin, under the protection of his friend Chen Chun. Chin Chin and Cao Lei proceed to make the most lack-lustre attempts to reunite with each other while the closeness of the names Chen Chun and Chin Chin add excess confusion.
Easily the most interesting character is the Killer Bee leader, Chin Chang Yin. Feng Hsu seems to be one of the only members of the cast really bringing some vibrancy to their role. Her introduction in a strange flower mask, which looks like something from The Purge series, is one of the most memorable moments of the film. She bursts into scenes with passion and vigour as if trying to wring some sense out of the confusing plot. While she cannot entirely counter-act the lull created by Cao Lei and Chin Chin, Feng Hsu is certainly an arresting performer. Similarly, her fighting sequences are some of the most compelling with healthy doses of wire-work and flowing chiffon. The strength of the character makes it almost farcical that such a woman would be infatuated with the ineffectual Cao Lei. There is also a welcome appearance from George Wang as the Dragon Escort master. Wang comes across very well and it is only a shame this his role isn’t more defined or has an obvious effect on the plot.
Possibly the most entertaining elements of the film are those which are kitsch and bizarre. For example, the fact the Killer Bee gang use darts that look like little bee people and another gang uses red smoke to stun their enemies really does inject some fun into proceedings. One of the best scenes is the introduction of the Killer Bee gang and ensuing fight scene where the gang members seem to be almost supernatural in their movements and fighting.
Jackie Chan himself commented on the film in his book, I am Jackie Chan. He was well aware of how confusing the plot was and even implies that the director, Lo Wei, may well have lost his grip on what was going on in the story. He also comments on how the cold weather during filming caused tension and it is possible to see actors’ breath in the air at multiple times during the film. Arguably, the most interesting contribution Jackie Chan made to the film is these nuggets of behind the scenes difficulties.
Ultimately, if you are looking for a compelling martial arts gem, this is not it. However, it is not entirely void of entertainment. There is a lot of B-movie fun to be had here, from Feng Hsu’s intense performance to the inventive weaponry and occasionally amusing dialogue. For Jackie Chan completionists or B-movie enthusiasts, this may be worth a watch but there are plenty of better examples of martial arts and B-movie kitsch elsewhere.