Movie Review: Mrs K

Some triad members must have had some extra cash that needed laundering in a hurry. That’s the only possible explanation for how the film, MRS K, got made. To say that this film is bad would be an oversimplification of the situation. This is a film that is as cheap and unsatisfying as stale candy.

Mrs K (Hong Kong action legend Kara Wai/惠英紅, HAPPINESS) is a well-to-do housewife living somewhere in Selangor state in Malaysia. Happily married to an ob-gyn (aging Taiwanese pop idol, Wu Bai/伍佰), she contents herself rambling about in their splashy bungalow, baking curried potato buns and looking after their teenaged daughter (played by Siow Li Xuan), who has an interest in taekwondo. But all is not as domesticated as it seems. Mrs K has a past and when that past comes knocking at her front glass door, she springs into action dispatching two clown-like minions in short order. The situation quickly escalates, however, when her husband ends up as a patient in his hospital and her daughter is kidnapped by two more minions. It’s then that we learn that Mrs K was once the ringleader of a gang of five who robbed a Macao casino back in the day. Three of her former colleagues (played with a wink by Hong Kong directors Fruit Chan/陳果 and Kirk Wong/黃志強, and Malaysian filmmaker Dain Iskandar Said) have recently been executed and now the fourth (played by Simon Yam/任達華, THE TENANTS DOWNSTAIRS) wants revenge.

But why does he want revenge on Mrs K, you ask? For that answer, you’ll have to sit through a seeming eternity of backstory while Mrs K searches for her daughter. Along the way, the daughter frees herself, gets away, gets caught, gets away again, gets caught, gets rescued by her father and then gets caught again. Mrs K, meanwhile, also gets caught, frees herself, gets caught again, and then engages in some heavy duty hand-to-hand martial arts combat with a formidable opponent who is only tangentially involved in this whole mess. Don’t even ask what the father is up to during this time! Last just say that he has somehow forgotten the Hippocratic Oath that he took when he became a doctor. The bottom line is that the story is confusing, if not completely ridiculous, and told in way that will have you looking at your watch every few minutes. Thankfully, the movie is a merciful 92 minutes long.

It’s been seven years since Malaysian director Ho Yuhang/何宇恒 last made a feature film but perhaps that wasn’t long enough… or maybe it was too long. The man is clearly a fan of Quentin Tarantino with his use of 360-degree camera turns and cheesy spaghetti Western music popping in and out throughout the film but that’s where the comparison between the two filmmakers begins and ends. Ho needs to find his own voice, not poorly mimicking someone else’s. For Wai, this is her second time working with Ho, the first being in his 2009 film, AT THE END OF DAYBREAK. That film, for which she won multiple awards, apparently relaunched her movie career. Now, she is saying that MRS K will be her final action movie, which is fair. At 58, some of those stunts have to hurt. Just ask Tom Cruise who recently broke his ankle doing a stunt on the set of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 6.

About those action sequences, if you’re expecting to see something along the lines of JOHN WICK, let’s say, or THE RAID, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. When Mrs K and the unnamed opponent take each other on, Ho relies on quick cuts and shaky camerawork to make up for poor – or possibly no – choreography. It’s head-shakingly underwhelming. Ho could have redeemed himself in one scene where the daughter decides to take on one of the henchmen. Granted, he’s a lot bigger than she is but she’s supposed to know all the right moves and, let’s be honest here; she’s at the right height where she could inflict maximal pain on a man. Instead, he shuts her down with just one hand to the throat. What a lost opportunity that is because the audience is expecting to see her kick butt. Like mother, like daughter!

Because there’s not a lot of competition for new films this week at the cinemas, you may be tempted to shell out for this one. Don’t. You’ll be wasting both your time and your money if you do. There are plenty of new films coming out in the next few weeks so do yourself a favour and wait until then. MRS K (the movie, not the lady) is a complete dog.

Listen to the review recorded in RTHK Radio 4’s studio (a day earlier this week only)! Go to Part 2 and slide the time bar over to 28:00.

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