Yuhang Ho had a very difficult task in his hands from the beginning: to shoot an action martial arts film where all of his protagonists are (almost) over 50. The result, however, was more than impressive, as he worked over the particular reef by limiting the action and adding many thriller elements.
“Mrs K” will screen at Art Film Fest Kosice, that will be on June 16-24
Mrs K is a housewife, happily married with a gynecologist, and mother to a teenage girl who is also a martial artist. However, underneath the calm, happy and motherly figure resides something else, as Mrs K used to be part of a crime ring. As her former comrades are being killed one by one, a rather unpleasant former police officer visits her house and confronts her about the past. Furthermore, another man, who seems to know her quite well, resurfaces, and along with his henchman, kidnaps her daughter. Now, Mrs K has to face all of her ghosts.
The film starts in a rather violent fashion, with the gory deaths of three men (HK veterans Fruit Chan and Kirk Wong, and Malaysian director Dain Iskandar Said). Soon, however, it tones down, with a scene where we are introduced to the housewife/mother/fighter Mrs K and then through the presentation of the life of a family who seems very normal. After the villains enter the story, the film becomes a thriller, as the agony for the fate of the daughter increases, only to transform again into a violent action film in the end. This build up, through the change of genres (action, action comedy, thriller, and action again) works wonders for the film, as it induces it with a depth rarely seen on the genre, through the analysis of the characters, that sets it apart from the plethora of similar productions. Some incoherence in the scenario, however, could not be missing.
Directing a martial arts film with a 57-year-old woman as the protagonist is not an easy task, but Yuhang Ho managed to turn it to his advantage, by highlighting the vulnerability of his main character. In that fashion, Mrs K is beaten unconscious a number of times, and seems to hurt and get more tired by every move she takes in her fights. This tactic induces the film with a reinvigorating sense of realism, rarely seen in this kind of films, although in the end, the HK style of action takes over.
Evidently, Ho drew from “Kill Bill”, with a number of elements of the story (the ex-criminal turned housewife, the former comrades resurfacing, revenge, etc) and the western style music. Nevertheless, this is not a fault, by any chance, and actually adds to the entertainment offered by the film. Add to the above some comic moments, mainly deriving from the HK veterans, and you have the backbone of a very interesting narrative.
Despite the aforementioned realism, the action scenes look quite impressive, particularly during the ending sequences, where Adam Chung-Tai Chan’s action choreography finds its apogee. I am not sure how much part Kara Hui actually took in those, but she looks quite good in the ones her face is visible. In that fashion, Sharon Chong and Mun Thye Soo have done a wonderful job editing the scenes where she is doubled with the ones she is actually there.
The acting is on a very high level for the genre. Ho Yuhang had already revived Kara Hui’s career with the 2009 film “At the End of Daybreak” and seems to capitalize on his chemistry with her in this film. She is great in all the roles she has to play in this film, highlighting an amplitude she rarely had to show before. Not to mention that she looks fit and quite beautiful, still. Simon Yam is also great in the role of the sociopathic villain, and Faizal Hussein plays the role of the silent master of martial arts to perfection, being quite impressive in the action scenes. Wu Bai cannot help acting like a rock star, even in the role of an almost helpless father.
“Mrs K” does not provide the relentless action the trailer implies, but is a very entertaining film, as it manages to capitalize on its limitations in wonderful fashion. On a final, personal and utterly unrealistic note, I would love to see all these protagonists going against each other in their prime, in a combination of “Time and Tide” and Shaw Bros action films (Kara Hui and Simon Yam have acted together, but still). The current alternative though, is not bad at all.