Naked Killer – The Joy of Subtitles!
by Ben Bussey
I’ve been planning on writing something about Naked Killer for a while. Wong Jing’s 1992 Category 3 classic is almost certainly the most gloriously garish, tasteless and downright batshit insane movie I’ve ever seen from the glory days of Hong Kong cinema, and it doesn’t seem to get enough love these days. However, whilst revisiting it for the purposes of this article, I realised there might be a more interesting way of paying tribute than a simple review/retrospective. You see, amidst the sleazy softcore teasing and the actually damn good action sequences, Naked Killer has some of the most hilarious subtitles I’ve ever seen in my life (in the 2002 Region 2 DVD from Hong Kong Legends which I own, at least). It’s a rare instance in which the subtitled version is perhaps even more absurd than the dubbed version; after all, we expect dubbing to be ridiculous and mismatched, but with subtitles we don’t generally expect to read the kind of lines we get here.
And so, thanks to the wonders of screenshot technology, here follows an almost picturebook retelling of Naked Killer, showcasing some of the real highlights of this magnum opus of colourful subtiting. Naturally, beware of mild spoilers (plus rude words and boobies). But don’t worry, I stop short of giving away the ending.
So, the heroes of our story are Kitty (Chingmy Yau), a pretty young woman with a propensity for sadistic violence, and Tinam (Simon Yam), a troubled young cop. How troubled, you ask? Well, he accidentally shot and killed his own brother a while back, and ever since he’s been unable to look at a gun without vomiting. Yep. Guns are to him as Wendy Testaburger is to Stan Marsh. Anyway, these two kooky kids meet at a hair salon – run by an extravagantly swishy gay guy, naturally – and Kitty can’t help but catch Tinam’s eye when she gets a trifle cross with one of the male hairdressers, who has been dating a friend of hers but flirting with his female clients. It’s fair to say Kitty has something of a zero-tolerance attitude to this kind of behaviour.
So, Tinam immediately arrests the crazy bitch, right? Actually no. A series of weak plot contrivances later, the two are out on a date. It all seems to be going well at first, but Tinam rather struggles to play it cool.
So, whilst Tinam heads back to his place alone for a cold shower, Kitty goes back to her father’s house. Alas, her wicked stepmother is in bed with a dastardly Triad boss with the distinctly unthreatening name of Bee (Ken Lo), who proceeds to kill Kitty’s dad. He gets away, but being both a doting daughter and a homicidal maniac Kitty swears to avenge her papa. Subsequently she tracks Bee down to his HQ the next day, blows away everyone that steps into her line of fire, and proceeds to exact her vengeance; which, despite his careful reasoning, Bee is unable to talk his way out of…
Anyway, the place is soon crawling with cops, so Kitty is forced to take a hostage in the form of what appears to be a demure, well-to-do middle-aged lady. However, it soon transpires this lady is not quite so feeble and anonymous as she seems; she’s Sister Cindy (Wai Yiu), a world class assassin, and she has decided that Kitty is to be her latest protege. Kitty is not entirely sold on the idea until Sister Cindy breaks down her alternatives…
Kitty agrees to start training, and takes to it like a duck to water once Sister Cindy informs her they have a paedophile chained up in the basement for her to hone her killing skills on. Kitty sees this as a perfect opportunity to get back into her favourite hobby.
However, when she finds that Sister Cindy has locked her down there unarmed and is about to set the paedophile free to test her prowess, Kitty is less than pleased.
But, as Sister Cindy instructs Kitty, there is more to being a superstar hitwoman than guns and knives and what-have-you:
Sister Cindy teaches Kitty to research her prey, get their routine, know their habits; but of course, the only person Kitty has to pratice spying on is Sister Cindy herself.
Anyhoo, whilst all this is going on, the Hong Kong police are hot on the trail of another mysterious assassin, whom Tinam has deduced must be a woman because she always removes the genitals of her victims. And, like, no dude would do that, would they? That’s messed up. Basic man-hating lesbian behaviour obviously. He and his colleagues investigate the latest crime scene with standard police tact, particularly whilst questioning the help:
Then there’s the ever-pressing problem of the victim’s missing penis:
… which becomes doubly problematic, as Tinam chose to bring his breakfast sausage to the crime scene, and a mix-up may have occured.
Alas, the police’s efforts amount to the square root of fuck all, and it isn’t long before the unknown hitwoman strikes again. And it’s another local gangster who falls foul of her skills, despite his harsh warnings to his staff to be vigilant.
And just who is this devil woman with evil on her mind? Well, she’s none other than Sister Cindy’s former protege, and subsequently Kitty’s ‘superior,’ Princess (Carrie Ng). And yes, as befits her ball-busting MO, she’s a butch lesbian, and a harsh mistress to boot:
However, the case has not made Tinam forget about Kitty. When the investigation leads him to encounter her again she has adopted an elaborate false identity, claiming to be an air hostess and denying to have ever met Tinam, though this doesn’t stop her flirting with him shamelessly whilst wearing ridiculous, oversized flourescent outfits that would seem a bit much at a gypsy wedding. But Tinam has no doubt it’s really her, for whilst the whole puking at the sight of guns thing hasn’t yet cleared up, there’s more to his post-brother killing issues:
So how does this whole doolally scenario get resolved? Hmmmm… well, I don’t want to completely give the game away, so I’ll leave it there and suggest you pick up Naked Killer at the earliest opportunity. To conclude, though, let’s sum up a few of the key lessons we can learn from Naked Killer. First, and already evident; if a woman tries to stab another man in the junk within minutes of your meeting, she’s your one true love. Second; nothing says eroticism like boob fondling. Seriously, Princess’s submissive lover Baby (Madoka Sugawara) spends the bulk of her screentime with hands on her mammary glands.
And finally – being horny means you really, really like the taste of milk.