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Film Review: Prostitute Killers (San sam long: Foon cheung tou foo) (2000)

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SYNOPSIS:

Three disgruntled orphans spend their nights picking up hookers, then raping and killing them. Things get a bit more complicated when they anger a local gangster leader, and then when one of them falls in love with one of their victims.

REVIEW:

Prostitute killers by the director Sam Shu-Pui Ho pretty much delivers exactly what one might expect from it’s rather uninspiring title: a film about killers who kill those who dare practice the oldest profession in the world. Like the title, the plot offers no great surprises or deeper themes but largely consists of single-minded brutality with no real motive behind it.

The film follows three friends on a spree of rape and murder. It bravely opens with a scene of a gang rape and a beheading, latter of which is quite artfully executed with just a shadow of the helpless victim shown against a wall, giving the viewer a small glimmer of hope that despite the grim subject matter, the film might still have some kind of artistic merit to it. Unfortunately, this does not end up being the case, as rest of the film offers very little visually or artistically.  In fact, as I dug out my copy to revisit some of the scenes for the purpose of writing this review, I was quite astonished to find out that this material is mere 19 years old. It looks and certainly feels much older and if I’d had to guess the making-of year of this piece of trash I would have placed it at least a decade earlier. I suppose as CATIII cinema goes that is not necessarily a bad thing; the heyday of this infamous category being the 1990’s, so to bunch this film together with some of the now classics on genre, surely speaks something about it’s merits. Prostitute Killers might be a product of the new millennia, but the pure nihilism it exudes certainly echoes the cruelty of its predecessors.

As is the case with much of CATIII cinema, the plot is so paper thin that at some points it seems to disappear altogether. Between the sadistic rapes and murders there is a side plot of a local loan shark (called Shark) stealing one of the friends jade bracelet and the three trying to steal it back. This goes on and on in very futile manner throughout the film, finally culminating in a rather nasty torture scene, but I cannot with good conscience say that this adds anything interesting to the plot.

There is also an attempt of character building of some sort, by diving into the background stories of out three “heroes” and showing them in their mundane home environments. One of them even falls for a woman they pick as their victim, making him the only one showing some real human emotions.  However, if the purpose of this was to soften these hard, nasty individuals somehow and make them more likable to the viewer, it’s has not been overly successful. The pure obnoxiousness of the acts that these three commit, cannot be glossed over with an ambiguous sob story of an absent mother. To be perfectly honest, I do not think there could be a story soppy enough to make you feel empathy for any of these men. But perhaps that’s not the point. As we are talking about CATIII cinema, the changes are that these little snippets of normality are there for simple filler.

It is kind of hard to sum up what I thought of Prostitute Killers. While the rape and murder scenes are not the worst ones I’ve seen, it’s still incredibly nasty and vile piece of cinema. There is no silver lining to the acts these men carry out. The women they victimise are not evil. They don’t go around spreading diseases, scamming johns or killing men themselves. Neither is there any indication that they would have wronged these men somehow in a more personal level.

These three are just simply horrible, abhorrent human beings, expressing themselves in the most hateful manner possible. Looking at the film from this angle, I can’t say that I liked it very much. It had next to no plot and it made me feel distinctly unpleasant. However, looking at it through the lens of CATIII cinema, it’s quite a successful affair. It shocks, disgusts and leaves you feeling uneasy; everything that a good CATIII film should. Would I recommend it? For CATIII fans, yes. For those looking for a simple serial killer film, absolutely not.

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