My earlier pursuits of stunts and indie action coverage soon led me to an obscure title that was either filming or in production. I can’t honestly say as to which because as much as I tried to find out more info about dystopian thriller The Last One, my searches always came short. It’s director, Lee Thongkam, remained as elusive as almost any presumably busy film creative whenever I messaged and posed a question. It’ll always be one of the more mind-boggling moments of my time in indie film journalism. To say the least though, it’s great that he’s built his career off years of experience at the helm dating back to 2006.
After feature-debuting with Tears Of Remedy in 2011 and following suit with two horror titles after 2020, Thongkam switched things up a bit. It was back in Spring when folks got to acquaint themselves a bit more prominently with Thongkam’s recent monster flick, The Lake, which opened in Thailand last August and made the rounds in multiple territories afterwards. Little did anyone outside the loop know that his next would proffer filmgoers a handy little return to familiar ground. Casting actress and Ploypailin Thangprabhaporn for what would be her third movie role since Pe Naruebordee Wechakum’s Low Season (2020), and Tiwa Moeithaisong’s Game Changer (2021), we now get to indulge in something we rarely see nowadays, with Thai action adventure thriller, Kitty The Killer.
Thongkam directs from his script to deliver an energetic action comedy thriller that taps into a number of tropes that fans of Asian films and action cinema can take a liking to. The influences are especially clear as day if you’ver ever been keen on the works of Bruce Lee, or auteurs like Tarantino or Bekmambetov; Nods to the latter might come across as much more brazen given the various plot pieces, storytelling points and tools Thongkam uses to propel his story forward. What matters, however, is how Kitty The Killer delivers from Thongkam’s assembly of chosen ingredients.
Enter the world of The Agency, a vast organization of clandestine assassins and their handlers, or, respectively, “kitties” and their “Guardians” as they’re addressed. It’s a world full of death and tumult, and the only certainty is that either you’re a killer, or you will be killed. Such is the presumed fate of Keng, a.k.a. Silver Fox (Tao Somchai Khemklad), who finds himself in possession of a glowing McGuffin that could easily ignite a war in the underworld if put in the wrong hands. As a legendary killer himself and guardian to his deadly protégé, Dina, (Thangprabhaporn), it has been his lifelong duty to train and protect her since childhood, and ultimately overseeing her every hit job. Much to their chagrin, Dina’s latest assignment goes amiss, which results in the Agency’s sinister forces turning on Keng and ordering his death.
The big sum-up of this fatal impasse then falls in the hands of Charlie (Kuan Denkhun Ngamnet), whose only consolation for his unseen potential is his job title uptick from “account service representative” to “account manager”. His daily intake at work includes the requisite abusive episodes from his mouthy boss, and his response to a foot-in-mouth exchange with a woman he likes at work is a room-paralyzing outburst of nervous, cackling laughter. He lives at home with his mother, and when doing nothing else, he’s in his room doing curls in front of Bruce Lee posters. To say the least though, that workout routine of his is going to come in handy when a fatally-wounded Keng kidnaps Charlie and holds him at gunpoint.
In the interim, Silver Fox bestows unto Charlie his ring, deliniating a list of hardline rules to follow while driving to a specific address where the duplicitious head of a Japanese organization within the Agency awaits the Silver Fox’s arrival. What follows is an explosive haphazard resuce that formally introduces Charlie to everything he then inherits as the new “Silver Fox”. That includes and is not limited to the role of guardianship over Dina, as a newfound member of The Agency under the stewardship of manager, Makin (Pu Vithaya Pansringarm). The choice of whether or not to accept his place in the Agency, however, is far from a choice at all, especially with a price on his head. Alas, Charlie’s new life as the member of an elite assassin guild begins, as does the training, the rigorous deprogramming and acclaimation to pain.
Not for nothing either, but that also includes bonding with Dina. Her stone-faced approach aside, their otherwise platonic chemistry is supplemented with a budding comedy between two characters who are nothing alike, and can only grow closer through Charlie’s hard-earned transformation process. Par for the course, we meet each member of Makin’s group including Rina, “The Shadow Hunter” (Aomkaham Natchanok Kamonrattanaban); young adolescent Mina, “The Fixer” (Pleng Keetapat Pongruea); and Tina, “The Red Healer” (Guide Sutina Laoamnuaichai); There are several areas of flashbacks for a few of these characters, though the latter gets her own origin story in at least one of the the film’s six segmented principal chapters, and we see how it eventually stacks up as the film apporaches its climatic sixth chapter.
One other bit of good news is that there’s enough depth explored during the movie’s two-hour runtime that the necesary relationships are established. Thus, when the chips are down and the final battle ensues, it makes sense. The use of kabuki masks amid the costume design adds a neat touch to the allure Kitty The Killer offers with its characters, counting the addition of the elusive and lighting fast Nina The Faceless (Ying Donnaporn Sukprasert), a top-tier hitwoman under the employment of the villanous Violet (Janie Ratipan Panpinij) who seeks the aforementioned prize that was in Keng’s possession before his tragic departure.
The mystery behind said object is revealed later in the film where it becomes essential. Equally important though is the unfolding characterization that comes with the kind of film Kitty The Killer is. The concept of humanizing assassins after years of living off the radar and forced away from a life of normalcy that would give them a chance at things like love and happiness is nothing new. Here, it’s a healthy application toward a key character whose evolution is brought full circle by the film’s action-packed recapitulation, including a final showdown between Dina and Nina.
The action sequences were directed and choreographed by Sumret Mueangputt, whose past credits include taking his share of hits as well as dishing a few out as performer and choreographer under Tony Jaa (Ong Bak 2 and 3), Prachya Pinkaew (Ong Bak, The Kick), and Panna Rittikrai (BKO: Bangkok Knockout). It’d be a mistake of sorts to presume Kitty The Killer as anything close to a return to form seeing as it’s been close to years since fans of Thai action were beholden to the sight of someone taking on the full force of a flaming 720°, or nearly getting run over after being kicked off a truck during a high speed chase.
Mueangputt’s action scenes are designed aptly in Kitty The Killer to suit the training of the film’s actors, with safer degrees of stuntwork in place that allow for bit more practicality, even with sparsely-used wires and CG in the mix. Consequently, the action tends to look as choreographed as it is than preferred, and so the risk and danger factor usually exhibited in these kinds of sequences is a bit more subdued at times. The action sequences aren’t all memorable either, but they each collectively provide the film’s ample foundation in the martial arts arena.
The film’s star, Thangprabhaporn, holds up fairly well in the lead role in nearly all areas alongside the dashing Ngamnet, whose placeholder as semi-goofy comedy relief gets a much-needed redemption by the end. There’s at least one other scene featuring Keng and Dina as they tackle Nina and her army of Crazy 88-adjacent goons that switches between moments of live action and animation that I got a kick out of. The only “kitty” who doesn’t go crossing swords is Mina who still carries her own pair as props of sorts. She’s got a sadistic side to her cuteness, and nevertheless, has her own way of dealing with the film’s foes by the film’s final act.
For all intents and purposes, Kitty The Killer now stands to garner Thongkam a win at the New York Asian Film Festival with the Daniel A. Craft Award For Excellence In Action Cinema. The upcoming reception places him firmly among the likes of last year’s victor, Jang Hyuk, as well as Angela Mao, Yuen Woo-Ping, and late laureates Benny Chan and the aforementioned Rittikrai to name a few.
Accolades aside, we’ll see what later reviews opine in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, this critic’s takeaway with Kitty The Killer is happy to lend some grace. It’s not a film that requires its stars to be all on the same level as Jaa and Chupong or Jeeja, unless you’re a hardline fan of Sahamongkol’s output of the early 2000s, then you do you. Thangprabhaporn and her co-stars, and writer/director Thongkam put in a good deal of work to produce an albeit satisfying action comedy with dramatic substance, R-rated fervor and violence and fanservice to help fill a void long left by its predecessors.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.