A below-average Malaysian thriller
There have been a number of big movies depicting a deadly game played in exchange for money or a big prize. In 2019 we had Escape Room. 2016 saw us graced with Nerve, a neon-drenched mediocre thriller. Further back you’ll find the psychologically twisted Exam (2009), the craze of the Saw franchise and 1997’s fantastic The Game, to name but a few. The point I’m trying to make here is that this idea of a protagonist thrown into a series of deadly games or fighting for money is nothing new in this space. And that’s, unfortunately, part of the problem with Kill-Fist.
This Malaysian movie essentially combines the plots of both Warrior and Nerve, with a sprinkling of The Game for good measure. The plot is then played out across a rather predictable and rapid 90 minute run-time that fails to live up to expectations.
Our protagonist here is Zhang, a middle-aged man struggling to excel in a crippling economy trying to sell insurance. He’s about to get divorced and he’s losing custody of his daughter Didi too. If that wasn’t enough, Zhang’s misery is compounded by the fact his father is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Talk about a bad break!
Thankfully, Zhang receives an invitation on his computer one night to a strange game called Kill-Fist. The rules are pretty simple. After receiving a parcel with a uniform and a watch inside, Zhang is to show up at an underground parking lot, fight a combatant, knock them out and sync their watches to progress on. Winners gain money, losers gain a black eye, and the higher ranked fights coming against much more skilled combatants.
Coinciding with Zhang’s rise up the ranks is a pastor called John, who has ties with Zhang in the past and similarly starts fighting to make money. Nestled in the middle of these two subplots is another involving a college student called Jean, which eventually becomes entangled in the struggles of these two men.
The screenplay is pretty simple and you’ll see the final twist coming a mile away. The fighting and action is admittedly pretty good but the music is surprisingly subdued and ill-fitting. With the exception of the final fight (which is annoyingly cut and half of which happens off-screen), most of the music is so chilled that it completely juxtaposes what’s happening, which is an odd artistic choice if I’m honest.
Kill-Fist isn’t particularly gory either, but it does have some very uncomfortable scenes. There’s a rape thrown in the middle of this that feels tonally off-kilter, not to mention Jean’s story taking a very dark turn that ultimately feels more for shock-value than genuine narrative progression.
With all that in mind, Kill-Fist is a simple and straightforward action thriller, that stays by-the-numbers to a fault. It’s not particularly taxing and it’s very easy to watch, but it’s also very easy to forget as well. It’s not an outright bad movie but it’s a not a particularly good one either.
Read More: Kill-Fist Ending Explained
Verdict - 4/10