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Film / A Killer's Blues

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You'd be blue, too, if you ever have to confess to your adopted daughter that you killed her daddy when she was a toddler...

A Killer's Blues (also known in some territories as The Killer's Blues) is a 1990 Hong Kong gangster movie starring Ti Lung, in the midst of the Heroic Bloodshed hype in late 80s/early 90s Hong Kong. Having finished the second installment of A Better Tomorrow, Lung gets immediately cast into another gangster movie, but this time with more focus on drama instead of action.

Ti Lung stars as Wai Yi-ming, a former hitman with a troubled past; 14 years ago on a mission to eliminate an informant, Yi-ming kills his target, right in front of his target's 4-year-old daughter, little Suet (Snow), which he didn't realize until the little girl sneaks up behind him. Overwhelmed with guilt, Yi-ming decides to bring the child to an orphanage and convince his girlfriend, Siu-wai, to adopt the girl as a foster child. But years later, when Yi-ming decides to leave his days of killing behind, he inevitably gets dragged into another triad war, and worse of all is that Suet, now going to college, will sooner or later discover the truth about her father's death.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Plenty, either between Yi-ming and Siu-wai bonding over each other, Suet showing her concern over her adoptive parents, or between Yi-ming and his Blood Brothers in the mob. In fact, after the Action Prologue, there is a good 25 minute-gap in the second act dedicated to drama with rather little action at all.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Inverted; the night Yi-ming returns home late at night, and sees Suet waiting for him, concerned over his injuries. When Suet expresses too much worry over Yi-ming, even proclaiming that she loves him; eventually this causes Yi-ming to snap completely at her in a rage, and in his anger, reveal that he killed her biological father 14 years ago.
  • The Atoner: Yi-ming, who spends the next 14 years of his life in regret after killing Suet’s biological father and having his girlfriend (later wife) Siu-wai taking the responsibility of raising Suet as a single parent. He’s even shown keeping the newspaper clippings about the murder of Suet’s father among his personal belongings, to remind him of what he owed to her since she was a child.
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: One of the gang war scenes involves Chung and a rival triad beating the snot out of each other in a snooker bar frequented exclusively by gangsters.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While Yi-ming’s eventual demise is a sad moment, however before he died, he has made amends with his beloved wife Siu-wai, his adoptive daughter has forgiven him for killing her biological father, all his enemies are dead, and Suet will have a better future as she furthers her studies to America with her new boyfriend which he approved.
  • Book Ends: The film begins, and ends with Yi-ming hunting down an enemy informant, having the informant pleading for having a family, before having Yi-ming shooting the informant dead in front of their young daughters.
  • Coat Over the Shoulder: This is the preferred attire of Tai, the blood brother and mentor of Yi-ming, and he is shown wearing his overcoat in this fashion in multiple scenes.
  • Cool Uncle: Suet considers Yi-ming to be an uncle and father figure, who frequently drops by to visit her and her adoptive mother, completely oblivious that Yi-ming is the reason why she’s an orphan in the first place. Until the end of the second act.
  • Destination Defenestration: Happens in the funeral parlour shootout, when the coffin, on an out of control trolley, rams into Boss Peng and sends him flying out of a tall window to his death. And the coffin lands on him.
  • Downer Ending: Yi-ming has made amends with Suet, and is engaged to Siu-wai after waiting for more than a decade, but his loyalty and honour forces him to go back for one last hit… which ends with him mortally wounded in a final confrontation. Then again, it’s a Bittersweet Ending for most of the cast.
  • Driven to Suicide: Attempted by Suet, after finding out her Uncle Yi-ming is the killer of her biological father. She missed when Yi-ming wrestles his pistol away from her grasp, but a stray gunshot leaves a gash on her forehead.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Yi-ming, the night after he confessed his past crimes to Suet. Namely, killing her father when she was four.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Between Suet and her nerdy boyfriend Steven, with foster daddy Yi-ming and adoptive mommy Siu-wai in company.
  • Fiery Cover-Up: Yi-ming, Chung and Kin, being chased by rival mobsters in an alleyway, made their escape when Yi-ming shoots a gas cylinder while fleeing causing a massive explosion that covers a small section of the corridor in a wall of fire.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: In the scene when Yi-ming finally proposes to Siu-wai, after 17-odd years of waiting. When Siu-wai expresses her worry over Yi-ming being a hitman, Yi-ming immediately takes out his pistol, fires every bullet into the air, and throws the weapon into the sea to assure her that he will quit the mob afterwards.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Inverted; the film seemingly ends with the Meaningful Funeral of Chung’s father and Yi-ming’s benefactor, but as Boss Peng comes over to have a closer look, the Reveal Shot shows Yi-ming lying in the coffin… at which point he wakes up and starts shooting.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Averted when Siu-wai tries offering Suet a stuffed bear. Suet prefers playing with her water pistol instead, due to being brought up by her father who is a mobster.
  • Guns Akimbo: Yi-ming and Chung in the final shootout at a funeral parlour.
  • Happily Adopted: Suet, at the end of the movie, eventually got over the fact that Ming is the person who killed her biological father when she was four, forgives him and embraces him completely as her new father.
  • I Have a Family: The mob traitor Yi-ming pursues in the Action Prologue tries pleading for his life by saying he have a four-year-old daughter. Yi-ming completely ignores him and keeps pursuing him until finally shooting the traitor dead… and then realizes said daughter, young 4-year-old Suet, is looking at him from behind.
  • Heroic BSoD: Yi-ming, after spilling the beans to Suet that he killed her biological father when she was still a toddler.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Let’s face it, a Hitman Without A Heart, after killing a target in front of said target’s young daughter, will probably fire an extra round into the child to Leave No Survivors. Yi-ming is NOT like most hitmen, however.
  • Here We Go Again!: Towards the end of the movie, Yi-ming roots out the last triad informant in his apartment, and holds the informant at gunpoint… just as said informant’s young daughter suddenly shows up. Yi-ming immediately had a quick flashback to more than a decade ago when he killed Suet’s father, and when the informant attempts to shoot Yi-ming in his moment of distraction, Yi-ming fires back, once again killing a man in front of his young daughter.
  • The Hero Dies: It’s strongly implied that Yi-ming eventually succumbs to his final gunshot wounds from the informant shooting at him.
  • Illegal Gambling Den: Chung and the triads runs an illegal gambling business, with a lengthy scene set in their casino.
  • Long Last Look: Suet and Steven towards Yi-ming and Siu-wai, in the scene at the airport where they have to leave and further their studies to America.
  • Mood Whiplash: The peaceful, gentle and romantic scene of Suet in love, she and Steven hanging out with her family, with calm, soothing music playing in the background, is quickly intersect with the scene of Chung and his mooks hacking up a rival triad boss and his subordinates, with plenty of blood and gore being spilled. That violent scene is again quickly intersecting with Suet and her family camping at a beach.
  • Nerd Glasses: On Steven, the classmate who tried flirting with Suet. Unfortunately, he’s too much of a nerd to properly win her over, but eventually with some help from Uncle Yi-ming they become a couple together while furthering their studies over in America.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Ultimately, Suet never got to say her final farewell to Uncle Yi-ming as she leaves for her studies in America, due to Yi-ming dying in the climax that happens a day later.
  • Non-Action Guy: In an action film, Yi-ming's mentor and friend, brother Tai (played by veteran action icon Lo Lieh) turns out to be a mere advisor who doesn't have any fight scenes.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: Attempted but subverted; when Suet discovers Yi-ming, her Cool Uncle who took care of her throughout her life, turns out to be the killer responsible for her biological father’s death, she grabs Yi-ming’s pistol and puts it to her temple. Yi-ming managed to stop her from killing herself, but Suet fires a single shot that grazes her forehead.
  • Papa Wolf: Yi-ming may be considered just an Uncle and Parental Substitute to Suet, but he will threaten and beat the crap out of anyone who picks on her.
  • Parental Substitute: Suet considers Yi-ming and Siu-wai to be the closest she has to a family. Especially how the latter is her adoptive mother, while the former is the uncle who frequently drops by to help her family out. Although it’s because Yi-ming is her father’s killer, who made her an orphan in the first place…
  • Please Kill Me if It Satisfies You: After Yi-ming reveals the truth to Suet about killing her biological father, a desperate Suet who is hugging on Yi-ming happens to grab a hold of his holstered pistol. As she grabs and points the gun on him, Yi-ming calmly tells her that if killing him to avenge her father will make her feel better, then she may pull the trigger. Unfortunately, she choose to Take a Third Option. See No Range Like Point-Blank Range.
  • Romantic Candlelit Dinner: Yi-ming and Siu-wai’s dinner date after Yi-ming’s return from America, just in time to see Suet turning 18.
  • Roofhopping: Yi-ming in his first scene, pursuing a mob traitor across the rooftops of a set of shacks in a shantytown.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The final hit carried out by Yi-ming and Chung sneaking into a funeral ceremony… with Yi-ming posing as Chung’s deceased father lying in the casket. Yi-ming doesn’t survive past the credits.
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: The final shootout in the funeral parlour, which quickly becomes difficult when windows and doors are closed, and the lights are shot out. Yi-ming accidentally points his gun at Chung before Chung exclaims, "It’s me!"
  • Tattooed Crook: Yi-ming, after his narrow escape with rival triads in an alleyway, have a brief Walking Shirtless Scene that shows his back, chest and shoulder covered in tattoos as he nurses a slash wound.
  • Wham Line: Yi-ming delivers one of these to Suet when she shows too much concern for him.
    Yi-ming: "Why do you think I care so much for you? I'm only your Uncle! ...But let me tell you why... It's because I KILLED YOUR FATHER! ... I SHOT HIM WHEN YOU WERE STILL A CHILD! ... AND I'VE BEEN LIVING IN GUILT FOR THE PAST 14 YEARS!"