Gongfu film Mrs K strikes out with messy plot

Former martial arts heroine Kara Wai plays a mother who has to rescue her kidnapped daughter.
Former martial arts heroine Kara Wai plays a mother who has to rescue her kidnapped daughter. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES



91 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

The story: The mysterious Mrs K (Kara Wai) is a housewife who leads a quiet suburban life with her doctor husband (Wu Bai) and their teenage daughter Little K (Siow Li Xuan). When her daughter gets kidnapped one day, she is forced to unleash her old fighting skills to get her child back.

At 57, former martial arts heroine Kara Wai can still kick some serious butt. The Hong Kong actress, who has largely played dramatic roles of late, can still tumble, kick and punch as if she were in one of the 1970s Shaw Brothers wuxia films that first made her famous.

But if she was hoping that this would be the film to mark a career revival as an older action star - the way Ip Man (2008) did with Donnie Yen and Taken (2008) did with Liam Neeson - it does not look likely to happen.

Unlike those two films, which were instant hits with mainstream audiences, Mrs K will probably not have the same kind of mass appeal.

For one thing, it is all over the place, and not just because of the increasingly convoluted plot - it feels messy because of the inconsistent tone throughout.

The movie starts off as a promising dark comedy, with a scene of Mrs K skilfully slapping two young robbers to the ground while she is baking curry buns in her kitchen. She then sits them down to taste the bread as she lectures them on becoming better people, and it is all just marvellous fun.

As soon as her daughter gets kidnapped, however, the film loses that sense of playfulness and goes into serious action-thriller mode, which would have been fine if it did not also keep trying to be more than that.

Malaysian director Ho Yuhang (At The End Of Daybreak, 2009, which also starred Wai), probably too used to showing off his artistic sensibilities, tries to elevate his first commercial film here by throwing in awkward mood shots for no reason.

In the midst of Mrs K's urgent rescue efforts, for example, she decides to drive her car through the car wash. The scene captures her supposed anxiety through close- ups of her furrowed brows, juxtaposed against shots of the water dripping on to the windshield. It really makes little sense for the story.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Gongfu film strikes out with messy plot'. Subscribe