The problems with Mrs. K can, I think, be summed up by the bizarreness of its soundtrack, an eclectic mix that had me thinking in equal measure about the scores of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Blade Runner, and A Serbian Film. It is nothing like any of those movies, but I’m genuinely curious what kind of movie it thinks it is. This is a movie where an aged mother takes off after a man who has assisted in the kidnapping of her daughter, and that chase lasts approximately forever before ending when she is hit in the stomach with a pipe and just can’t run anymore. If the chase itself was half as long, I actually would have liked that; the titular Mrs. K is a badass sometimes, but she isn’t Liam Neeson’s character in Taken. Her body actually shows the effects of aging, and if someone grabs her head and slams it on a table, she’s out for a while. It’s unsettling, but it feels like an attempt at grounding the old-person-hero narrative.
Except it doesn’t feel like that’s what Mrs. K is attempting to do at all and is merely a consequence of what it does. But what is it attempting to do? According to the intro given by one of NYAFF’s programmers, director Yuhang Ho wanted to make an action movie with lead Kara Hui before she retired and threw this together. And if the point was to “Make a movie starring a person,” then he succeeded. Whether he made a successful action movie is debatable, since at least 40% of the action takes place off screen, but that brings us back to this same question: What is it going for? Does it want to be a Western? (It’s not.) Does it want to be an 80s throwback? (It definitely doesn’t feel like one.) Does it want to be modern and gritty? (No.) So, what is it? It’s just a series of pleasantly constructed images that feel poorly considered.
At 96 minutes, Mrs. K feels shockingly bloated, to the point where it could easily lose 20 minutes and probably more, but 96 minutes is also not all that long in general, and I’m generally willing to give movies with less-than-three-digit runtimes a bit more leeway. As such, I’m less angry at the padding than confused. I don’t really get what it’s going for, or why many of the scenes are there at all. I don’t know what larger purpose they serve. But I didn’t dislike it, and I could even tepidly recommend it, because there are some very cool moments mixed in with all of the fluff. And if you’re willing to wade (or wait) through it, you’ll enjoy yourself.
Director: Yuhang Ho
Country: Malaysia/Hong Kong