Wing is an overweight video store clerk who is floundering in life. Stuck in a dead-end job, with no romantic prospects that take him seriously, he's also persecuted by local gangsters, who shake him down at his work in front of his co-worker.
Fed up with everything, Wing decided to emulate the heroes of his favorite Hong Kong action movies to challenge the gangsters. But real life doesn't go exactly as it does in the movies, in more ways than one.
Written and directed by Kevin Ung, this short marries aspects of the action, comedy and thriller genres, uniting all the disparate elements with a dry sense of irony and the stylishness and elan that echoes the Hong Kong cinema that inspires its main character. We first meet Wing at graduation, on the verge of possibility and a great future -- only to be brought low by a monotonous job. He's captured with tightly framed static shots that have deadpan humor and a tinge of Wes Anderson, especially in how they situate Wing as stuck in an overwhelming, even cluttered world.
The only thing that breaks up the monotony (besides Wing's co-worker) are the gangsters that periodically demand "protection money" and humiliate Wing. Their arrival in the narrative kicks off the action, as Wing methodically goes about acquiring the skills and equipment he needs to take on the gangsters. It's both a sharp satire on cheap, simple action-guy cliches and a humorous portrait of an essentially gentle character trying on a new persona.
Actor Kevin Ip captures both the genuine emotions of a person feeling vulnerable and threatened by oppression and the comedic juxtaposition of a nerd becoming the aloha male. But it sets Wing up for a collision of violence, which plays out in a supremely dynamic fashion. But as Wing reckons with the aftermath, he realizes the actual toll of violence, versus the catharsis and victory he expected from the movies.
"Chubby Can Kill" seemingly ends on a happy note in many ways. But it ultimately reveals its cleverness and even wisdom at the end, with a narrative "button" that is both funny and portentous. It's a wry comment on the cycle of violence, and how it's perpetuated. And though the film is both funny, entertaining and cleverly crafted, it also ends up provoking thought about how we learn about violence, how we turn to it and what the costs are to the perpetrators and their victims. Chubby can kill -- but he's due for a few more lessons as well.