Love Undercover (1 & 2)

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Two movies for the price of one today, to make up for a lack of recent postings.  I actually have a heap of films to review, so hopefully I will be able to sneak away from work and do a lot of updates this week.

I have actually looked at one of the films in this series before, the dire “Beauty on Duty”, but as always, I hold no grudges, and usually a film that spawns a handful of sequels must be a franchise that originally had some merit.

And “Love Undercover” does indeed have a lot going for it, if nothing else, as the film which launch Miriam Yeung into superstardom.  he story is one we have seen before – a young female cop called Kuen (Yeung), fresh out of the academy, has graduated with less than stellar results, and is relegated to the Lost Property Department.  However, the Serious Crimes Division thinks she could be a perfect fit for a small undercover assignment.  All they need her to do is act as a Waitress at a restaurant, and plant a microphone on the table of Hoi (Daniel Wu), a handsome son of a retired crime lord.  You see, no one is sure if he is a legitimate businessman, or actually has made his millions from crime.

And of course, the sting goes a little wrong, and Hoi falls for Kuen… and as Kuen is pulled deeper into the undercover life… the feelings become reciprocated.

What we effectively have here is a classic Hong Kong gentle romantic comedy, with a crime background.  It is certainly amusing, Yeung we know is an excellent comedienne, and I was pleasantly surprised by Wu, who can blow hot and cold for me.  In this case, he is playing it straight, when the rest of the cast are working only for laughs – and it works.  Sure, at times it is a bit too Hong Kong for my sensibilities (I know many of the wordplay jokes have been badly subtitled), but the physical humour works well, and most importantly, there is a genuine frisson between our leads.  Even the repeated jokes actually work – one policeman keeps getting hit by Hoi’s bodyguard – and to be honest I would normally find this annoying, but it actually gets even more amusing each time.

The biggest plus point for me is a technical one, in that they actually deal with the fact that the in-ear headphone that Kuen uses to stay in contact is pretty obvious (as it is in all these films), and Hoi spots it right away.  They use it as a plot point to say she is deaf – sure it is all glossed over later, but at least it was addressed.

So this one is Highly Recommended – not a classic by any means, but a lovely way to lose 90 minutes.

“Love Undercover 2”, brings back the majority of the case, and just continues the story.  Kuen is rewarded for her previous success, and gets the chance to try other roles, including a wonderfully inept Hostage Negotiator.  Her relationship with Hoi is now legitimate, and the couple are struggling to balance her job with the demands of being a couple.  She eventually is convinced to help protect a foreign dignitary,  which leads to her becoming involved with a gang of rich layabouts who get involved with crime for fun.

This one is actually scene for scene funnier.  I mean legitimately side splitting at times.  however, it isn’t as satisfying a story.  Indeed, the film splits somewhat into two – with the story of Kuen being run alongside the rest of her department trying to help Hoi’s father (who has retired from a life of crime) show some of his fellow recently freed from prison Godfathers the error of their ways.

It is all ok, but neither storyline really works terribly well, despite the comic set-pieces, and they certainly don’t mesh awfully well together.

Director Joe Ma is present for both films, and although not the flashiest of Hong Kong Directors (and is responsible for some utter tripe), this is his comfort zone, and he pulls it together well, and for me, makes the films work to a non-asian audience.  He does know what is funny, and is capable of reigning back a joke.

So this one is more of a mild recommendation – more of a film I might watch a scene or two on YouTube rather than slip in the DVD with a bag of popcorn.

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