Back to Mr Wong Jing now, after a few days spending time in better company (and there will be another review coming up before I complete this). This is a more straightforward Hong Kong Comedy (although inspired by a Japanese Manga) which actually is a lot of fun, but does seem to obey my new Wong Jing Theory, which is as follows:
- A Wong Jing film will almost always star someone who has been responsible for MUCH better Work).
- A Wong Jing Film will show a very good taste in female actresses, although they will be treated in a mysongonistic manner (albeit with varying degrees of offensiveness)
- A Wong Jing film will have at least one moment of repulsive sexual violence, that is either the source of “comedy”, or be leering and unapologetic.
- A Wong Jing film will have the guts of a really interesting story, but somewhere along the line forget to satisfy the plot set up in the first half of the film for loud bangs an crashes.
It also intrigued me as it has been pretty much disowned by its star, Jackie Chan, who not only thinks it his worst Hong Kong film, but actually lead to a fair bit of bad blood between the two. I’m sure his views are coloured by his experiences, as actually the finished product is far from terrible.
In “City Hunter” our hero is Private Eye Ryu Saeba (Jackie Chan), a famous if somewhat lecherous chap who solves crimes that the Police just seem to be no good at. He is assisted by the daughter of his dead former partner, Carrie (Joey Wang), who holds a candle for him, although she has no idea how much he actually likes her as he made a promise to his friend on his death bed that he would not touch her. They are hired to track down Shizuko (Kumiko Goto), the wayward daughter of a rich industrialist, which eventually leaves them on a Cruise full of Hong Kong’s rich set. At the same time Policewoman Saeko (Chingmy Yau) is also on board following up a lead about a potential terrorist action. Of course, this lead comes to fruition, and the gang all come together to take down the evil Colonel MacDonald (Richard Norton) and his gang. Can they save the day? Will Carrie and Ryu get it together? Wasn’t this sort of the plot in Steven Segal’s “Under Siege”?
Let me be up front about this – this is a real “Marmite” movie – you are either going to love it or hate it. It tries really hard to be a live-action Manga – with silly visual jokes, comedy sound effects and some over the top acting. It is quite frankly a silly film that you just cannot take seriously. The opening scene sets the tone with some nice 1960’s-Batman TV Style graphics (which sadly do not make their way into the rest of the film), and that ever humorous comedy device of a Man being hit by a huge Hammer. If that makes you smile, then you may just want to stay aboard for the ride.
Joke-wise, for me it had a reasonable balance – 50% of the gags are actually hilarious (and again, if you think Jackie Chan being hit in the face by a gun thrown to him is comedy gold then you will agree with me), and 50% are tiresome at best, and frankly unfunny at worst (one scene has a girl admitting to having haemorrhoids poolside, it serves no purpose whatsoever). To be fair, not too many jokes are stretched out too long, and indeed a couple could have stood up to a bit of repetition (Ryu is meant to be starving, so when faced with one attractive woman he sees her ‘assets’ as Hamburgers and Chicken Legs, its a smart gag, yet never used again). The musical number however is one of the direst things I have ever seen, and what Leon Lai’s character is meant to be adding to an already rather full cast list, I have no idea. Chan is amiable, although it does look like he is not convinced by what he is doing. Joey Wang is playing it with her tongue firmly in her cheek, and Chingmy Yau is actually playing it pretty straight (and the film surprisingly benefits from this).
The plot really rather lets things down, some of the blame probably has to go on the original property, but some things just make no sense. In the initial hunt for Shizuko it is made clear that they are in Japan, and they go to Hong Kong to look for her. Then they obviously return to Japan, but all then get on a Cruise ship in Japan again. The villains are explained to be terrorists (they even boast that they are), but actually they are just after money, Bandits at best. So why do they lay explosive charges all over the ship?
It is actually rather restrained action-wise, with none of the really big stunts that Chan made his name doing. Instead it does have a couple of actually rather clever set pieces. At one point he takes on a couple of giant black men in an empty cinema, whilst Bruce Lee’s “Game of Death” is playing a similar scene, leading Ryu to take some tips from the great man. The scene is actually only partially successful, as it does not work enough with the opportunity it has created. The other scene is much better, with Chan and his rival taking on the roles from the “Street Fighter II” Arcade game. Look away if the sight of Chan as Chun-li might disturb you, but it is not only amusing, but also terribly well observed.
The down side of the film is that it is awfully slight, it works as nothing more than a series of gags, with no character development, a messy plot, and no-one really being much more than one-dimensional. It also has a nasty moment where the Richard Norton mid heist encourages his 2nd in command to take Joey Wang up to his cabin to rape her. Whilst nothing actually happens, it feels out of context with the general slapstick nature of the movie.
As the final credits roll (with those Jackie Chan ever present amusing out-takes), I could not help but smile. It was a fun and amusing ride, with a couple of moments of genuine class. The lightweight nature of the film means is is never going to be anything more than Recommended, but it is not a terrible film by any stretch.
[I have one more Wong Jing to look at, but I will be taking another detour into K-Horror (via K-Pop) and a little Singaporean thriller before I return]