Hong Kong 2008 Directed & Written by: Alan Mak, Felix Chong Produced by: John Chong Cinematography: Edmond Fung Editing: Kwong Chi-Leung Music: Chan Kwong Wing Cast: Sammi Cheng, Eason Chen, Chapman To, Patrick Tam, Zhang Guoli, Michelle Yip, Kate Tsui, Richie Jen, Ricky Chan, Liu Kai Chi, Wilfred Lau, Conroy Chan
Who hasn’t wished for the golden era of Hong Kong cinema to come back after 1997? And since a short while we were getting exactly that – all the good sides and the bad sides, just like the handover had never happened. From Benny Chan vehicles to ALL’S WELL END’S WELL 2008 and 2009 and 2010, up to BEAST STALKER (and later FIRE OF CONSCIENCE) – once again Hong Kong cinema is that very special mixed bag of surprises. But most impressively did the 2008 LADY COP & PAPA CROOK show what we actually hadn’t meant to come back. Ever.
The 80’s were back and were bringing along Sammi Cheng after a few years of absence from the silver screen, but the formally glossy appearance couldn’t hide the fact that LADY COP & PAPA CROOK was on the same level as similar films from back then. It was like time stood still.
Now it is not entirely clear if that’s an expression of the ignorance of the film producers who dare serving us something we have seen exactly like this already 20 years ago (just better), or if it is an expression of the stupidity of the audience who haven’t developed an inch since then and still demand the same old stuff. Perhaps it’s both.
It is undisputed that it’s difficult to earn money with complex and serious movies in most domestic markets in Asia, on the other hand various films have succeeded nevertheless (such as those of Mr. Alan Mak) and proven that mass compatibility does not necessarily require the smallest common denominator.
The bearable 20 minutes of LADY COP & PAPA CROOK (the beginning and some other sequences; these are reminiscent of Michael Mann) are very cinematic and have little – if nothing – in common with the rest of the film. This is good cinema, but then very quickly the most idiotic slapstick imaginable takes over. Inconsistency is therefore the only asset of the film.
Moreover logic and storytelling are vanishing further into nirvana minute by minute, so another issue is lack of substance. One of the most crucial mistakes then is that LADY COP & PAPA CROOK is adjusting itself completely to the acting skills of Sammi Cheng, instead of finding an actress who has class in the first place. The downward spiral is unstoppable from here, even the human touch, which was supposed to be one of the strengths of the film, is drowning in all the nonsense – there is no spark between Cheng and Chen whatsoever.
Perhaps a good script would have helped, but that would have hardly been worth spending time on. As long as wannabe liberal sex-talk and dirty jokes are supposed to fill the massive gaps in the storyline and all that counts is the perfect looks of the actors as well as a calculated political correctness to satisfy the Chinese censors nothing can improve the mess Mak and Chong have created here.
LADY COP & PAPA CROOK is not a film, it’s a formula. Box office success may be calculable. Art isn’t.
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