Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Movie Review: Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon

This is a 1990 Sammo Hung action-comedy, with co-star Karl Maka. The two play Kong Kong policemen who are trying to take down a drug-lord named Prince. This movie was kind of a low-rent remake of Running Scared (the Gregory Hines/Billy Crystal movie, not the more recent 2006 movie). Sammo and Maka play typical 80's cop buddies, using wild methods and pissing off their superiors to get to the bad guys. Maka is the wild, fast-talking cop, while Sammo plays the somewhat more cautious, quieter partner.

The first part of the movie has the cops and Prince sniping at each other without doing any real damage - Prince has the cops busted for public lewdness, and the cops in turn wreck Prince's Mercedes. Their boss sends them away to let things cool down, and they get the idea to quit their jobs and open a karaoke bar in Singapore. But on their return, they find themselves having to save their girlfriends and wrap up the case before they can go. All of this is pretty much taken straight from Running Scared.

But, this being a Hong Kong film, there are a couple of differences. First, the comedy is much broader. It's hard to imagine why anyone puts up with Maka's Tiger character for very long; his fast-talking and spur-of-the-moment plans would seem to make him pretty annoying in real life. It's not the worst comedy I've seen in Chinese films, but it's right up there.

Second, there is martial arts action, mostly courtesy of Sammo Hung, who is amazing as usual here (although he seems to have picked up the Bruce Lee "whining" technique here, which I don't think I've seen him do in other movies). There's a great scene where he takes on a dozen attackers using two pipes as nunchucks, and he's got some pretty good kick routines as well. Maka is passable, but I don't think martial arts is his first vocation. There's also a fairly vicious pair of killers, one female and one crossdresser, late in the film in a scene that's a little harder in style than the rest of the film.

The final plan to take down Prince is fairly goofy, although I'm not sure it's any worse than the ending of Running Scared (Gregory Hines rappelling down the center of an atrium firing an automatic weapon while Jimmy Smits yells "My coke!" over and over). They trick one of Prince's accomplices with a fake fight into drawing Prince to a meeting, which starts the final fight scene when the trick is discovered. Maka proves fairly annoying here; I'd rather just have more Sammo. But still, not a bad sequence at all. Take away the somewhat dead middle section in Singapore, and tone down Maka a bit, and this could be a really good film. As it is, three stars.

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