Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: From Beijing With Love

from beijing with love indexStephen Chow’s one of the best directors to have ever come out of Hong Kong (though he’s now officially based in China) and the country hasn’t exactly been shy when it comes to producing superb filmmakers, his fast frenetic style is often breathtaking to watch and very, very funny at that. But back in 1994 this was the third film he made with Lik-Chi Lee, a very obvious James Bond spoof, and it’s clear that he hadn’t quite found his feet as a director.

Not that it’s a bad film in any way, in fact quite the opposite, but it’s the kind of thing which could have been made by many a director and that’s something which certainly isn’t true of Chow when he’s at his very best with films like Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer, Journey to the West and The Mermaid showcasing his unique style, and how he’s at the very top of his game when it comes to frenzied and furious flicks.

It doesn’t hide that the fact that it’s a Bond parody in any way, shape or form, what with the way the opening credits have a silhouetted woman who frolics with a giant bullet, and another silhouetted couple have a fight before the guy shoots her, and there’s even snippets of the famous theme tune used at times as well, how Chow and Lik-Chi Lee got away with it is beyond me over then that I guess they hoped no one in the West would see it.

The plot is at least slightly different from your standard Bond movie as our hero Ling Ling Chat (which is a homophonic pun of ‘007’ in Cantonese, apparently) is a spy in reserve and not normally considered good enough to work out in the field, except that when a rare and highly treasured dinosaur skull is stolen he’s called in to help out. All’s not as it seems however as his boss is secretly the bad guy, and the boss asks a fellow agent Lee Heung Kam (Anita Yuen) to kill Ling Ling after persuading her he’s a rapist and a murderer.

What follows is a succession of parodies of Bond films as we get to meet their deliberately rubbish version of Q whose inventions include a has a solar power torched which can be lit using another torch, and a chair. Yep, just a chair, though it can be screwed together vaguely quickly if you need to construct an apparatus to sit down on in a hurry. Meanwhile the villain is a man with a golden gun, because once again copyright infringement is something they just don’t care about, though at least it’s a very silly golden gun which can blow things up and cause people to explode using a selection of unusual bullets.

If you hadn’t figured out that it was a Bond spoof by this point there’s also a villain called Killer with Metal Mouth, Ling Ling has a fondness for Martinis, and the camera pervs over women in a rather uncomfortable way, which is the only element that disappoints. But even though this review might be mocking how much of a rip off the film is, it can’t be denied that it’s a rollicking ride and then some and the jokes almost always land.

Chow’s lead spy is a charming fella with an impressive skill for slicing things up with a butcher’s knife, the boss communicates with our female lead via the use of a toilet cam, Ling Ling at one point tries to help out Lee Heung Kam by using a tiny plaster on a bullet wound, and later on our hero manages to keep smoking even when he’s bleeding out post gunshot wound, and who then watches porn as an anaesthetic, claiming “This is called shifting attention”, all of which is delightfully silly and very funny material.

Some of the violence is surprisingly brutal, with a robbery in a mall that Ling Ling Chat is caught up in being truly vicious, but most of the time it’s played for laughs, and the way Ling Ling escapes an executioners squad towards the end of the movie is inspired, as is the finale itself which satisfies immensely, even if the very final scenes could have come right out of one of Roger Moore’s Bond films.

It’s not the smartest or cleverest film around but it does constantly deliver when it comes to laughter, at a tight eighty four minutes it doesn’t come close to outstaying its welcome. It’s clearly not Chow at his best but there are occasional signs of what he would go on to accomplish, and if you go in just expecting a pretty fun film which will make you laugh a fair bit then you’ll probably walk away without any complaints at all.

★★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
Review: Stephen Chow’s King Of Comedy Vs. Stephen Chow’s The New King Of Comedy.

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