Cult Classics: Forbidden City Cop

forbidden city cop indexA very early film from Stephen Chow (Kung Fu-Hustle, Shaolin Soccer, lots of other great movies) and Vincent Kok (Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, other quite good films) this is a quite unusual affair, it almost feels like two episodes of a forty five minute show glue together, but don’t let that put you off watching it in any way as it’s an extremely unpredictable piece filled with madness and strange events that will make you laugh hard.

Chow plays the lead hero Ling Ling Fat, a secret agent who’s meant to guard the Emperor and keep him safe, and who has a penchant for inventions that are pretty amazing. Initially they’re mocked by many, especially when a mouth based weapon causes one of Fat’s friends to have a face that looks like it has been injected with a couple of litres of botox, and the Emperor is so pissed off with Fat that he orders him out of his palace.

A little dejected, Fat goes back to where he lives and takes up a position as a gynaecologist, a rule he’s really not suited too, unless you believe that when a patient claims that she’s suffering from period pains the only advice that should be given is for her to “await her funeral”, and otherwise issues medicine without listening to anything they say. Which is shitty behaviour, but Fat in general is a very sympathetic character, and his relationship with his wife Kar-Ling (Carina Lau) is point blank adorable as they tease and bicker but ultimately are clearly madly in love with each other, and her glee at some of the inventions Fat has created is infectious, especially when it comes to one involving rats, wheels and chains that will supposedly spice up their love life.

However all of their lives are in danger from “The Man With No Face” who has a couple of plans when it comes to invading China, one of which involves luring all of the doctors to an event where a dead fairy (which looks like a really odd alien) has been found, the idea being that once all are present he’ll murder them, and once the doctors are dead there’ll be no one to treat the wounded and so taking over the country should be easy, though he’s got a backup plan up his sleeve if his first idea doesn’t work.

It’s a film which is quite oddly structured, the first half is a mix of the Emperor getting fed up with Fat and the latter having to finally prove that his inventions do have merit, which they certainly do and the way he defeats a number of ninjas using magnets and a new version of his mouth gun is an absolute delight. The fight scenes are beautifully orchestrated, and come complete with some very funny bits of physical and verbal comedy each and every time.

But once that’s dealt with it appears that the threat to the Emperor’s life / China as a whole is over with, and the tempo slows. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, there’s more cute silliness with Fat and his wife, until Fat is given the task by the Emperor of meeting a prostitute in a bordello to see if she is a suitable concubine for him, with Fat supposedly given the job because everyone knows how much loves his wife so he won’t accidentally fall in love with her himself. Yet in a shock twist he seems to have done so – and is this romantic action comedy going to have a bleak ending? I won’t spoil that here, but the closure is a very satisfying affair that made me love this movie an enormous amount.

Though not the most innovative of his work Chow and Kok have created a fast paced, really fun film here. There’s a lot of impressive visual flourishes in the action scenes, and in one battle they repeatedly cut to Fat and Kar-Ling eating or preparing food each time an act of violence takes place, with the best moment being when one of the Emperor’s other secret agents is kicked in the balls and it immediately cuts to Fat cracking open some eggs and letting them fall to the floor, which had me laughing and wincing at the same time.

Fat and his wife’s relationship really raises this up when compared to similar fare, without it the movie would have been a fine affair but a little substanceless, whereas their love for each is charming and endearing, and an important part of the overall plot too. It’s a film where the script is also filled with very funny lines, memorable characters, and it’s the first film by Chow which really hints at how great he’d later become as it’s such an notably inventive but lovable movie.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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