Sunshine Cops

Reviewed by YTSL

For some Hong Kong film fans, 2002 was the year of “Infernal Affairs” while others might remember it better as the year of the Twins.  A case might also be made for the year’s key development involving Karena Lam and Angelica Lee -- two singers turned actresses who appear to possess genuine dramatic abilities as well as real promise -- bursting onto the Hong Kong movie scene.  Only, doing this entails, among other things, one’s discounting it being so that the former’s first film is technically a 2001 release (as a result of Ann Hui’s “July Rhapsody” having had its local premiere in late December of that year), and the latter actually having made her not very heralded cinematic debut back in 1999 in a Golden Harvest production which accorded its two titular male characters much more of the limelight than its under-utilized main female.

The Raymond Chow presented SUNSHINE COPS begins with two young men -- one in beat police attire and another who turns out to be a plainclothes policeman -- seeking to prevent a suicide attempt and managing to do this in a rather unorthodox manner.  Soon afterwards, the straight arrow Sammy (who is essayed by Ken Chong) and more laidback H2O (Stephen Fung’s character’s nickname is derived from the initials of his real name of Heung Hoi On) find themselves participating in an official but unconventional series of tests that: involves a round of aerobics (!) along with unarmed combat (during which they -- and the often enjoyably stylish looking offering’s action director (Ma Yuk Sheung), cinematographer (Choi Sung Fai) and editor (Cheung Kai Fai) -- show off their considerable, visually pleasing, abilities) and target shooting; and is geared towards sorting through the “Best of the Best” to find two professionally able -- but also photogenic plus not graceless -- individuals to help present “a new image for the new millennium” of the Hong Kong Police Force to the public.
As expected, Sammy and H2O it is who get picked by the selection panel of senior police personnel to be the HKPF’s first pair of SUNSHINE COPS.  As explained and outlined by their new commanding officer (Superintendent Margarita So is played by Eileen Tung), this duo’s mission involves their becoming “ideal policemen” who will be looked upon as new idols by -- as well as role models for -- the younger generation; with the idea being that, should these “Gen X” types be successful in carrying out this experimental assignment, they will revamp the police force’s image, draw a larger number of new recruits and “stop crimes before they happen”.  Like H2O noted (and this movie’s makers seemed to want to emphasize), this image fashioning process appeared to parallel that which is utilized by the entertainment industry to create new idols or that which beauty pageant participants undergo as a matter of course.
Rather understandably, this kind of activity -- which involves grown men being told how to dress, have their hair cut, strut, pose for photographs, etc. -- is not one that everyone will take to all that happily.  Although H2O seems unbothered by it all, even before their fraudulent plus stage-managed participation in an SDU operation, Sammy -- who comes from a family of achieving police officers (who include an SDU officer elder brother portrayed by Ken Wong and a sister with two pips on each of her shoulders played by Astrid Chan) -- had already felt some unease at being used in this kind of Public Relations rather than more conventional law enforcing role.  However, all seemed to be well for a time after the SUNSHINE COPS looked to have genuinely gained some respect from everyone concerned (including their fellow officers and families along with the general public) by succeeding in saving a pre-school class and their teacher of the threat that was posed by a weapon wielding mad man who had entered their class-room and effectively held that group hostage until the duo’s impressive intervention.
Despite her not having set out to truly upset the SUNSHINE COPS’ apple cart, Angelica Lee’s character’s entrance into their lives sparks off a train of events that will result in such as a smear campaign being waged against them by a paparazzi chief and their also incurring the ire of the head of a kidnapping gang (portrayed by Andrew Lin).  On the bright side, Katy Lam is winning enough for both Sammy as well as H2O to be charmed by her.  Even more happily for this often brainless plus immature feeling work’s audience is the fact that those of its heroes’ troubles that can be traced to their cultivating this schoolgirl’s company are ones that they seek to resolve by way of unleashing an often seriously cool looking series of kicks, punches and similarly acts of violence against (criminal) others!
To be sure, the action style favored in SUNSHINE COPS will not be everyone’s cup of tea (E.g., I can hear criticisms of it being insufficiently gritty and patently unrealistic).  Still, this (re)viewer has few qualms stating that she found herself being more entertained by the fight scenes in this not particularly heralded effort -- plus reckons that they are collectively more exciting -- than, say, those made up the action portions of “Romeo Must Die” and “Shanghai Knights”.  On the one hand, it’s true enough that this may not be saying much at all.  On the other, I honestly didn’t think that a day would come (and so soon!) when I would find myself preferring the combustible sections of a movie for which the pretty boy-ish Stephen Fung was a leading man -- never mind one in which I thought that he was overshadowed by a less big name actor (in Ken Chong) -- over any that starred Jet Li or Jackie Chan.

My rating for this film: 6.