Magic Crystal

It was a nice surprise seeing this old chestnut from 1986 finally making an appearance on DVD like a hobgoblin on Halloween. I have wanted to see it for a long while now due to the gwielo presence of Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton. I always enjoy Rothrock’s bad hairdos and Norton’s smirky superior demeanor as well as their ability to crack a few heads. Their participation generally tends to signify a “B” action film filled with loads of well-choreographed fights and a minimal plot. This film certainly fills that bill. One thing bothers me though. After having watched “Righting Wrongs” the other day on the big screen, I have to wonder whether it was impossible to find a blond wig in Hong Kong around the mid-80’s – was there a shortage of some kind due to an unusual infestation of locusts. In both films, Cynthia is clearly doubled during the difficult acrobatic stunts – clearly because the obvious not very attractive male who is doing it is wearing a long dark wig. Did they think no one would notice? She begins her flip in blonde – goes suddenly dark – and than amazingly when she lands again she is blonde. The same goes for Norton in this film. They can afford to fly to Greece, but that damn blonde wig would have put them over budget I guess. Of course, it may possibly be more sinister than that – perhaps it was Chinese pride wanting to make it loud and clear that gweilos were unable to perform these moves and only the Chinese could!
Admittedly, there are a lot worse things to complain about in this Wong Jing film than the obvious doubling.  The plot is as silly as a three-legged hootchie-kootchie dancer as Wong surrounds some absolutely terrific action scenes with the typical gaggle of his assorted trademark humor but on top of this adds an annoyingly sweet child who often hogs the screen. It is a shame that the DVD doesn’t offer a version of only the action scenes, but of course then you would miss Natalis Chan having his hands and feet switched around by a spell, Wong Jing grunting on the toilet, a walking/talking rock, Natalis trying to use his supposed supernatural powers to get Cheung Man out of her clothes (always a worthy effort), an alien that looks like a dirty mud encrusted sock and Andy Lau touring around Athens. Actually, the Natalis hand/foot bit was rather amusing.
The action from choreographer Tony Leung Siu Hung (Coolie Killer, In the Line of Duty III, Satin Steel) is a lot of fun – fast moving, intricate and playful – and there is a lot of it. One tends to forget now that Andy Lau had a fair amount of martial arts training at TVB early in his career and though his true skills may be minimal he certainly can fake it very well. He is urbanely graceful here in his moves – sort of a leg kicking Cary Grant – and receives more than able assistance from Cynthia, Norton, Max Mok, Phillip Ko, Chung Fat and a rash of other stuntmen. It’s rare for the film to go very long without winding up another action sequence – but when it does stop to catch its breath it is like being poked in the eye.
When the police can’t catch a crook by legal means they turn to Andy who uses his wits and fists to bring them to justice. He receives a message from his friend Phillip Ko who asks Andy to come to Athens because he has something that the KGB are after. For some peculiar reason Andy takes his assistant (Wong Jing) and his small nephew (Siu Ban Ban) along with him. At the Parthenon, all these forces come together – along with two Interpol agents (Cynthia and Max Mok) and a long fight breaks out that begins on the steps of the Acropolis amid gawking tourists and then proceeds to the streets of Athens. The movie soon moves back to Hong Kong where it is discovered that Ko hid his package in Ban Ban’s luggage – and the bad guys with Norton as their chief comes after them. The package turns out to be a cheap looking piece of green plastic that is suppose to be jade – and it has supernatural powers, a little girl’s voice and the ability to walk. It and Ban Ban become buddies and it helps Ban Ban beat up the school bully. Whoopee-do. The last third of the movie turns into Indiana Jones meets E.T. and goes from silly to very silly – but there is action all along the way.
Into this mélange also are Cheung Man as Ko’s sister, Natalis Chan as her horny suitor and Sek Kin as a friendly cop. There is one character whose name I wish I knew – she plays Andy’s older sister and spends much of the time watching TV until Norton and his thugs try and kidnap Ban Ban whereupon she suddenly spurts into action and gives a wonderful display of wusha form. It is all in all a low wattage outing, but not really a painful one  – more just a weird mix of top-notch action and goofy bad lowbrow comedy.

My rating for this film: 6.0