Love Undercover

After being a successful singer for years, all of a sudden Miriam Yeung has popped up in a number of Hong Kong comedies portraying the average ordinary middle class HK working girl to good effect. Though her acting style reminds me of Sammi Cheng without the sizzle, she has nevertheless quickly garnered a fair amount of popularity and box office success. In some ways this flurry of films – Feel 100% II, Dummy Mommy Without a Baby, Love Undercover and Dry Wood Fierce Fire – is akin to an alley cat having a litter of kittens under your bed – they may be very cute and cuddly but a part of you wants to drown them in a deep well.
Love Undercover doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. It is so round and cuddly that there isn't an edge in sight. If you smacked it in the face it would just mumble an apology and walk away. Everyone in the film acts like a stuffed toy that would gladly hug you like a frisky fundamentalist minister in the middle of a born again baptism. The fact that most of the characters in the film are either police or triad related doesn’t matter – everyone is as cute as a Hello Kitty drinking mug with no malice in their hearts. Another premise that the film seems to have is that being cute makes you as dumb as a stone – the cops are a bunch of fall over their feet fumblers but their triad quarry is too thick to even recognize a keystone cop when they trip over one. You have to wonder how the cops ever catch a criminal or how a criminal ever catches a break.
This doesn’t mean that this film is not funny – in fact it is fairly amusing in that sit-com “Friends” sort of way where everything is worked out by the end and everyone has a group hug. Of course if all the cast members of "Friends” were to fall into a burning lava pit I would not lose any sleep over it. Mixed into the comedy is a tepid (but cute of course) romance that generates less heat than a frozen twinkie and is even less believable than most boy meets girl scenarios. This is how it goes.
Miriam comes in at the bottom of her police cadet class and is put into the Lost Property division where she doesn’t really seem all that unhappy. She is chosen by Hui Siu-hung for an undercover assignment because as he puts it “She has no family, no lover, not even a dog and looks faithful and stupid”. Miriam just hopes that the assignment will be over by Mahjong time. The assignment – to pretend to be a waitress and place a bottle of Ketchup with a listening device on the table of a suspected triad moneyman – Daniel Wu. Instead she manages to get bashed over the head with the bottle by his girlfriend and then refuses his offer of money.

A waitress refusing a tip? This should have been his first tip off that something was wrong but he misses this clue as he does many more to come. Instead he is so impressed with her character that he woos her and they begin to fall in love – sort of like City on Fire without the gun to the head standoff. Well maybe not. The film keeps a nice constant genial level of humor but it could have used a lot more bite to make it more than passing 90-minutes of being tickled by goose feather. Showing up as well are Joe Lee as the bodyguard with the itchy trigger finger – no make that an itchy nipple actually, Wyman Wong as her baldish friend and Raymond Wong as the good looking cop with the black and blue testicles.

Geez, I feel so grouchy for ever so slightly knocking a film that Mother Teresa would have given her stamp of approval on – ok so she might not have completely understood that oral sex joke – but I am feeling a bit low today after my brief encounter with a squirrel yesterday. I came home to find a large furry tailed squirrel ensconced on my living room windowsill living the good life and perhaps hoping to hear some Bollywood tunes. At first she seemed happy for the company, but after a “meet cute” beginning we spent much of the next hour chasing each other around the apartment – first me chasing her – then her chasing me – there was electricity in the air - but just as I thought we were heading towards a traditional happy ending she took a leap out of my fourth floor window and hit the patio furniture below with a loud crash and I haven’t seen her since. Runaway Squirrel. I hope she is all right and remembers me. Undercover Love could have used a squirrel. I wonder if Miriam can land upright on a patio table from four floors up. I'd like to find out.

My rating for this film: 6.0

And now for something completely different!

Reviewed by YTSL

Before anything else, here’s stating that I don’t know how to account for Brian and my coming to have the different perspectives that we do with regards to this Joe Ma helmed and co-scripted -- along with Chan Wing-Shun -- for our possibly having gone into a viewing of it with conflicting expectations re what we would be getting out of it.

For my part, although I had read that LOVE UNDERCOVER won the 2002 Udine (Italy) Far East Film Festival Audience Award (by having garnered a higher viewer approval rating than such as South Korean box office hits like “Friend” and “My Sassy Girl”), I didn’t have particular major hopes for it being a great work.  One reason for this stems from my having been not all that impressed by Miriam Yeung -- who some people have accused of being a Sammi Cheng clone (or worse, actually unsuccessful imitator) -- in the one previous movie of hers that I had checked out (“Dummy Mommy Without a Baby”).  Another was that, post being underwhelmed by “Marry a Rich Man” (the recent Chinese New Year period’s commercial champion that may have caused my opinion of Sammi Cheng to swing from very positive to much less so), this (re)viewer had begun to wonder whether she had had her fill of Hong Kong romantic comedies
On the face of my reaction to this agreeably light hearted Ivy Kong production though, it would appear that I haven’t yet reached a saturation point after all.  IMHO, it did greatly help my enjoyment of the film that I thought that Miriam Yeung was a real trip as this particular incarnation of L. K. Fong (a name which had been given to her “Dummy Mommy Without a Baby” as well as LOVE UNDERCOVER character) who additionally answers to the title of PC 11661.  Indeed, right from the early moments in the movie during which her never too cutesy character showed how terrible a shot she was at the academy shooting range, then klutzily knee-ed a senior police officer in the groin, all the way past her seemingly lame -- but nevertheless successful -- attempts at seducing the physically attractive suspected criminal played by Daniel Wu (who has never looked cuter than when he was hugging the cuddly toy that had been formerly owned by the woman who his character loved), I reckon that its star actress comfortably shone in this consistently funny as well as amiable offering that’s filled with its share of eccentric characters and zany situations (along with spy cameras plus Keystone Cop-type plainclothes police officers).

My rating for the film: 7.5