The Spy Dad

Reviewed by YTSL

Wong Jing does it again!  By this, I mean that the Hong Kong film-maker who some people are wont to think is no longer the Jade Theatre force that he used to be has decided once again to be the scriptwriter, producer and director of a single movie that may well have more than its fair share of star personalities and familiar faces in it.  Also, that, to a pretty large extent, this 2003 action comedy that does have its moments even if it isn’t destined to be a real classic, and is precisely the kind of cinematic offering that one associates with the Mr. Wong who is, in many ways, the auteurial anti-thesis of Wong Kar Wai (although it’s true enough that it’s the latter rather than the former who has producing credits on such fare as “The Eagle Shooting Heroes” and “A Chinese Odyssey 2002”).

For one thing, THE SPY DAD often feels like it’s got everything in it bar for the kitchen sink itself.  SARS plus James Bond jokes (Sometimes in back-to-back scenes, if not the very same one!).  “Infernal Affairs” in-jokes (that make the most out of Edison Chen’s having a guest starring role in this work as the secondary school-mate who Gillian Chung’s Cream character fancies).  Fun pokes galore at “The Matrix”.  A quite creditable as well as funny Bruce Lee parody from Tony Leung Kar Fai -- who had previously demonstrated his ability to do this in the Wong Jing directed “Boys are Easy” -- along with a pretty funny, even if less creditable, imitation of Shek Kin’s villainous “Enter the Dragon” character by Eric Kot.
Plays for laughs that are contingent on viewers of this often quite nonsensical movie already being well familiar with Michael Chan and finding composer-character actor Tats Lau’s dead-pan look and tone to be hysteria-inducing.  And Jim Chim playing both(!) unpopular HKSAR Chief Executive, Tung Chi Wai, and his presumably not all that respected wife in a political barb filled section of THE SPY DAD that left many an otherwise fairly appreciative Malaysian viewer of the effort flummoxed plus cold but is one that I could see tickling the funny bone of Hong Kong audiences.  All this appears in this offering along with such Wong Jing movie staples as bodacious babes plus retreads like a usually competent man temporarily turning into an idiot, albeit one who has retained some of the skills that he had previously relied upon in his line of work (“God of Gamblers”, anyone?).
As one might expect, THE SPY DAD had to have one of those “all over the place” as well as generally loose plots in order to incorporate all of the above elements into a single work.  Similarly, some intricate weaving of story lines, not to mention suspension of disbelief, was needed in order to bring together the movie’s timid father cum action film star of a protagonist (Jimmie Bond is portrayed by a happily in form Tony Leung Kar Fai) and a fearless Interpol agent (Tienan gets essayed by Jordan Chan) on the trail of a dangerous criminal (Elvis Tsui’s character has been referred to in publicity materials as Ryuichi as well as Lungyi) out to purchase some dangerous inventions of a mad scientist known as Dr. Donno (who is played with obvious relish by Eric Kot).
Suffice to say here that, fairly early on in THE SPY DAD, Tienan ends up at Jimmie Bond’s house with a case containing broken vials of a virus that causes people who contract it to regress to childhood and an unbroken one of a super SARS virus (both of which were manufactured by Dr. Donno).  Already at that spacious abode -- befitting of someone who might well be the next Hong Kong action hero to move to Hollywood... -- were Jimmie’s two daughters (the elder of whom is played by Gillian Chung), a charlatan holy man (Chapman To’s massage-loving Love Kwan character also is the brother of Jimmie’s ex-wife) and the woman who is seeking to be the next Mrs. Jimmie Bond (Teresa Mo provides a lot of amusement in her own right in the role of Barbara).

Shortly after Tienan’s arrival, the woman Jimmie still loves also makes her entrance into the effort.  Isabel is a film star in her own right (and is played by Candice Yu On On, an actress making her first appearance in a movie since “Swordsman II” and looking to have aged very well).  These days, she works in Hollywood.  Rather than return to Hong Kong to settle down, she has actually come to tender Jimmie a golden professional opportunity.  Although he should be ecstatic about this, Jimmie’s apt to get distracted by Isabel having another man in tow as well as other concerns that soon rear their head with a vengeance, and will require him to be the real life hero -- even if not quite THE SPY DAD -- that she had doubted he could ever be in order to save the day for many, including both her and him as well as whole bunch of this offering’s mixed bag of characters.

My rating for the film: 6.5

Pictures were happily obtained from: