Shadow Cop

Reviewed by YTSL

Elsewhere on the site, Brian has written that: “In my opinion, 1993 was the last truly great year in HK films.”  As others have pointed out though, the most recent golden age of Hong Kong cinema was one in which there was chaff aplenty along with wheat.  Additionally, that bounteous era has been said to have come to an end as a result of the “Eastern Hollywood”’s movie makers’ having gotten overly-complacent as much as because of rampant video piracy or the overwhelming of all other national cinemas by Hollywood.  Indeed, upon watching such as this 1993 crime drama with romance and supernatural elements (or is it romance with crime drama plus supernatural components?), this (re)viewer was moved to wonder when was the last time she had seen such a lazily or carelessly put together excuse for a cinematic product (and one that managed to pull in a seven figure amount at the local box office, to boot).

For starters, SHADOW COP has a script (credited to Ella Chan) that is filled with hoary genre chestnuts.  To be sure, I still have yet to weary of watching films in which the protagonist is an undercover police officer.  However, it’s gotten too boringly invariable to see such an individual (in this case, Waise Lee’s Chu Chi Hsiong character) getting romantically involved with a loud prostitute with a heart of gold (Carina Lau deserved far better than to be called to portray such as this movie’s Witty by name -- but not by nature -- character).  Ditto re his becoming the victim of crooked colleagues who not only cause him to come to grievous bodily harm but also besmirch his good name by insinuating that he it was who had caused HK$10 million worth of cash to look like it had been spirited away.
Granted that some spark of creativity may have been behind the decision to kill off the offering’s protagonist in the first half of SHADOW COP and have him turn into a ghost that only one living being -- a woman whose mother had been a medium, and who just so happened to be a good friend of his beloved -- could hear.  Alternatively, this plot plus character development might just be looked upon as a convenient device for ensuring that: firstly, there could not be a straightforward way for Hsiong to go about avenging himself, clearing his name and making sure that Witty would not come to any major harm; and, secondly, the Albert Lai directed effort’s viewers be left with no doubt that the brassy hooker did genuinely love the equally prone to be impulsive cop.
Ultimately, however, SHADOW COP was left most undone by the bad editing work on it that caused the film to feel like it progressed in a not especially logical as well as terribly choppy fashion.  Thus it was, for example, that one minute, Witty and Hsiong looked to be at complete loggerheads but next thing I knew, they were such a close plus confirmed couple that he could absolutely understand why she would give him a stinging slap on the face while he was playing mahjong with three of her gal pals.  Additionally, there’s the inept inter-cutting between scenes of Witty doing house-work -- and perhaps acting too playful and unsuperstitious for her man’s good -- and those of Hsiong carrying out what turned out to be his final undercover mission (as a living human) all the way to that which shows how he came to meet his untimely fate.
To top it all off, SHADOW COP is also damned with the kind of English subtitles that have given Hong Kong movies a bad name (Among the more memorable of these lines is one which had an exasperated Hsiong enquiring of Witty: “Why are you so aboriginal?”!).  In contrast, its VCD happens to possess a visual and audio clarity that I hadn’t expected of a bona fide (HK$10!) bargain basement item.  Similarly, its two headliners (both of whom I’ve often gotten something out of watching even when they appear in sub-par dreck) turn out to be far from the only recognizable performers who appear in this movie.  So call me a fan girl but, if truth be told, I ended up feeling like my disappointing evening hadn’t been a total loss after spotting the likes of Kenneth Tsang (in the role of Officer Chiang), Ben Lam (as Man Sin), “Big Silly Head” Shing Fui On (as the suitably monikered “Maddie”) and Gabriel “Turtle” Wong (playing the part of a cab driver) in an offering that also does boast a killer “man on fire” stunt.

My rating for the film: 5.