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.