Good Lord. It feels like the patients have taken
over the asylum in this totally over the top and out of control kung-fu
comedy/action film. The phrase “The Agony and the Ecstasy” fits the bill
here with only a slight exaggeration. The agony would be Wong Jing and
the ecstasy would be Ching Siu-Tung. The film is primarily a “nonsense”
comedy that is all Wong Jing with occasional action fantasy sequences thrown
in that are the work of Ching Siu-Tung.
“Nonsense” comedy (mou lei-tau) generally means
that anything goes – that there is no real need to tie it into the structure,
plot or time period of the film. Stephen Chow is a master of this brand
of humor, but it is essential that most of the separate pieces are funny
or it will collapse under its own weight and that is what happens here.
Though the actors are clearly working very hard to make the comedy work,
very little of it struck me as funny. At times I felt so numb from the
attempted humor that you could have stuck a pin in me and I would not have
felt a thing. I usually enjoy these sorts of crazy antics such as in a
similar film -Flying Dagger – but the comedy here just left me itching
to fast forward to the next action sequence.
Now the action directed by Ching Siu-Tung (Chinese
Ghost Story, Heroic Trio, Dragon Inn, Swordsman II) is wonderful to watch.
Though it is just as over the top as the comedy, it is spectacular and
imaginative and tremendously fun. The film has more wire work than a Boeing
747 and there are probably more miles covered flying as well. At
times there are ten or more people zipping around in the air and fighting
on wires. Truth be told, it is more kung-fu theater than kung-fu fighting
as only a few of the actors are legitimate kung-fu action stars.
One thing that Wong Jing can always do is assemble
a first rate cast and he has certainly done so here. Leading off is Michelle
Yeoh followed by Maggie Cheung, DoDo Cheng, Sandra Ng, Cheung Man, Simon
Yam, Damian Lau, Ng Man-Tat and Dicky Cheung – and Wong allows them to
pretty much do their schtick – almost to a fault. Everyone seems to have
played these same characters in some other film – and are almost making
fun of them here.
Michelle comes out of this the best in my opinion.
She somehow keeps her dignity, has some lovely action scenes and has one
of the few funny comedy routines. Maggie plays a princess but does little
but pout and grin (which is often quite enough for me!). Cheung Man has
one fabulous scene in which she transforms into a spider like killer and
captures some rapists in her web and then cuts them to pieces – but is
otherwise very underutilized. Damian Lau plays the heroic good guy with
as straight a face as possible while Simon Yam does his patented bad guy.
The majority of the film though really rests with the comedic antics of
Sandra Ng, DoDo Cheng, Dicky Cheung and Ng Man –Tat. Never let any of these
four be accused of underplaying a scene in this film!
To actually give a true sense of the plot would
take more space or patience than I have - but here are the basics.
Yam is an evil Japanese swordsman – Super Sword – who is killing many Chinese
swordsmen across the country. Lau knows that he can’t beat him under normal
circumstances and so he has Ng Man-Tat mix up a brew of poison that will
give him the powers to defeat Yam, but the poison will also eventually
drive him insane. The fight between the two is mind-bending – consisting
of a giant crucifix, a Ferris wheel, man-like flying vultures, bodies crashing
together and exploding and the earth shattering. It has all the elements
that make this type of set piece so splendid.
Lau defeats Yam – but is not able to kill him
and Yam promises to return in three years. Now Lau is engaged to Michelle,
but before the wedding can take place he goes insane – parties with some
less than virtuous women and kills a number of innocent people. Michelle
leaves in disgust and takes on another identity – dressed as a man – and
becomes known as “the killer of heartless men”
The three years quickly passes and Yam and his
two ninja female killers (Cheung Man and Charine Chan(?))are back – and
Ng Man-Tat tracks down Michelle and tells her that only the Yuen Tin Sword
Position can defeat Yam this time around. The only catch with this Yuen
Tin thing is that you need seven female virgins to form it. Thank goodness
this didn’t happen today! This is where Maggie, Sandra and Do Do come into
the film – though they are all trying desperately to lose their virginity
– all to lucky Dicky Cheung. This leads to one more spectacular battle
as Lau and the seven virgins battle Yam.
That is the bare bones plot – leaving out much
of the cross dressing confusions (one funny scene has Cheung Man falling
in love with Michelle – “is it edible?”), sexual transmutations, vampires,
bodily function jokes, love potions and much more.
This is the type of film that may possibly grow
on me – but at least on first viewing I could not get into the swing of
things. But for the action pieces alone I would recommend that you watch
it – and with a bit of luck you may actually enjoy the comedy as well.
My rating for this film: 6.0