Reviewed by YTSL
Although it is apparently alternatively entitled
"Mr. Vampire 5" by some retailers, this 1990 supernatural action movie
actually doesn't contain anything that resembles Dracula, Malay "pontianak"
or Chinese "Kyonsi". Instead, Stephen Tung's extremely eventful directorial
effort "only" possesses at least one majorly pissed off ghost, a couple
of animated bodies, ice spells and other examples of "how did they do it?"
-- especially with a low budget and no CGI -- black magic galore together
with one of those "you just gotta see this!" all-out deadly battles between
a dangerous sorceress from the innocuous sounding "Division of Nine Daisies"
and a fuddy duddy-looking righteous gentleman whose niece observed that
"You are more like a Taoist priest than a cop"! With regards to the
story's chief pair of antagonists: While it's nice icing on the cake
for the work's arch-villainess to have been played by Michiko Nishiwaki,
that which is a most auspicious sign for many fans of this (sub-)genre
of Hong Kong film is that this is one of those that has the late great
Lam Ching Ying in the role of the Feng Shui master called upon to detect,
explain the ways of, combat and subdue those malevolent paranormal forces
that intrude into the realm of the living (to do such as...be involved
in drug transactions...as well as seek to outright harm people).
MAGIC COP is one of those delightfully imaginative
works that had me spellbound pretty much from the get go. Opening
on one of those nights of the year when the Hell Gates are temporarily
open, Hungry Ghosts have been let out to roam on earth and living relatives
burn Hell notes and other paper offerings for their deceased loved ones
to use in the after life to do such as bribe Hell officials, the surreal
-- but thus far only for non-Chinese -- situation really starts to get
weird and scary when a ghost is inadvertently upset by a little ol' grandmother
type. Fortunately, Uncle Fung (the extremely knowledgeable character
portrayed by Lam Ching Ying, who also served as the movie's producer plus
one of its three action directors) is on hand to help the elderly woman
deal with the spirits she had angered as well as dispense advice to prevent
other things from going really wrong (One memorable piece of counsel made
-- to a urinating youth -- within the first five minutes of a film that
can seem to just plain hurtle by: "Don't pee onto the burning pot"!).
Before too long, Uncle Fung is sent from his Tung
Pin Chan backwater to central Hong Kong to help the police there deal with
a case involving very unconventional drug dealers, one of whom turned out
to have been dead for a few days prior to ending up -- once more? -- in
a morgue. Upon arriving in the big city, with his parentless -- but
seemingly none the worse for it -- cute young niece (Lin is played by Wong
Mei-Wah) in tow, the bushy eye-browed one finds that the senior police
officer whose official summons he had obeyed is a former partner with whom
he doesn't seem to be on the best of terms (Wu Ma's character is conveniently
named Officer Ma). Even more irritatingly to him, he is assigned
to work with a young officer who is apt to dismiss his thinking as old-fashioned
as well as superstitious (Wilson Lam plays -- yep, you guessed it! -- Officer
Lam) and another policeman who is nicer than his friend but really is far
from the brightest of sparks (Mui Siu Wai's character doesn't seem to have
a designation other than "Sergeant 2273").
To his credit though, after witnessing a minor
demonstration of the valuable know how possessed by the older man, Sergeant
2273 is wise enough to recognize that Uncle Fung is less of an ordinary
mortal than a true MAGIC COP. Soon the modern urbanite is addressing
the hardly urbane rural dweller as "Sifu", and not thinking too much of
using what seems like complete mumbo jumbo to the uninitiated to track
down and capture the puppet mistress who seems to prefer to have more undead
than living minions (Billy Chow plays her only breathing henchman).
Before the beginning of the movie's climactic confrontation between the
supernatural forces of good and evil, Officer Lam too has started to believe
in the teachings and expertise of the small sized but most definitely physically
as well as mentally and spiritually capable Uncle Fung. Verily though,
how could one not be after witnessing and undergoing what he ended up doing?
Also, for those who have yet to view the film: Suffice to say here
that what Michiko Nishiwaki's unnamed Japanese mistress of the occult does
with daisy petals, ice and pieces of string rivals what Brigitte Lin's
Asia the Invincible does with sewing needles, threads and candle parts.
While on the subject of characters from the "Swordsman"
productions: I had previously derived quite a bit of pleasure from
watching Lam Ching Ying and Wu Ma acting as two loyal old friends in the
first of that famous film trilogy (which was released in the same year
as MAGIC COP). However, my recently learning that these two men had
collaborated on 27 cinematic offerings makes for their having the roles
that they did in that movie, and also this one, be all the more special.
My rating for this film: 7.5