Magic Cop



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).

Lam Ching-ying, Mui Siu Wai and Wilson Lam
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