Forbidden City Cop (1996)
Director: Stephen Chow, Vincent Kok
Tagline: A funnier Bond parody than Austin Powers
What a difference a change in director makes. I have to admit that the way Wong Jing directs his movies with Stephen Chow was really starting to annoy me. For some reason he always puts nasty violence in there, which spoils the entire tone of the movie. In this film they managed to avoid any really nasty violence by having a great sequence where smashing and crushing food stood in for things that would be too gory to show (it was really funny the way they did it.)
Stephen Chow stars as Ling-ling Fat (008), a Forbidden City Cop who is hopeless at kung fu and only got the job due to inheriting it. He does have some interesting inventions, one of which is demonstrated by Fat’s hapless sidekick (Law Kar-ying) and leaves him with a blackened face and giant lips. They are not appreciated by the Emperor (Cheung Tat-ming), who doesn’t want to talk to him again.
His undercover job is that of a gynaecologist, much the emperor’s annoyance.
He has a happy home with his wife Kar-ling (Carina Lau). I must say that she is really great in the role and of all the on-screen pairings between Stephen Chow and a female lead, this one is the best and most natural. For example, the scene where they are wrestling is really fun, especially when his wife goes too far and breaks his arm.
It also makes it harder to watch the movie later on when their marriage seems to be in turmoil with no solution in sight.
While washing dishes after a banquet in the Forbidden City, Fat overhears that a “Flying Fairy” has been found in Gum kingdom and all the nations doctors have been invited to the autopsy. The Emperor decides to go as well, and takes the other Forbidden City Cops with him. What they don’t know is that the ruler of Gum, the evil No-Face has set a trap for them so he can take over.
Although he has not been invited to the autopsy, his wife encourages him to attend.
At the autopsy, all the doctors crowd around the “Flying Fairy”, which turns out to be a traditional grey alien. What they don’t know is that they have been locked in the building and assassins are creeping up behind them.
After a disagreement about the autopsy, they find out that the alien is actually the emperor in disguise and Fat defeats the assassins and the two-faced villain using giant magnets and a big stick. When he goes outside to check on his wife, he finds all the stallholders dead and a storm of sharp leaves start to cut him. In a funny sequence he fights them off with his hand-powered helicopter and mouth-canon and No-Face escapes to seek revenge.
The movie then takes a strange turn, which involves Fat being asked to investigate a beautiful prostitute named Gum Tso (Carman Lee) for the Emperor. This causes him no end of trouble when his wife notices someone else’s perfume on him and Gum bursts in on a birthday dinner to take him away from his family. Will they get back together or not? What happened to the investigation? Will there be more kung fu action? You will have to watch the rest to find out.
The performances of the supporting characters are great all round and there is even a cheeky “awards ceremony” during the middle of one scene later in the movie which seems to come out of nowhere. Although Ng Man-tat is not in this movie, as I said before Carina Lau more than makes up for it.
The special effects are very silly and suit the movie really well. I liked how there are also some ‘morphing’ effects that were popular at the time. My favourite invention in the movie is the hand-powered helicopter that is used to great effect.
I understand that this movie is meant to be a follow-up to From Beijing With Love, but this movie stands by itself as an excellent comedy with a great plot and characters.
This movie has recently been released as a remastered version so it should be a lot easier to find. It is also one of the more accessible of Stephen Chow’s period comedies as the story is not based on an ancient Chinese character so you will not need to know about it beforehand to get the most out of the movie.
This movie is also available as part of the Stephen Chow Collection: Period/Fantasy.