Hail the Judge (1994)
Director: Wong Jing
Tagline: “I will kill him into pieces!”
Stephen Chow stars as the hapless magistrate Pao Lung-sing, who tries to be honest at the request of his dad, but is routinely outsmarted by lawyers and ends up accepting one too many bribes. His reputation is so bad, that he can’t walk outside his court without people throwing rotten fruit at him or trying to trap him.
His right-hand man (Ng Man-tat) convinces him to don a disguise, but Pao can’t help himself when he hears a storyteller telling an insulting story about him on the street and they have to run away. By chance they run into a wedding party that includes some of the defendants who Pao had received bribes from and they decide to stay there.
During the celebrations, number one constable Panther (Elvis Tsui) arrives looking to arrest some members of the family. Pao convinces him to accept a bribe and some women instead, leading to a set up and Pather in jail. Mr Tsui returns in this movie with the impressive beard and eyebrows he sported in Royal Tramp, which makes him a very entertaining character to watch.
During the night, one of the wedding guests named Shang Wai (Ngai Sang) kills all the family, leaving only Chi Sui-lui (Sharla Cheung) as a witness. Complicating matters is the fact that Wai is the son of a Navy Commander, leading to a grand plot to reverse the charge and which leads to Pao being arrested when he investigates the case on his own.
The movie really takes off once the plot is revealed, with Pao on the run and having various adventures while trying to make it to a friend of his father’s in Peking who will help him in the case, or will he?
Two of my favourite scenes are later on in the movie. They include the sequence where Pao trains his insult skills by swearing at the sea and putting out candles with his tongue (he got the idea from the brothel madam’s insult duel with a rival.)
The insult duel between Pao and the madam is also great as it is set to the music from Once Upon a Time in China and is shot like a kung fu fight.
The final big trial is also great as it is handled like a boxing match, with Pao going back to his “corner” between statements and asides such as Panther and Pao’s assistant scaring witnesses. The big guillotine in the final scene is also interesting as it is very ornate and unusual.
At first this movie just seems like a follow up to Justice, My Foot! with similar characters and settings, but once the plot is revealed, it improves quite a bit with lots of things going on and even a parody of King of Beggars about half way through.
I know that I am not able to fully enjoy many of Stephen Chow’s movies due to the fact that I don’t know Chinese and many of the jokes don’t translate to subtitles.
The only way I really know they are meant to be funny as much of the dialog sounds like puns (in particular the insult duels.)
The performances of all involved are great, with Panther standing out due to being so over the top (watch for the first appearance of the "Lion's Roar" I have seen in a movie. ) I also liked Pao’s dad who appears in some of the earlier scenes, as he seems to be a natural for the role.
Mei Ah Entertainment also annoyed me with this movie, as they don’t seem to be putting much effort into these DVDs. In this movie the soundtrack and subtitles go missing for about two scenes due to the sloppiness of the transfer.
It would probably be for the best if you waited for a remastered version of this movie to come out if you are interested in it.
As with Stephen Chow’s other period comedies, this movie is probably a bit too obscure to be enjoyed if you haven’t seen many of his movies. If you are a big fan of Stephen Chow then you probably would have seen this movie already, if you haven’t then this movie comes highly recommended.
This movie is also available as part of the Stephen Chow Collection: Period/Fantasy.