Justice, My Foot! (1992)
Director: Johnnie To
Tagline: Bewildering legal comedy
It is difficult to watch any movie featuring Anita Mui these days without feeling happy and sad at the same time. I know in the few years before she died that she hadn’t made many movies, but there was always a chance she could have come back some day for some small roles. Seeing her work here with Stephen Chow makes the movie all the more special.
In this film we follow the story of top lawyer in Canton Sung Shih-Cheh (Stephen Chow) and his wife Madam Sung (Anita Mui). Sung is very successful in his cases, but he feels he has been cursed for his dodgy dealing by having twelve of his children die as infants (it is strange to say the least to have infant mortality as one of the main plot points in a comedy.) He agrees to retire, but is persuaded to take one last client when they dump barrow-loads of money at his feet.
He manages to win the case, only to return home to find his son has fallen in the well. This makes up his mind and he decides to hang up his brush that they uses to write his cases. Little does he know that he is soon to be embroiled in a case involving the framing of a young mother for murder and a bureaucratic conspiracy.
Due to the rapid-fire dialog and many puns, the story is a bit hard to follow in this movie and you may need to watch it a few times to take it all in. The main reason to watch it is to see how well Anita Mui and Stephen Chow work together and there are many funny scenes including the ones where Madam Sung has to rescue her husband with some fancy kung fu moves.
Ng Man-Tat does make an appearance as the farting magistrate Ho, but he is only in a few scenes and doesn’t get the run of the whole picture like some of the other movies he stars in Stephen with.
I thought the young mother character who was framed is really annoying as she doesn’t seem to do much except cry and complain for the whole movie. Some of the other characters make up for her though, such as Sung’s assistant and the gay messengers.
There are a few action scenes with Anita Mui and they are very exciting. My favourite is when Madam Sung has to rescue her husband from an attempt on his life when he is on parade. For some reason they take children along and she is heavily pregnant while fighting and ends up giving birth due to the strain of fighting.
This movie is the first of a few legal comedies that Stephen Chow starred in during the 1990’s and I am looking forward to seeing the others (yes, even “Lawyer, Lawyer”.) I would not recommend this movie unless you have seen a few other of Stephen’s period comedies and are used to the style. For this movie in particular you need to pay attention or you will miss a lot of the jokes and not get as much out of the experience.
This movie is also available as part of the Stephen Chow Collection: Period/Fantasy.