Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.
From Beijing With Love
Cinematographer: Kin Lee Kin-keung
Stephen Chiau and Anita Yuen. Image courtesy Universe.
Disappointed by the choice of Pierce Brosnan as the new 007? Well, how about Stephen Chiau? HK's reigning king of slapschtick stars here as bumbling Mainland pork vendor/superspy Ling Ling-chat (whose name sounds like "007" but literally means "Frozen Frozen Rain") in this violent, chaotic Bond send-up. When the skull of China's only dinosaur fossil is purloined by a renegade calling himself "The Man With the Golden Gun," Ling is dispatched to HK in pursuit, oblivious to the fact that his contact there, an assassin named Siu-kam, has been ordered to liquidate him. Soon realizing that Ling's unbounded luck and unmatched stupidity make him invincible, Siu-kam switches sides, with ensuing events leading the pair back to China for a final clash with Ling's superior who is, in actuality, the armor-clad menace they seek.
Wong Kam-kong. Image courtesy Universe.
Though it makes no attempt to poke fun at the large-scale stunts and chase sequences for which the Bond cycle is noted, a number of other ingredients receive a good skewering. There is the requisite lampoon of the series' fashionable title sequences and Ling preps for the mission by watching bootleg Bond videos (a clip from Moonraker is shown). Comedian Law Kar-ying plays China's answer to "Q," cooking up hopeless inventions like the world's first solar-powered flashlight (!), and William Woo's score includes a variation on the Bond theme, while also riffing on Ennio Morricone's score for The Untouchables (which works quite well in this context).
Pauline Chan and Stephen Chiau. Image courtesy Universe.
As for femme fatales, former softcore star Pauline Chan receives prominent billing (but little screen time) as a rival agent with flame-throwers built into her breastplate, who is partnered with a "Jaws" lookalike. Anita Yuen is amusingly stoic in a very atypical role, and there is even a brief send-up of her 1993 smash hit, C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie. In a rather daring move (considering that the 1997 re-unification was just around the corner), the Mainland characters here are all dense, corrupt, or just plain psychotic. Although there are a number of universally appreciable moments, the proceedings get awfully bloody for a parody and the film lacks the visual stimulation of Chiau's period fantasy spoofs from earlier in the decade. Nonetheless, the substantial success of From Beijing With Love prompted Chiau to continue poking fun at Western fare in The Sixty Million Dollar Man (1995). Forbidden City Cop is a follow-up of sorts.
Joe Cheng Cho. Image courtesy Universe.
Anita Yuen. Image courtesy Universe.