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From Beijing With Love (1994) March 2, 2008

Posted by Cal in : Comedy, 1990s films , trackback

Director: Lee Lik-Chi; Stephen Chow Sing-Chi  Cast: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi; Anita Yuen; Law Kar-Ying  Territory: Hong Kong  Production Company: Win’s Movie Production

A dinosaur’s skull is stolen and retired spy Ling Ling Chat (Stephen Chow), now a pork vendor, is brought in to investigate.  He is aided by Li Heung Kam (Anita Yuen) in finding the “Man with the Golden Gun”, the villain behind the theft.  But Li has orders of her own, and must ensure that Chat fails in his mission…

From Beijing With Love starts off as a straight parody of the James Bond movies, complete with a Maurice Binder-esque opening sequence and title music that’s so close to the original that it’s quite surprising that EON Productions never sued.  Furthermore, Chow’s character is called Ling Ling Chat (which literally translates as “Zero Zero Seven”) and includes a gadget-introduction sequence that at times looks like the real thing.

I still prefer him to Daniel Craig.

The gags range from fairly awful (Law Kar-Ying, as an insane “Q” character, demonstrates a solar-powered torch) to the hilarious (I loved Chow’s cockroach infested motel room and his “landlady”), but come thick and fast for most of the film.  However, there are some extremely jarring changes of tone from the comic to the serious that From Beijing With Love is sometimes quite uncomfortable viewing.  One scene in particular, where a father is repeatedly shot in front of his young son in a shopping mall, is tough to stomach in a film which is supposedly a screwball comedy.  The juxtaposition of comic and violent scenes are probably enough to turn off a lot of potential viewers off this film and in this way, it can be seen to be not untypical of Hong Kong movies as a whole.

Nevertheless, consistency aside, there are just about enough funny moments in From Beijing With Love to make it memorable for the right reasons.  There are some great jokes and funny scenes in here, and the humour is typical of Chow’s work from the period.  One scene is memorable: Chow is wounded in a gunfight and is dragged back to his flat where Yuen is forced to pull the bullet out of his leg.  To kill the pain, Chow puts a videotape of a porno film on while Yuen chips away with a screwdriver and hammer.  It’s sick, disturbing and gory, but it’s also pretty funny.  The use of the word “darkie” in the scene referring to one of the porn actresses raises an eyebrow, but this is just down to bad subtitling (which have been ported directly from the old VHS version); Chow actually just says “black person”.

Don't try this at home.

At around 84 minutes in length, From Beijing With Love is the kind of movie that’s quick and undemanding.  It’s a definite no-brainer with less plot than usual for a Chow vehicle from the mid-nineties, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  If you can stomach the violence and the sudden changes in tone, it’s quite harmless and should elicit a few belly laughs.

Comments»

1. Shawn "Masterofoneinchpunch" McKenna - April 22, 2009

In an effort to watch everything you do :D

Here is a terse review I posted elsewhere (I am getting really itchy to write a long review sometime):

From Beijing With Love (1994: Hong Kong: ***/****): Stephen Chow’s first co-directed film (IMDB has him co-directing on Love on Delivery the same year while HKMDB does not; I will have to check my R0 copy) is a zany, mo lei tau (nonsense) box office smash hit in Hong Kong. It made 37 million HK Dollars; compare that to another 1994 film Chungking Express which made 7.6 million HK Dollars.

While the film is a parody of Bond films and a small satire of Mainland Police, it works best when Chow does his shtick. Scenes where he drops off liver as payment, a solar flashlight invention and a gun that shots reverse one time and straight the next are just some of the small gags. I really do not want to spoil any of them for people who have not seen this film (has anyone seen this film here), but you will learn the importance of watching a porn film while have a bullet taken out of your thigh.

The plot is basic spy thriller: an invincible bad guy with invincible armour has stolen the head of a dinosaur, thereby embarrassing the Mainland police. A Chief Inspector decides that for this job China needs to hire a bumbling ex-spy (whom one officer states he is as important as a piece of toilet paper) who is currently a pork butcher and who appears incompetent but actually has some secret talents. Normal spy material there.

As with many Hong Kong comedies with action there is always an uneasy amount of brutish violence. People who dislike Chow will obviously not like this silly, silly comedy. Those who are only familiar with his later work might find this a bit pedantic, but several gags will be familiar though (as well as fans of the spy spoof in general).

The Universe R0 DVD is OOP, but I see yesasia has an existing Taiwanese version. That and a really expensive Japanese edition are still available. Will Criterion every get a Chow film? :D Should they? Why did you spit on me?

———
I did not understand the “darkie” comment either. Since you have seen this I don’t feel like I will spoil the gags :D . I Love the Anita Yuen shot in the arms gag (and it will probably be the one I consistenly remember years later). That type of humor I just love (some of it is reminiscent in post Living Color Jim Carrey films). Some of the gags feel Pink Pantherish (and if I was to analyze the film I would state which ones :D ).

2. Cal - April 25, 2009

Yes, that whole scene is a definite highlight, I agree. If it wasn’t for that one scene in the shopping mall, I’d probably rank it right up there as one of the best Chow films. But I do find the “dark” bits in his films leave a bad taste in my mouth sometimes.


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