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From Beijing with Love
   |     review    |     awards     |     availability     |
Stephen Chow and Anita Yuen
  
Year: 1994
Director: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Lee Lik-Chee
Writer: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Cheung Siu-Lun, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Lee Lik-Chee
Cast: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Anita Yuen Wing-Yee, Pauline Chan Bo-Lin, Law Kar-Ying, Wong Kam-Kong, Joe Cheng Cho, Lee Lik-Chee, Wong Yat-Fei, Yu Rong-Guang, Johnny Tang Siu-Cheun, Lee Kin-Yan
The Skinny: A tonnage of verbal comedy can't offset the fact that this Stephen Chow film works on both physical and emotional levels. Slow to start and rough around the edges, the film still rounds into one of Chow's most satisfying yet.
Review
by Kozo:
     Stephen Chow stars in (and co-directs) this wacky spy flick that's more Casino Royale than From Russia with Love. Chow plays dumb but cool as pork vendor/secret agent Ling Ling Chat (007), a forgotten Mainland agent called into action when some dinosaur bones go missing. Ubiquitous Anita Yuen shows up as his Hong Kong partner, who also happens to be double-agent working for the opposition. She's assigned to kill him, but slowly starts to melt before his strange, non-sensical charms. Meanwhile, any semblance of an actual plot is destoyed beneath various timeouts for physical and verbal gags. And there's laughter.
     The pairing of Chow plus Yuen yields surprising laughs, though their chemistry is nonexistent to begin with. The film starts deceptively slow, and appears to go nowhere through the first half-hour. However, when things pick up, they pick up incredibly well. Chow's superspy is more fool than fantastic, but he manages to create a thoroughly loveably spy savant who packs more toughness than even the viewer can imagine. As the assassin in paw-print pajamas, Anita Yuen seems miscast, but her comedic charms prove an excellent foil to Chow's inanity.
     What makes the film a bit tough for casual viewers are the numerous verbal puns that litter the film. Unlike some of Chow's earlier films, the jokes aren't dismissed with yet another quickly-inserted mo lei tau moment. Sometimes the jokes include long pauses for appropriate laughter - which can prove frustrating for those who have no idea what's supposed to be so funny. Also, the film seems incredibly cheap even by Hong Kong standards.
     However, that doesn't take away from the obvious visual humor of the film, which takes its cues from Chow's anime-flavored performance style. Bond films are obviously parodied, but references to C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri and Days of Being Wild pop up, too. Many of the visual gags are just more nonsense thrown on top of the pile. In that, they're not unlike Chow's verbal mo lei tau.
     Where the film really departs from previous Chow films is in character. Stephen Chow's characters have typically two varieties: the pathetically loveable loser who overcomes all odds, or the sarcastic and self-assured misfit who inevitably triumphs over those around him. Unlike those other characters, Ling Ling Chat isn't inherently engaging. It's only through Chow's even performance and some cool narrative trickery that we come to really like and care for Chat.
     From Beijing with Love works best when it sticks to the physical humor and situation comedy instead of the esoteric verbal gags. At first glance it's not a drop-dead funny movie, and by now it's not even Chow's best film (God of Cookery wins that award). However, it's hard to find a Stephen Chow film that grows on the viewer as much as this one. (Kozo 1995/1999)
Awards:

14th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best Actor (Stephen Chow Sing-Chi)
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actor (Law Kar-Ying)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd.

   
   
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