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To Spy with Love
Year: 1991
Teddy Robin and Nina Li Chi
Director: Peter Mak Tai-Kit
Producer: Teddy Robin
Writer: Szeto Cheuk-Hon, Raymond To Kwok-Wai, Philip Cheng Chung-Tai
Action: Yuen Tak, Joe Chu Kai-Sang
Cast: Teddy Robin, Sibelle Hu, Nina Li Chi, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Jan Lam Hoi-Fung, Elsie Chan Yik-Si, So Saan, Mak Git-Man, Maria Cordero, Si Gai-Keung, Chan Fai-Hung, Amy Yip Chi-Mei, Ma Siu-Foo, Shing Fui-On, Joanna Chan Pui-San, Manfred Wong
The Skinny: Cheapo spy comedy thing starring midget maven Teddy Robin. As chintzy early-nineties crap, this flick can amuse, though only occasionally. And it's wholly unoriginal.
by Kozo:
     Famed midget maven Teddy Robin stars in this rip-off spy action comedy. He's Terry, who manages an all-girl band called Terry and the Playgirls (fronted by Maria Cordero). Through no fault of his own, Terry gets involved with a dying Taiwanese spy (Amy Yip in a brief turn), who leaves an important film negative taped to a band poster. He's unaware of the handoff, but soon spies are coming out of the woodwork. Soft/Hard bandmates Eric Kot and Jan Lam play two Japanese spies assigned to get the negative. It can be surmised from their innane antics that they were sent into the field to hasten their untimely deaths, but they manage to pose the requisite evil spy-like threat to Terry. Luckily, Terry receives help from a comely police officer (Nina Li), as well as the head of Hong Kong intelligence Sibelle Hu. Then hijinks, montages, crappy Hong Kong pseudo-rock and other assorted silliness occurs. And yes, Teddy Robin is in every frame of this film.
     As low-maintainence early-nineties crap is concerned, To Spy with Love is not without its share of amusing moments. The whole "I'm not really a spy" premise creates its share of funny comedy, and Teddy Robin is a suitably dopey lead. And the babes (Nina Li and Amy Yip) go a long way in making things interesting to hot-blooded males. It's easy to assume that somebody out there got their money's worth—especially when one of the fight sequences involves Nina Li's outfit getting ripped off to reveal a black leotard. Li's acting isn't especially noteworthy, but her physical presence is much more generous than today's scrawny pop idols. Jet Li—to whom Nina Li is married—would probably ban this movie from his household.
     But, it must be noted that To Spy with Love is one of the most shamelessly ripped off Hong Kong movies in history of time. Not only are certain action sequences stolen from Jackie Chan's Project A (with an assist to Buster Keaton), but whole scenes of To Spy with Love are lifted from the seminal 1984 Tom Hanks epic The Man with One Red Shoe, which was in turn remade from the 1972 French film The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe. And by whole scenes, we mean staging, dialogue and even incidental jokes. The Man with One Red Shoe wasn't even a really good movie, and let's face it, Teddy Robin isn't Tom Hanks—and we're talking about the pre-Oscar, pre-Dragnet Tom Hanks. If you steal, you should steal from the best, and they definitely didn't do that here.
     With all that that in mind, any credit one wants to give to To Spy with Love should be taken down a few notches. Excepting all the stolen material, this film turns out to be your typical Hong Kong trifle with two seemingly-retarded bad guys (Jan Lam and Eric Kot), a diminutive leading man, annoying bathroom humor and very little actual logic and/or sense of purpose. About the only interesting happenings are some questionably tasteful anti-Mainland jabs. Seeing as how the film came out in 1990, having Tiannemen Square references—in a dopey comedy no less—seems like the height of bad judgement. At the very least this movie has babes and some occasionally amusing action. For a time killer, To Spy with Love can do the job, though that's really all it can do. (Kozo 2003)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Fortune Star / Deltamac
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
 image courtesy of Deltamac Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen