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Look Out, Officer!

Stephen Chow in Look Out, Officer!
AKA: The Shaolin Idiot
Chinese: 師兄撞鬼  
Year: 1990  
Director: Lau Sze-Yu  
Producer: TC. Lau Tin-Chi  
Cast: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Bill Tung Bui, Stanley Fung Shui-Fan, Vivian Chan Tak-Yung, Mui Siu-Wai, Amy Yip Chi-Mei
The Skinny: A Hong Kong cop killed in the line of duty seeks vengeance from beyond the grave in this wacky supernatural variation on the standard buddy cop flick. If that sentence seems like it made an abrupt tonal shift, wait until you see the movie. By all reasoning, this should be complete crap, but Look Out, Officer! ends up being hilarious, charming, and above all entertaining in large part due to the performance of a young Stephen Chow.
Review by

Hong Kong movies, particularly B-grade ones, have an occasional tendency to be all over the place in terms of plot, acting and tone. Look Out, Officer!, a hijink-filled mishmash of a film, most definitely lives up to this bad reputation. What's amazing is it works.

Look Out, Officer! begins like a typical Hong Kong action picture. With the aid of a good stuntman, Bill Tung Bui soars into action as Chang Piao, a high-flying, gun-toting CID officer with skills that could rival Jackie Chan in his prime. As silly as that may sound, it's all played completely straight. But unfortunately for Piao, a hood gets the slip on him and plugs him in the head, triggering the film's first abrupt tonal shift from bloody cop drama to farcical supernatural comedy.

In the next scene we find Piao facing judgment in heaven. The verdict of the court is that Piao shot himself (So much for an all-knowing God!), a conclusion that he refuses to accept. After pleading with the judge, Piao returns to earth to catch his killer and clear his name in what will soon become the umpteenth variation on Heaven Can Wait. The film then switches its focus from Piao to Police Constable 1997, the young, ne'er do well Officer Sing (Stephen Chow). Can you say Stephen Chow underdog comedy? I knew you could.

Sing finds himself partnered up with Inspector Chin (Stanley Fung), a patriarch-obsessed cop who used to work with Piao. As one might guess, Piao returns in ghost form to help and eventually haunt Sing in order to convince him to solve Piao's murder. At first, Sing blows him off. That is, until he meets Yu (Vivian Chan), Inspector Chin's cute-as-a-button daughter. Immediately, a deal is brokered: Piao agrees to helps Sing win the girl of his dreams in exchange for solving the dead cop's murder. Unfortunately for Sing, the only clue to the killer's identity is the villain's remarkably bad B.O. Despite his badge, Sing does very little investigating and bumbles his way to the insane, anything goes finale involving an evil magician with a Prince Valiant haircut. Yeah, you read that right.

Although nowhere near as esteemed as Chow's other films, Look Out, Officer! still contains plenty of funny moments. One inspired bit sees Chow breaking the fourth wall by moving the props around in a scene so the audience can't see his private parts during a required police physical. Another memorable bit involves Chow's character accidentally casting a flirtation spell on himself with much amusing and thankfully innocuous homoerotic comedy ensuing. Amy Yip even makes a hilarious (Dare I say, titillating?) cameo. That's not to say there aren't a few comedic missteps. Honestly, I could have gone without seeing the disgusting sequence where the heroes collect urine, feces, and flatulence samples in order create a magic charm. Sure, I may have laughed, but I can't say I'm proud of it.

Overall though, the film hits more than it misses. With its B-grade production values and "let's make it up as we go along" screenwriting philosophy, Look Out Officer! is a better film than it has any right to be. It's fast, funny, and even clever at times - and in the end, what more can you ask from a comedy? (Calvin McMillin 2005)

Notes: • Misleading U.S. name change alert! The Fortune 5/VideoAsia DVD is marketed under the title Shaolin Idiot, presumably to capitalize on Chow's other, more famous comedy, Shaolin Soccer. Although full of idiots, the film contains no references to the Shaolin Temple, its monks, or even its kung fu. On the bright side, at least it's not Legend of Shaolin Idiot.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras

image courtesy of Intercontinental Video, Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen