Shawn Yue, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong,
Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Jim Chim Sui-Man, Lawrence
Chou Chun-Wai, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu,
Anita Chui, Dada Chen, Siu Yam-Yam,
June Lam Siu-Ha,
Wong Mun-Tak, Hui Siu-Hung, JJ Jia, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Lam
Celia Kwok Wing-Yi, Leung Yat-Sing, Stephen Au Kam-Tong,
Gary Mak Wing-Lun,
Ken Wong Hap-Hei, Lau Kong,
|SDU: Sex Duties Unit was obviously made to cash in on the success of the off-color hit Vulgaria — and look, it was made by the exact same people! Based on stories by producer Pang Ho-Cheung, and adapted for the screen by Vulgaria co-screenwriter Jody Luk, SDU offers funny situations and banter, and will certainly please certain demographics with its political incorrectness. Unfortunately, Gary Mak’s direction is awkward and, unlike Vulgaria, the film is unremarkable and forgettable. Chapman To stars as Keung, the leader of the Hong Kong Police Force’s Special Duties Unit (SDU) B-Team, a four-man SWAT team that isn’t as good as the squad’s A-Team — and everyone knows it. While the A-Team is off taking part in prestigious SDU competitions, the four-member B-Team gets criticized by SDU leader Stone (Michael Wong in a super-appropriate cameo) and plots how to score prostitutes for the weekend.
Super-horny Ka Ho (Matt Chow) wants to go to Macau for a night of ribaldry, and gets buy-in from Keung and the seemingly enthusiastic Dried Shrimp (Derek Tsang). The holdout is Josh (Shawn Yue), who’s tired of being on the crappy B-Team and wants to transfer to the A-Team because, duh, they’re better than the B-Team. Keung ends up using teamwork as rationale to persuade Josh to sign on for their planned adventures in whoring. Teamwork actually is needed, considering the group’s plan (which they dub “Sex War”) involves illegal entry into Macau and obvious dereliction of their moral duty as card-carrying cops. In Macau, the group visits the No. 1 Clubhouse nightclub, where Josh takes a shine to a pretty trainee (Liu Anqi) while everyone else gets their rocks off. Unfortunately, the Macau cops (led by Lawrence Chou and Tony Ho) show up on a raid. Hijinks and hilarity ensue.
SDU possesses a lazy story that’s filled with the sort of convenience and coincidence that you’d see in typical Hollywood sex comedies. The dialogue can be quite funny, though, and the cast sells the jokes well. Chapman To is great at big-talking bluster, while Matt Chow does obnoxious so well that one wonders if he’s not playing himself. Shawn Yue is Shawn Yue, i.e., mostly mild-mannered with a likable righteousness, while Derek Tsang is the early front-runner for this year’s “Team Player” award. Tsang’s character is suspiciously eager to go on this trip to Macau, and soon becomes the butt of too many physical and verbal gags. There’s some overload: The film starts politically incorrect and gets worse, and some jokes get repeated so often that they wear out their welcome. Still, the off-color humor is as sharp as it is crass, and these performers are skilled enough to earn interest and occasional sympathy.
The same cannot be said for the character backstories. Like Pang Ho-Cheung’s other work, SDU attempts to meld drama with its comedy, and gives each character an issue to work through. Gary Mak is a much worse director than Pang, however, and only Derek Tsang’s storyline has gradual development. Other than that, the guys are given long monologues or conspicuous “Hey, it’s drama!” moments that stop the film cold. Scenes are awkwardly paced and sometimes drag on for too many minutes with no momentum. Editing is also subpar — an oddity since regular Pang Ho-Cheung editor Wenders Li is credited. On the plus side, Charlie Lam’s cinematography is solid and Pang’s regular acting troupe is present, with Siu Yam-Yam, Lam Suet, Simon Lui, Jim Chim, Dada Chen and even ugly duckling June Lam all making an impression. Like all mixed bags, there’s good stuff hidden amongst the bad.
SDU is more suited to Cantonese-speaking audiences thanks to its abundance of language-specific jokes, including wordplay and dialogue parodying other films (e.g., The Grandmaster and Cold War). Also, the English subtitling is subpar, mangling jokes and even cutting off punchlines. The visual gags are mostly fine; some jokes (i.e., the ones involving masturbation or erections) will work for any audience, while others (like the abundant references to Vulgaria) require some previous Hong Kong Cinema experience. For a throwaway Category III comedy, SDU does its job and is fine for those looking for a minor diversion. However, the whole doesn’t live up to the Pang Ho-Cheung brand. The film simply isn’t as smart, as engaging or as surprising as it should be. Compared to Wong Jing movies, SDU: Sex Duties Unit is fine stuff, but compared to the work of Pang Ho-Cheung? We’ve come to expect more.