Four years ago, Miriam Yeung
shot to box-office stardom with the original Love
Undercover, and now it's Fiona Sit's turn. The
charming breakout star of last year's 2 Young
gets her shot at box-office superstardom with Love
Undercover 3. Director Joe Ma, who handled the
original and its sequel, returns to helm this installment,
which places series regulars Fong (Miriam Yeung) and
Man (Daniel Wu) in Europe to watch the World Cup.
Fong's fake father, Chung (Hui Siu-Hung) is struggling
with Man's father (Chow Chung) over visitation rights
to Fong's child. Basically, the child is not really
Chung's grandchild, so he should stop visiting someone
else's grandkid and go get his own. This plot setup
is detailed in an over-the-top opening sequence where
Chung and his team (consisting of Sammy, Raymond Wong,
Lee Ka-Wing and Chow Ka-Sing) unsuccessfully attempt
to visit the tyke, after which they get into an auto
accident, which - in the real world - would be a
just end for these useless policemen.
However, they live.
The five-man squad is saved from the wreckage by sprightly
delivery girl Fan Shi-Wao (Fiona Sit), whose desire
to help is only overshadowed by her earnest desire
to make money. The gang takes an immediate shine to
her, and presto: they have their new girl. The group
immediately enrolls Fan into the police academy, where
they dote on her and cheat to make sure she graduates.
Fan does, and immediately becomes a part of their
team, which is widely known for its complete lack
of effort and general uselessness. Purpose arrives
when Japanese Interpol officer Suzuki (the wooden
Takuya Suzuki) shows up to whip the force into shape.
Fan is immediately smitten by the handsome, blank
Suzuki. Meanwhile, the rest of the guys want to fool
him because he seems like such an uptight stick-in-the-mud.
There are other plotlines too, involving disenchanted
otaku Vito (Donald Tong), who gets annoyed at the
world and forms a criminal ring of models to exact
his silly revenge, and Fan's future as a police officer,
which is supposed to be promising if not for her allegiance
to Chung's crappy police team.
Still, why anyone thinks
Fan's police career is filled with promise is a complete
and utter mystery, because she doesn't demonstrate
anything resembling actual law enforcement skill.
Then again, logic is hard to come by in the world
of Love Undercover 3 because few of the characters
or situations make any sense. The first Love Undercover film actually had a story, and a variety of wacky
and straight characters to play with. The second film
also had a story, but it added extra subplots and
jettisoned the straight characters, leading to a sometimes
funny, but overall nonsensical film. This third film
follows this pattern exceptionally well; now, there
are wacky subplots, wacky characters, and NO STORY. Love Undercover 3 makes zero sense from the
get-go, and presents characters and situations that
don't seem to connect. Characters come and go, and
new plotlines appear simply to introduce gags. Mileage
may vary here, as many of the jokes rely on wordplay
or Hong Kong-specific references that international
audiences may not necessarily get. Still, even with
complete knowledge of what's happening, it's not all
giggles and guffaws. Some of the gags can amuse, while
others stretch on for an unfunny eternity. If the
laughs in Love Undercover 3 were measured like
batting averages, we'd say that the filmmakers bat
close to .350. However, that average is only good
in baseball; in a comedy, it's not that hot.
But surprisingly, the
main problem with Love Undercover 3 may not
be the funny factor. No, the big shocker is how uninteresting
and one-dimensional Fiona Sit is in the lead role.
As Fan Shi-Wao, Sit displays a lovable sweetness that
goes from likable to finally uninteresting and even
tiresome. Unlike Sit's natural, realistic role in 2 Young, Fan Shi-Wao is all movie-made artifice;
she's the girl-next-door sweetheart, or the "jade
girl" described in the film's Chinese title.
Sit gets the sweetheart part right, but she fails
at conveying anything else besides occasional dissatisfaction.
She never gets angry or upset, and her shows of sweetness
sometimes border on nauseating. The blame isn't entirely
Sit's; had the writers written a more complete role,
then maybe we wouldn't be knocking her performance.
The original Love Undercover films got a ton
of mileage out of Miriam Yeung's mouthy insubordination,
and even though it's debatable whether Fong Lai-Keun
had any character arc, she showed enough variation
to make her interesting. Fan Chi-Wao has almost no
variation, and even seems to take a back seat for
huge portions of time to her wacky male protectors.
Those paying to see Hui Siu-Hung, Sammy, and Raymond
Wong act silly will get their money's worth, but those
expecting Fiona Sit to carry the film will likely
That said, the supporting
players do take a large burden off Fiona Sit by carrying
many of the funny parts - and they do it well enough
that Love Undercover 3 can sometimes suffice
as a brainless time-killer. Though many of the jokes
fall flat, there are some surprising ones here or
there that can amuse. Hui Siu-Hung is always funny
as Chung Sir, and even Sammy earns a few decent laughs.
Those who look upon Hong Kong Cinema as throwaway
crap may forgive Love Undercover 3 as a typical
product of the industry, not unlike one of Wong Jing's
many quickie comedies. Love Undercover 3 seems
to fit that definition, but given the fact that the
original actually seemed better than a crappy Wong
Jing also-ran, Love Undercover 3 can only be
viewed as a disappointment. Since his strong first
features over ten years ago, Joe Ma's work has only
become more inconsistent and uninspired. But as depressing
as it is to see Joe Ma flounder, it's even worse watching
Fiona Sit fail to impress. Sit showed plenty of promise
with 2 Young, and even her turn in the middling Embrace Your Shadow (also directed by Joe Ma)
was better than average work. For the promising Sit, Love Undercover 3 is a high-profile misstep.
The girl deserves better than this. We deserve better,
too. (Kozo 2006)