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  Curry and Pepper A Spicy DuoBuy this film here.
Year: 1990
Director: Blackie Ko
Stars: Jacky Cheung, Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Ann Bridgewater, Eric Tsang, Chow Mei-Yan, John Shum, Michael Dinga, Blackie Ko, Barry Wong, Bruce Fontaine, Deborah Grant, Ching Sau-Yat, Fung Yuen-Chi
Genre: Comedy, Action
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Wisecracking cops Curry (Jacky Cheung) and Pepper (Stephen Chow Sing-Chi) are an unconventional but effective crime-fighting team on the mean streets of Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong. In time honoured buddy-cop tradition, they quarrel constantly but get results. When voluptuous TV news reporter Mimi Law (Ann Bridgewater) decides to film a fly-on-the-wall documentary about their crime-busting activities the boys jump at the chance to romance this sexy celebrity but in the midst of their one-upmanship run right into a violent, well-organised gang of Filipino arms dealers.

One imagines Curry and Pepper earned those crazy nicknames on account of their spicy personalities. For the record, Curry’s real name turns out to be Gary. This fan-favourite Hong Kong cop comedy was among several films kids TV host-turned-comedian Stephen Chow Sing-Chi made in 1990, the year he finally became a big league movie star off the back of Jeff Lau’s gambling parody All for the Winner. Taking its cue from such popular Hollywood comedians-with-guns capers as Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Running Scared (1986), the tone of Curry and Pepper is considerably less off-the-wall than Chow’s later run of mo lei tau blockbusters but the slapstick routines are energetic and funny. While it is odd seeing Chow play a gun-toting badass, his charisma and that of his Canto-pop co-star Jacky Cheung is well evident. They share terrific chemistry and it is tragic they never made another film together. In fact a sequel was planned but by then both stars were more intent on pursuing their own separate projects, although Jacky made a memorable cameo in Chow’s hilarious Love on Delivery (1994).

Possibly because it was produced by Peter Chan, the acclaimed art-house auteur behind The Warlords (2007), Comrades, Almost a Love Story (1996) and He’s a Woman, She’s a Man (1994), the film is less frenetic and more character driven than many HK action comedies from this period. Much of the meandering plot concerns itself with the tensions that arise in the titular relationship after Curry begins dating Mimi. Their alternately close but combustible friendship is best encapsulated in an amusing scene where Curry is shot and Pepper delivers an unexpectedly heartfelt bedside monologue only to find out he’s been pranked. While not strictly a satire, the film casts a cynical eye over its wayward heroes who are drawn as casually corrupt, childish and occasionally even inept. At one point they inadvertently help two crooks burgle their own house!

The film also seems to have an unfortunate bee in its bonnet about freeloading foreigners as Curry and Pepper repeatedly run into two American con artists (Bruce Fontaine and Deborah Grant) posing as tourists and prove less than sympathetic to a “cocky westerner” who is ripped off by a small-time hustler played by comedian Eric Tsang. Tsang’s character also serves as their ill-fated stoolie and was seemingly inspired by Joe Pesci’s character in the Lethal Weapon films. But despite their irreverent attitude, Curry and Pepper prove the first to stand-up for their long-suffering boss played by the late Barry Wong, prolific screenwriter of action classics like Hard Boiled (1992) and Eastern Condors (1987) as well another Stephen Chow comedy hit Fight Back to School (1991), against his insufferable superior (Michael Dinga) who turns out to be Mimi’s father. Interestingly, the romance fizzles out between Curry and western educated Mimi, who enjoys hanging out in jazz bars with her cool gwailo friends, owing to her efforts to mould him into a similar yuppie type and it remains ambiguous whether they will ever rekindle their love. Truth be told, lovely Ann Bridgewater has a lot less to do here compared with her stellar turn in Ringo Lam’s outstanding heroic bloodshed crime thriller Full Contact (1992).

Filmed on the neon-lit streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, the vibrant cinematography by future director Andrew Lau imparts a visceral feel right from the opening riff on The French Connection (1971) that finds Curry and Pepper pursuing a drug-dealing Santa Claus. Lau also appears onscreen in a small role as a CID officer along with directors Dick Cho Kin-Nam, Poon Man-Kit and future art-house auteur Fruit Chan. Director Blackie Ko himself plays the menacing, scar-faced hitman who relentlessly pursues our heroes. A prolific actor and action choreographer with one-hundred and sixty-nine film appearances to his credit, the late Ko only directed seven films including the Police Academy imitation Whampoa Blues (1990), triad comedy The Days of Being Dumb (1992) and time travel fantasy adventure Hero from Beyond the Boundary of Time (1993).

Besides the comedy and character interplay, he does an exceptional job handling the stunts which are truly spectacular and often jaw-dropping. A shoot-out in a supermarket and subsequent car chase, wherein the villain cruelly runs down a woman pushing a pram, and a sequence where our heroes swing from their top-floor apartment onto the next floor are among the highlights. The all-action finale where Curry and Pepper storm the villains luxury yacht with machineguns blazing provides a suspenseful and gory climax. Ko may not have got a sequel off the ground but struck back with a thematic follow-up of sorts with a returning Eric Tsang called Chez N’Ham Story (1993) while Jacky Cheung made another similar buddy cop movie opposite Lam Ching Ying called Hot Hot and Pom Pom (1992). Why do Hong Kong cop comedies have such ridiculous titles? Don’t ask me.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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