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  Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon Why not Slap-Head and Lard-Ass?
Year: 1990
Director: Lau Kar-Wing
Stars: Sammo Hung, Karl Maka, Carrie Ng, Wanda Yung Wai-Tak, Lung Ming-Yan, Wu Fung, Ni Kuang, Lau Kar-Wing, Cutie Mui Siu-Wai, Tai Bo, Gabriel Wong, Yip Seung-Wa, Mark Houghton, Xiong Xin-Xin, Sin Ho-Ying, Ridley Tsui, Jackson Ng Yuk-Sue
Genre: Comedy, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Fatty Dragon (Sammo Hung) and Baldy (Karl Maka), confusingly also known as Skinny, are badass albeit accident-prone Hong Kong cops chasing notorious drug lord Wing (director Lau Kar-Wing). Shortly after murdering their informant, Wing has his minions Tak (Lung Ming-Yan) and Lai (Carrie Ng) try to frame them as dirty cops. The boys respond by thrashing the gang thoroughly. Unfortunately their breakneck battle spills into the Police Commissioner's wedding! Put on leave by their long-suffering boss (Wu Fung), Dragon and Baldy vacation in Singapore. After a week's worth of fun and frolics with a couple of cute girls, the duo decide to quit the force in favour of relocating permanently to Singapore to open a karaoke bar. However they still have a deadly, vengeful Wing to contend with.

In Hong Kong frenetic action-comedies were once dime a dozen. Yet today amidst the sadly declining Cantonese film industry the genre is all but extinct. As such fans tend to prize older offerings that, back during the boom times, drew a more muted response. Such is the case with Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon; a raucous buddy cop kung fu farce that while profitable domestically left nary a footprint on the international scene. Yet today seems a charming relic from happier times. It was the last in a string of collaborations between multitalented HK cinema powerhouse Sammo Hung, comedian-cum-hugely-influential-movie mogul Karl Maka and action choreographer-actor-director Lau Kar-Wing (brother of the more famous martial arts auteur Lau Kar-Leung and foster brother to iconic genre star Gordon Liu) preceded by chopsocky fan-favourites Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog (1978) and The Odd Couple (1979). Some consider the film something of a dual sequel, spin-off or conceptual sequel where Sammo essentially reprises his Bruce Lee obsessed character from Enter the Fat Dragon (1978) and Maka essays more or less the same fast-talking slap-headed cop he played in the long-running Aces Go Places franchise (released internationally as Mad Mission).

With Sammo Hung and Lau Kar-Leung jointly handling choreography (Lau, a Shaw Brothers veteran, staged fights on classics like the international hit King Boxer (1972) a.k.a. Five Fingers of Death) the slapstick fu fight action flies fast and furious. While Karl Maka is no slouch in the fight department it is Sammo Hung's simultaneously hilarious and visceral Bruce Lee send-up routines that provide the big crowd-pleasing set-pieces. From the opening frantic fight in a women's changing room to the restaurant brawl and adrenalin charged finale (where Sammo breaks out the nunchakus for a surprisingly brutal showdown with Lau) the big man thoroughly convinces as a one-man army, fighting off bad guys a dozen at a time. On the flip side some of the bawdier humour may rile modern viewers with less patience for the frankly questionable verbal and physical abuse heaped on glamorous femme fatale Carrie Ng (only a few years before Naked Killer (1992) made her an HK film icon in her own right). Not to mention an encounter with two deadly Thai "lady-boy" assassins.

Having modelled itself on Hollywood buddy cop movies, Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon does the expected riffs on favourites like Lethal Weapon (1987) and Dirty Harry (1971), switching casually between broad comedic hijinks and darker sadistic scenes. However the film it most blatantly lifts plot points from is Peter Hyams' now largely forgotten Gregory Hynes-Billy Crystal vehicle Running Scared (1986). It shares the exact same cops-on-a-tropical-holiday second act that inspires them to leave their thankless crime-busting jobs aside for a dream of paradise. Until the big boss endangers Baldy's girlfriend back home (statuesque Hong Kong supermodel Wanda Yung Wai-Tak, playing a character named "Tall Girl"). Compensating for the more derivative aspects the heroes' final gambit to outwit the villains is original and, in true HK film style, wholly outrageous.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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