A fun, if sometimes directionless comedy is heightened by a good cast and a host of funny jokes
“We’re police officers and SDU members. You’re seriously suggesting that we illegally smuggling into Macau looking for prostitutes?”
SDU: Sex Duties Unit is a 2013 comedy centring on the four members of the Special Duties Unit, whose job it is to deal with dangerous situations that street cops can’t handle. There’s leader Keung (Chapman To), sleazy womaniser Ho (Matt Chow), righteous Fu (Shawn Yue), and the youthful Mai (Derek Tsang), who is teased often by his teammates. At a bar, one night, they decide to shake things up with their lives by going to Macau and sleeping with prostitutes. You know, as you do. They leave their Ids behind, to avoid any scandals, and (illegally) smuggle themselves in. As predicted, the shenanigans start almost immediately.
Choosing to go to a specific brothel to start the night, things quickly go awry when the police raid it – a routine thing apparently – but, with no ID, the guys choose to run. They’re quickly arrested though, and while they escape they become the police’s most wanted, who mistake them for members of a notorious gang. Along the way they discover one of them is gay, another falls in love, and Keung leans a lesson about what it means to be a good team leader. They also quickly lose their money and their ride home, and the race is on to get back to HQ before they get found out.
Judging a comedy is difficult. Comedy is, after all, entirely subjective so it’s difficult to tell somebody to watch something based entirely on whether or not you laughed. I like to judge a comedy based more on how many memorable jokes there are, and SDU manages quite a few. The opening gambit, which introduces the unit, features HK cinema legend Suet Lam robbing a jewellery store and demanding a stuffed crust pizza and a helicopter in exchange for the hostages. When the team arrive, he’s already surrendered and they call it a day. Another comes in the form of Derek Tsang’s character holding a man at “gunpoint”, only to find out he was prodding the guy with his erection. Sure, yeah, the humour isn’t always highbrow (or rarely ever is), but it sticks with you. SDU is crammed with little funny moments that stick with you, and that to me is enough to give it a good rating.
Chapman To has evolved, throughout his career, from daft sidekick to leading man capable of carrying entire scenes. While in Men Suddenly in Black he was the young, naive member of the group, now he leads his team through misadventure after misadventure. He still retains a lot of the beats that make him, well, him, but now he has a stronger purpose to fulfil as every action the team makes is from his direction. This means we get a Chapman To that’s a bit less of a goober than we’re used to. He’s always managed to squeeze in a few moments of great acting throughout his films – his last words to Tony Leung’s Chan in Infernal Affairs for example – and this is no exception. Of course, they never get too serious, and even in the middle of a heated argument with one of his team, he still manages to shut one guy up by ordering him to carry on masturbating (it makes sense in context).
The rest of the cast are great, and the consistency in their characters within the script means that they all get a chance to really delve into who they are, which results in four very unique performances. Matt Chow’s Ka Ho is pretty two dimensional, but he gets a lot of laughs (and even a weird couple of touching moments when he runs into his father). Shawn Yue’s stick in the mud is probably one of the least funny parts of the movie, as his story is largely dealing with a breakup, and his blossoming romance with a call girl. Derek Tsang takes after his father Eric in playing loveable goofs who get picked on, and his story is actually one of the more interesting, as he deals with the realisation that he’s gay but tries to hide it from his friends. Like characters his Eric Tsang used to play, there’s an extra level of self-deprecating humour at play as Tsang has to spend the majority of the film with a (hopefully fake) erection.
You can probably tell that SDU is concerned more with the funny, and it succeeds. Director Gary Mak has few credits to his name, and seems to be primarily an actor, but he operates the camera with some confidence, and while there’s nothing outright staggering at play, he does a fine job. Screenwriter Jody Luk is a bit more experienced, having written for similar films in Vulgaria, and Love in the Buff. And at its core, SDU is a funny movie with more than enough jokes to carry it. The story ultimately goes nowhere and everyone’s arc is more or less pointless, but they do help flesh the story out a bit more. It can get a bit difficult to make a comedy about four special duties officers, who also happen to be screw-ups. On one hand, they’re supposed to be excellent policemen, but at the same time they have to be led by Chapman To, so it means we get a film where they – when necessary – turn into decent ass-kickers. Sometimes this is told through flashback, in Lego form.
Compared to something like Men Suddenly in Black, it doesn’t have the same level of heart, instead choosing to focus more on the raunchy stuff. Which is fine. You don’t go into a movie called SDU: Sex Duties Unit expecting a thorough character study. That said, I was glad that it was not as predictable that I had thought going in. I had imagined a Super Troopers deal, where the plot would involve more crime-fighting. It doesn’t, not really, which means it stays focused on the chemistry between the guys, and their antic. It’s a good movie littered with some legitimately laugh-out-loud moments and this means that ultimately, SDU is worth watching, if you’re in the mood for this sort of thing.
Verdict: SDU: Sex Duties Unit is hardly Hitchcock, but it’s a fun, raunchy jaunt that won’t overstay its welcome, and sometimes that’s all you want.
The Asian Cinema Critic’s Patented Ratings System:
Overall entertainment: 7/10
Cringe-inducing, terrible joke about underage girls: 1
Snack of choice: Crab congee
Director: Gary Mak
Writer: Jody Lok
Chapman To – Siu Keung
Shawn Yue – Fu
Matt Chow – Ka Ho
Derek Tsang – Hai Mai
Liu Anqi – Lily
Dada Chan – Siu Keung’s ex-wife
Jim Chim – Mama-san
Siu Yam-yam – procurer
Simon Lui – boatman
Lam Suet – Robber
June Lam – prostitute
Benz Hui – pharmacy owner
JJ Jia – pharmacy owner’s daughter
Lau Kong – Ka Ho’s father
Michael Wong – SDU superior
Ten Lo – Thief King To
Joe Tay – jewellery store employee
Lawrence Chou – Macau police sergeant
Ken Wong – Macau police sergeant
Tony Ho – Macau police constable