Sammo Hung plays it safe in a fine, but forgettable action comedy.
“I AM CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DEPARTMENT SERGEANT!”
Hey, so this should be fun. A comedy crime film where Sammo Hung plays a pickpocket, and no doubt gets in too deep? Sign me up! Rice Pot (Sammo Hung), a pickpocket working with his long-time partner-in-crime Chimney (Frankie Chan). Along with sidekick Ann (Didi Pang), they work for Kam (Lau Hak-suen), and spend their days in crowded parts of town, stealing cash from unsuspecting passers-by. Things take a turn when Rice Pot meets Ling (Deanie Ip), a cop who is investigating a case regarding stolen diamonds. Meanwhile, the team is targeted by gangsters, who wish to use the team’s skills to steal people’s ID cards, all the while they’re being pursued by the bumbling Sergeant Ng (Richard Ng).
Its translated title is clearly an attempt to make it seem more marketable to a Western – namely British – audience, and considering the goofy comedic nature of the movie, it’s understandable. But those expecting something even remotely resembling a Carry On film will probably be disappointed. Pickpocket is straight-up traditional Sammo Hung and hits all the beats you’re envisaging. Is this a problem? Not really, but it does mean that it makes Pickpocket a difficult film to recommend when there are so many other similar films which are also better. The plot takes a couple of interesting turns here and there, especially at the end, but I doubt anything will really knock anyone’s socks off.
For a Sammo Hung film, there isn’t a tonne of action. They basically save it all for the end, really, which is where things really kick off with a pretty violent finale that’s pretty damn entertaining. However, the main focus is on scenes of the team doing what they do best. There’s a tonne of pickpocketing choreography in this film, and it’s so fun to watch the four of them slyly bump into somebody, steal their wallet, and then crossing paths with another member of the team to pass it on. These scenes look like they used the same level of care that’s usually reserved for action sequences, and this makes them just as interesting.
The cast has excellent chemistry and is probably the main reason you’re still watching. Sammo is always entertaining and extremely endearing, as are his pickpocketing co-stars. There’s not a tonne to be said about the movie’s side characters who veer into dull and could maybe stand to either be fleshed out or cut completely. As they, they service the story and help move everything along, but you don’t really remember them as you would the comical police sergeant, or any of the thieves’ excellent stealing scenes.
so what does it all amount to? A semi-decent Hung film I’m not sorry I watched. The story’s all over the place and takes quite a while to really kick into gear, but the characters are likeable enough that you don’t mind. You just wish there was a more engaging plot tied to them. As it is, the plot is fine, just a little bit bland. The story could have been narrowed down easily, with fewer characters and more for Richard Ng to do. Richard Ng is always such a blast to watch but he never seems to get the screen time he deserves. In the end, there’s not a tonne to write about Carry on Pickpocket. It’s silly, it’s fun, but just not at the same level as others in Sammo’s vast filmography.
Verdict: It might not be the greatest Sammo Hung film, but Carry on Pickpocket still has its share of decent moments.
Overall entertainment: 6.5/10
Slick pickpocketing: 8/10
Favourite visual moment: Chow standing up, moving, and his crew placing his chair just as he’s about to sit
Out of nowhere Charlie Chaplin callback: 1
Convenient piles of things for people to get kicked through: Just enough
Carry on Pickpocket (1982)
Also known as: 提防小手 (Beware of Small Hands)
Director: Sammo Hung
Writer: Barry Wong
Sammo Hung – Rice Pot
Frankie Chan – Chimney
Deanie Ip – Ling Ah-nam
Richard Ng – Sergeant Ng Heung-kan
Didi Pang – Ann Kam
Lau Hak-suen – Kam Ming
Peter Chan Lung – Chow