Stephen Chow does what he does best in this middle-of-the-road comedy.
“People like you make the world more pitiful.”
I’ve watched and reviewed enough films by beloved director Stephen Chow by now to gain something of an understanding of his movies; the way they start and ultimately play out, the arcs the main character (usually played by himself) will go through, and the sort of shenanigans everyone will get into along the way. Recently he’s moved a bit away from that with higher profile pictures like The Mermaid and Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. But for a while, he had a very straightforward filmmaking method, and never is it more obvious than in his 1994 comedy Love on Delivery.
Chow plays AngHo-kam (Or He Yin-jin if you’re watching the Netflix subs like me. Honestly I can’t figure out why his IMDb and Netflix names are so different), a cheerful simple-minded deliveryboy with a good heart, but something of a cowardly streak. He meets kung fu student Lily (Christy Chung) during a delivery and, to prove how little she likes her instructor Black Bear (Joe Cheng), goes on a date with Ang. However, the date goes terribly after a violent encounter and Lily brutally chastises Ang for his meekness.
In order to prove to her how strong and capable he is, he visits an old supposed martial arts master (Ng Man-tat), without realising he is only being scammed by a guy who seems to have no idea of what he’s talking about. Things take a turn for the worse when, after Ang rescues Lily from Black Bear’s assault (dressed in a Garfield mask), Lily’s old flame Lau (Ben Lam) appears, claiming to be her mysterious rescuer, and challenges Ang to a deadly one-on-one match.
Despite generally liking this film, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it does feel like two separate stories, one after the other, rather than one cohesive plot. While every story point does lead into the next one, the shift between the silly love story at the start and the Karate Kid battle at the end is a bit jarring and strange. Ang’s personality goes from a kind-hearted and simple man to something a bit broader, and more similar to the style of character we’re used to seeing Stephen Chow play.
Does it negatively affect the film? Sort of, not really. A similar thing happened in his God
of Cookery and is also present – but less so – in Kung Fu Hustle and lots of other films by him. This is the Chow formula I mentioned at the start of the review. Chow likes escalation in his films, and the natural state of things, especially when you’re learning a skill like kung fu or cookery, is to show it off in a competition-style showdown. Personally I would have preferred it if it had kept its small-beans low-stakes silliness, but that doesn’t really say anything about the overall quality of the film.
And that is that it’s a frequently funny, generally enjoyable comedy. It never really does anything mindblowing, but rather it just seems to be happy going about relying on tried-and-true routines and shtick. And there’s nothing wrong with that. One moment that really stands out is a scene featuring an onslaught of random dudes wearing Garfield masks, all hoping to score a date with Lily. Watching them all ram themselves into a taxi, only for it to crash and send everyone flying is a madcap couple of minutes that remains one of the movie’s comedic highlights.
On top of that, Chow’s chemistry with Ng is excellent, especially in moments when the two characters argue and play off each other’s performances. That these kinds of moments keep appearing is a boon for the movie, which runs the risk of feeling a bit underwhelming otherwise. Thankfully, Chow’s natural energy both in front of and behind the camera work wonders in keeping everything moving a solid pace. It’s not his best work, but like its main character it gets a lot of points for tenacity and effort, and for being unrelentingly persistent in the pursuit of a joke.
Verdict: Lacking the focus and the wall-to-wall laughs of some of Chow’s other works, Love on Delivery is nevertheless a highly entertaining romantic kung-fu comedy.
Overall entertainment: 7/10
Fighting styles featured: Countless
Christy Chung: Dubbed, as she couldn’t speak any Cantonese
Original title: King of Destruction is a fucking great name, but doesn’t really fit the movie.
Anachronistic jokes: At one point, the subtitles reference Brokeback Mountain, though the story wasn’t written until two years later, and the movie not released for ten.
Love on Delivery (1994)
Also known as: 破壞之王; aka. King of Destruction
Directors: Stephen Chow, Lee Lik-Chi
Writers: Vincent Kok
Stephen Chow – Ang Ho-kam, or whoever
Christy Chung – Lily
Ng Man-tat – Tat
Joe Cheng – Black Bear
Ben Lam – Lau
Jacky Cheung – himself (cameo)
Philip Chan – Television commercial pitchman
Joey Leung – ringside commentator
Billy Chow – Taekwando master
Paul Chun – Chan
Vincent Kok – Niu
Wong YutFei – Ho’s boss
Peter Lai – Customer with a fly in his soup
Gabriel Wong – Turtle