Who’d have thought heaven would be so chill about returning as a ghost for the sake of vengeance?
“A stupid hero like you is really hard to find.”
Police comedies are one of Hong Kong’s most enduring and endearing genres and has been a staple of the country’s cinematic output since the very beginning (although how this genre holds up given the current climate is yet to be seen). In the 1980s – at the height of popularity for stars like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao – this was especially true, with screens filled with countless kung fu shenanigans and an endless faceless triads. So it’s natural to assume remakes would be an inevitability, but so soon?
Based off a film that was released only four years prior, Look Out, Officer proves that Hollywood isn’t the king of pointless reimaginings. Why it was done so soon after the original’s release I don’t know, but it does raise an eyebrow or two. I haven’t actually seen Where’s Officer Tuba? the film this one was based off, so I can only really judge it on its own merits (although I am a massive fan of the title). With that in mind, let’s have a quick look at what’s in store.
Bill Tung plays Biu, a police officer who is killed by triads during a drug raid. His partner, Kam (Stanley Fung) believes it to be a suicide, due to the way the gangsters left his body. In Heaven, Biu convinces the notary there that he must return to Earth to exact his revenge, and is allowed to do so, as well as is given a number of magic spells to use. Meanwhile, Sing (Stephen Chow) is a young cadet who’s just been assigned to the vice squad. Biu chooses him to be his Savior, and agrees to help Sing get a girlfriend if Sing assists with his revenge.
Look Out, Officer is almost two buddy cop films in one. The first is a more straightforward comedy, which features Sing and Kam working together in vice, and some fun moments of by-the-books police nonsense such as Sing confusing which prostitutes are undercover cops. The dynamic is further complicated when Sing begins dating Yuk (Vivian Chen), Kam’s daughter. Then there’s the second buddy cop film, which features a rookie cop and a ghost working together to solve a case and blow wind up women’s skirts. This plot has magic powers, and weird rituals and as a result seems almost intrusive to the rest of the story.
Despite the basic premise, I didn’t really expect a film called Look Out, Officer to go full supernatural in the way that it did. In fact, as soon as Kam begins praying for long arms I should have clocked that something pretty out there was going to take place. If you’re looking for a straightforward cop comedy with a slight twist, you’ll get that, to an extent. It might lose you – as it did me – when magic cults trap ghosts in guns and opposing spells are being slung around. Look Out, Officer would have benefited more from keeping its fantasy elements lower key, and emphasising the charm and chemistry of its leads.
But it is a very funny film, with tonnes of great visual comedy. It’s exactly what you’ve come to expect from this era of Hong Kong comedies, with humour ranging from childish, to clever, to sexual and with a tonne of misunderstandings and mishaps. Sing accidentally casts a spell on himself and is attracted to Kam, there’s a chopstick battle, and people force themselves to eat copious amounts of chili oil to prove a point. It’s dumb, but that’s entirely the point.
I’m not going to linger here all day and go into much depth talking about a goofy Stephen Chow comedy because it doesn’t really go deep either (although it starts to, when it references the issues Vietnamese refugees had in the country, before dropping it entirely). So let’s wrap things up by saying that Look Out, Officer is a very fun time, filled with great performances by actors who are at the top of their game and having a blast making it. The jokes are plentiful, so even if one falls flat there’s another one to pick up the slack, and if you’ve seen anything by Chow by now then you know what you’re in for.
Verdict: A predictably silly effort from the peak of the country’s comedy era Look Out, Officer will definitely squeeze at least few good chuckles out of you.
Overall entertainment: 7/10
Laughs: Quite a few
Knives: Also extendable
Vivian Chen: Only 16 when this was released. That’s one questionable upskirt shot.
Camera tricks: Doesn’t work if the cuts are noticeable
Look Out, Officer! (1990)
Also known as: 師兄撞鬼
Director: Lau Sze-yue
Writer: Steven Tsui
Stephen Chow – Sing
Bill Tung – Uncle Cheung Biu
Stanley Fung – Li Kam
Vivian Chen – Yuk
Sunny Fang – Tang Lee-yang
Amy Yip – Kam’s Superior (cameo)
Cutie Mui – Police officer counting bullets
Mak Yan-wa – Undercover policewoman
Bak Ka-sin – Undercover policewoman
Chan Lap-ban – Cleaning lady