For many people, Chow Yun-Fat really catches fire in a world of doves and bullets, where the likes of Tsui Hark and a pre-Hollywood John Woo once ruled the world of 'Heroic Bloodshed'. Well, that's possibly the Western viewpoint. For Hong Kong citizens, Fats is hailed as a comedy actor and Tiger On The Beat attempts to mix two genres with strictly limited success.
Here, Fats takes the role of Francis Li; an incompetent police officer who seems wholly unsuitable for such demanding work. Li's uncle (aha!), Chief Inspector Pak, decides to give his nephew an easy ride to imminent retirement, producing a new partner for him - rookie cop Michael Tso (Lee), knowing that the blame for any failure will be laid squarely at the door of the inexperienced Tso.
Their first case together centres on a missing drugs shipment, placing them bang in the middle of warring Triad gangsters. One of the felons - Ping - has been stealing cocaine and forcing sister Marydonna (Li-Chi) to sell it. Now, this increasingly vulnerable girl is caught up in an escalating conflict that puts her in grave danger from both sides of the law.
Tiger On The Beat is renowned for a jaw-dropping chainsaw duel between Lee and Gordon Liu's Triad second-in-command. Unfortunately, this amazing scene is preceded by a series of largely unconvincing combat scenes and comic capers that fall flatter than a pancake. There's also a misogynistic streak to be found here: witness Fats brutal treatment of Marydonna. Sure, we've seen far worse but it does leave a nasty taste in the light of Tiger's general comedic approach.
Hong Kong Legends' Region 2 DVD addresses some of the aforementioned points during Bey Logan's commentary track. Logan explains Chow Yun-Fat is best known for lighter, more humorous roles in his native land, and that Western audiences are nowhere near as responsive to the localised in-jokes employed by Tiger On The Beat.
While Logan finds much to enthuse over, he does spend some time highlighting action sequences that clearly don't work (and tells us why) and recalls Conan Lee and Chow Yun-Fat did not team up again for Tiger's sequel: interesting to note the reported emnity between these actors could have given their respective characters a real cutting edge here - didn't happen!
To be fair, Tiger On The Beat is one of Logan's 'guilty pleasures' and he's never afraid to give the thumbs-up when he thinks it hits the spot: if there is a better commentary host then I've yet to encounter him/her.
Hong Kong Legends' disc also includes two video interviews:. The first being 'The Godfather'; 22 minutes of time well spent with producer Wellington Fong who talks about his 11 year association with Cinema City as scriptwriter, assistant director and production manager. Fong recalls Tiger came 3rd in Hong Kong's 1988 top 10 box office hits, and explains why this film was regarded as breaking new ground. Which leads us to 'Breaking The Mould': a terrific 22m interview with Gordon Liu, who recalls his main reason for learning Kung Fu was borne out of the desire to stay healthy. Liu contrasts the modern-day Hong Kong action films with classics from years gone by, declaring todays films move way too fast, thereby exposing a serious lack of technique amongst actors.
Of course, Liu features in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, and talks about his experiences on the set, revealing Uma Thurman spent six months in training for her starring role ("She did wire-work, too"); a more conscientious approach than the majority of Hong Kong actors exhibit, according to Liu.
HKL have also included a written tribute to Lar Kar-Leung (penned by Bey Logan), and an excellent trailer gallery: look out for The Killer and A Chinese Ghost Story amongst others. Image quality for the main feature is beyond reproach, with sumptuous colour schemes dazzling the eyes.
A truly special edition for a less-than special film.
Chinese director and actor and one of the most influential martial arts film-makers of the 1970s. Kar-Leung joined the Shaw Brothers studio in 1965 where he worked as an actor and fight choreographer, before making his directing debut in 1975 with the kung fu comedy The Spiritual Boxer. A series of martial arts classics followed, including 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Shaolin Mantis, Dirty Ho, Mad Monkey Kung Fu and My Young Auntie. Kar-Leung was a strong believer that fight sequences should be shot in single, wide shots to showcase the natural skill of the martial artists, which was at odds with those directors who prefered wirework and fast editing.
Kar-Leung continued to direct throughout the eighties, with period films like Shaolin Temple, starring a young Jet Li, and modern-day action flicks Tiger on the Beat and its sequel. In 1994, worked as fight arranger on Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II, but was controversially sacked from the production when his methods clashed with Chan's. In retaliation, he directed his own Drunken Master 3 later the same year. Kar-Leung's last film was 2002's old-fashioned Drunken Monkey, once more for Shaw Brothers.