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  Operation Pink Squad II Girls vs. Ghouls
Year: 1989
Director: Jeff Lau
Stars: Billy Lau, Sandra Ng, Sharla Cheung Man, Ann Bridgewater, Suki Kwan Sau-Mei, Wu Fung, Cheung Choi-Mei, Shing Fui-On, Charlie Cho Cha-Lee, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Helena Law Lan, Walter Tso Tat-Wah
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Action, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: An obnoxious bespectacled cop (Billy Lau) is appalled his new policewoman wife (Sandra Ng) is so enthusiastic about sex. One night while asleep she cries out the name: "Johnny!" which leads him to suspect he married a 'second-hand wife.' To expose his wife's infidelity he trails her to an apartment at a creepy, half-abandoned tenement block. Not realizing she and fellow beautiful 'Pink Squad' girls: Min (Sharla Cheung Man), Anna (Ann Bridgewater) and Mei (Suki Kwan Sau-Mei) are working undercover as high-class call girls to entrap Maddy (Shing Fui-On), a drug-dealing triad. However, the lovely policewomen have no idea this is a haunted tower block where a Buddhist Monk (Yeung Cheung-Yan) gets to work after residents discover the basement holds a gateway to Hell. When the clueless cop gatecrashes the sting operation, he mistakes cowardly Inspector Shin (Wu Fung) for his wife's lover. He chases him below whereupon they accidentally rouse a malevolent ghost girl (Cheung Choi-Mei) who wreaks supernatural vengeance.

Sequels more widely known than obscure originals is a strangely common quirk in Hong Kong film fandom. Joining the ranks of Swordsman II: Invincible Asia (1992), Tiger Cage II (1990), Angel Terminators II (1993) and In the Line of Duty 4 (1989), Operation Pink Squad II follows-up a 1988 vehicle for Sandra Ng. The original cashed-in on the girls-with-guns craze of the mid-to-late Eighties: e.g. Angel (1987), The Inspector Wears a Skirt (1988), etc. For the sequel the filmmakers added a supernatural twist delivering the fusion of Poltergeist (1982) and Die Hard (1988) that Poltergeist III (1988) wanted to be, only with crass knob jokes. Alas, Billy Lau's would-be comic antics prove as unbearable here as they are in the Mr. Vampire series. It is a mystery what Sandra Ng's character sees in such a paranoid, sexist asshole. Mind you, Lau does snag one funny scene, sharing an elevator with the enraged ghost girl.

Nonetheless the end result was an early cult hit for Jeff Lau. Long before he became an acclaimed comic auteur and the more commercially successful half of a screen partnership with art-house favourite Wong Kar Wai, Lau toiled away making second-rate ghost comedies like his Haunted Cop Shop series. A step up from those, Operation Pink Squad II lacks the disarmingly heartfelt romance and literary allusions that characterize Lau's later work. But it scores a solid laugh-rate with inventive ideas and enthusiastic mugging from a likable cast, save Billy Lau of course. While Sandra Ng went on to huge success as a popular comedienne, the film also includes early roles for fan favourites Sharla Cheung Man and Ann Bridgewater. The latter in particular, best known for sharing the screen with Chow Yun-Fat in Ringo Lam's outstanding action-thriller Full Contact (1992), exhibits the combination of dramatic skill, sex kitten allure and buoyant comic timing that ought to have made her a much bigger star. No matter what role, there is no film where Ann Bridgewater is less than terrific.

Embracing the radical tonal shifts that were part and parcel with the New Wave era of HK cinema, Lau's typically scattershot pop culture riffs encompass a dream sequence parodying Chow Yun-Fat's iconic shootout from A Better Tomorrow (1986), a climax wherein the cast morph into mythological characters to do battle with bloodthirsty zombies and the obligatory tasteless sexual humour. Yet also the odd instance of sly satire. In a dig at the money-mad mentality of Eighties Hong Kong here even a murderous ghost can negotiate a deal with a crooked businessman. Lau lifts motifs like the roving 'demon-cam' from A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) - which itself stole heavily from The Evil Dead (1983) - and melds the blue light-and-fog aesthetic Sammo Hung established for the genre with Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) with a funky Eighties neon vibe and MTV-style whiplash editing. A bravura sequence that inter-cuts the Monk's supernatural battle with the rhythmic motion of an African dancer and the zany antics of the Pink Squad girls at a hostess club is especially impressive. Remarkably the scary sequences deliver solid visceral thrills, employing ingenious practical effects with effective results. Most notably in the film's most infamous scene wherein a fleet of remote-controlled toy helicopters chase after a flying severed head!

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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