When Hong Kong cops lay siege to a triad hideout, the sharp-suited gangsters go out all-guns-blazing. Beautiful policewoman Ching (Cynthia Khan) ends this stand-off, leaping through an open window to machinegun and blow up the bad guys. Roll credits! Shortly thereafter, Ching has a run-in with greasy private eye Charlie Chan (Anthony Wong), who has been hired by an old woman to get her drug-addled granddaughter away from her lousy street punk boyfriend. Despite his sleazy ways, Charlie is a good egg with killer kung fu skills, though his mouthy girlfriend Blackie (Sheila Chan Suk-Laan) is always on his case to earn more money to support their meagre existence. Their services are needed when the Five Fingers Gang frame Ching for killing a group of glue-sniffing youths, in retaliation for her wiping out a handful of their hitmen.
After Ching is suspended from the force, her smitten colleague Officer Kwong (Tommy Wong Kwong-Leung) hires Charlie and Blackie to protect her from triad assassination attempts, but she has other ideas. It seems Ching suspects her sultry stepmother Siu Hung (Kara Hui Ying-Hung) is out to murder her horny old dad (Wu Fung) and collect his inheritance, by dressing up in flirty French maid fetish outfits and dosing him with a Chinese love drugs for bouts of exhausting sex! Between dodging assassins and exchanging romantic banter, the detectives discover Siu Hung had a prior relationship with the Five Fingers boss, but her motives might not be as malevolent as they seem.
Cynthia Khan rose to prominence replacing Michelle Yeoh as star of the popular In the Line of Duty movies. Thereafter she was routinely cast as kung fu kicking policewomen, although she excelled in an atypical role in the excellent Sixties-set comedy It’s Now or Never (1993). Madam City Hunter ranks among her stranger vehicles given it is equal parts conventional Khan cop actioner and black widow erotic thriller and parodies the popular anime and manga series City Hunter. The name Charlie Chan may conjure memories of the avuncular Oriental detective famed for his fortune cookie wisdom, but this character is a lot closer in style and attitude to City Hunter’s lecherous, lazy antihero Ryo Saeba. Beneath his slovenly exterior beats a heart of gold and some fierce martial arts skills. Furthermore, his relationship with feisty Blackie echoes Ryo’s ongoing feud with his own sidekick-cum-love interest Kaori.
Around this time Jackie Chan was headlining the official, big budget live action adaptation of City Hunter, which suggests Madam City Hunter was a cash-in though instead of offering a female slant, as the title implies, this is more like a crossover. Madam meets City Hunter if you will, “Madam” being the title bestowed on female police inspectors in Hong Kong, as well the name by which Cynthia Khan’s heroines were often known. Ironically the director of City Hunter, Wong Jing, was well-known for making films that parodied or shamelessly imitated popular hits. So, for once, the shoe was on the other foot.
A young, curly haired Anthony Wong mugs inanely through an array of lowbrow sex gags with none of the charm Jackie Chan brought to the roguish role. After a smart set-up, the plot lapses into lazy comedy and frankly confusing drama but, in typical anything-for-a-fast-buck Hong Kong exploitation fashion, still offers the occasionally diverting moment: e.g. a parody of the old “red wire, blue wire” bomb disposal gambit shown in countless cop films; Ching ambushed in an alley by a transvestite assassin; Charlie foiling another hitman in a sword fight staged like an old Shaw Brothers movie; the camera encircling the dinner table as we eavesdrop on four characters’ conflicting thoughts. Foremost among these unruly pleasures is the sight of Shaw Brothers star Kara Hui Ying-Hung in such an atypically steamy role.
Whether performing a sexy striptease out of male drag or a raunchy car wash dressed in tight top and hot-pants, Hui Ying-Hung goes above and beyond the call of duty, especially for a martial arts movie icon and, lest we forget, double best actress award winner! Not to be outdone, the striking Cynthia Khan also ups the glam factor with her slinky mini-dresses. At one point the plot stops cold for a lengthy scene just admiring the leading ladies as they doll themselves up for a night on the town. The film could stand as a working definition of fluffy and inconsequential, but seasoned pros Khan and Hui Ying-Hung give their all to every dramatic beat and silly gag. Like Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Khan trained as a ballet dancer and brings a balletic grace to the frenetic action scenes choreographed by the great Yuen Brothers.