Monday, June 4, 2007

“Get that finger outta your ear. You don’t know where that finger’s been."

If you forced me to pick one thing that drives me nuts about Hong Kong cinema, it would be actors playing cops on public surveillance missions constantly pressing their fingers to their conspicuous earphones and mumbling to themselves as they scan the surrounding area.

Whether they’re pretending to read a newspaper, hawk fish balls or sweep the sidewalk, there’s always that moment where the actors simply must fidget with their earphones. This is hardly specific to Hong Kong pictures, but since the actors in many Hong Kong movies—especially no-budget duds like KUNG FU POLICE—often play these scenes on open streets in plain sight of hundreds of oblivious real people scurrying around them while the camera crew shoots from a van parked nearby, the urge to do something with their hands must be overwhelming, if only to mask the embarrassment of having to stand in the middle of a crowded sidewalk in their own street clothes with a two-dollar earphone stuck in their head!

KUNG FU POLICE has many such scenes, but unlike other, better cheapo Hong Kong police procedurals, the filmmakers can’t even be bothered giving the actors something to actually do as they mill around a Wanchai intersection looking all surveillance-y and stuff, so they press those earpieces like crazy!

No newspapers. No fish balls. Just fingers in ears.

It starts off with this guy…
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…then cuts to the star of the show, Jackie Lui, lookin’ smooth.
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Then we go to David To, who actually IS doing something else to blend into the crowd. He’s standing beside a guy that looks a lot like Wong Yat-fei (not pictured) handing out leaflets. These appear to be real leaflets for an actual place, so it’s kinda cool that they threw a t-shirt on the guy and stuck him out there for verisimilitude. But then, up goes that finger…
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Then it’s over to this guy, who nods while holding his fingers to the earpiece, presumably acknowledging a command to look the other way, then looks the other way and, without touching the earpiece, appears to talk to himself. I’m going with the shot of him touching the earpiece for the sake of consistency:
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Then we’re back to David, who’s now moved to the edge of the road, so he can finger his ear and lean on the railing. Gettin’ tired, I suppose:
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Then we cut back to Jackie, who’s become rather engrossed in fingering his ear, to the point that he is no longer surveilling the landscape, which could have been just the break villainous jewel thief Karen Tong was waiting for. Alas, no. We’ll later learn she’s not even in the neighborhood.
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We return to this guy once more to find he’s resumed his fake job of handing out leaflets, but again, important news over his earpiece has necessitated a rather obvious swing of his arm up to his head. If Karen were anywhere in the vicinity when all this is taking place, she would have been long gone to another part of town by this point:
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Jackie again. He’s back to scoping out the busy Wanchai intersection, but must once again press his earpiece in tight lest he miss any vital information about the robbery his unit has been informed will take place somewhere in the vicinity. This time, he responds to something he pretends to hear in his disconnected Walkman earphone:
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Then we’re treated to a shot, which occurs rather quickly, of the lone female member of Jackie’s team performing aural on herself. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a simple cutaway to a couple of actual Hong Kong folks having a chat. But then up pops that finger:
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And finally, the money shot. We’re shown the robbery taking place nearby, but NONE of the cops sees it. They are notified that it’s going down when Red T-shirt guy gets the call…

…on his cell phone:
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This represents about half the ear-touching shots that occur in this single movie, but you get the idea.

Not that this production isn’t burdened with other problems, what with all the ambient noise, poor night lighting, dreary shot composition and creepy Candy Lo impersonations by two wholly non-descript supporting “actresses” who are so non-descript I can’t remember their names.

In case you’re still interested, Jackie Lui is a cop and Karen Tong is a jewel thief newly escaped from prison with Big Plans to stick up jewel dealers who are walking home from work because that’s cheaper to shoot than scenes in actual rented spaces like jewellery stores that can’t be faked in the producer’s apartment or the production offices. Anyways, Jackie’s tai chi classmate owes Karen a few robberies, and his sifu’s daughter has some kind of relationship with him that only exists in her vacant little head. And that’s about it, really.

Most definitely a movie to approach with lowered expectations, but since my purchase of the VCD allowed the production company to make back their entire expenditure, the dirty work’s been done.

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