Monday, February 09, 2004

The Haunted Cop Shop II (Meng gui xue tang)

* * * (out of four)

Seen 7 February 2004 at Coolidge Corner #2 (Midnight Kung Fu Madness)

It's good to know that respected filmmakers like Wong Kar-Wai have things as outright silly as the Haunted Cop Shop movies in their past. What can filmmakers who have never had a jet of blood erupt from somebody's chest or made a fart joke really know about connecting with an audience at a visceral level?

Looking at this movie, could you necessarily tell that its screenwriter would become an indie darling? Doubtful. To play the "x meets y" game, this movie is "Police Academy meets Evil Dead 2 in Hong Kong!" In the aftermath of the first Haunted Cop Shop, a group of government officials meets to discuss how to handle the vampire situation - only to be caught in the police station with three of them, requiring them to call in the characters from the first movie (Jacky Cheung as Kam Mark-K and Ricky Hui as Man-Chill). After these vampires are dispatched (including one who gets the giggles and stops attacking when her breasts are touched), the decision is made to start a special "Ghostbuster" squad to deal with vampires. So, we're introduced to a bunch of misfit cops who will wind up transferred to this group - the girl with bad luck, the squeamish guy, the vain guy, the one who's really a Buddhist priestess at heart... What they don't know is that the military base where they're to train has a vampire infestation of its own.

In contrast to Wong Kar-Wai's reputation, this movie is frenetic. It starts out zany, quickly procedes to absurd, and blows well past "what-the-hell?" by the end. At times, it feels like a collection of barely connected skits (a goofy, but oddly entertaining, segment involving getting a chicken to lay eggs basically comes out of nowhere). Despite opening and closing with action segments, there's not a lot of vampire/werewolf/zombie action, and basically no time is spent getting to know the characters. Heck, the movie is so zippy and silly that when characters are getting offed in the final sequence, that natural expectation for an American moviegoer is for them to walk out of the rubble like Danny Aiello in Hudson Hawk. Instead, the movie just stops with a wacky group freeze-frame two seconds after the last vampire has been dispatched. Kind of disconcerting.

Still, it's a fun movie. There is so much energy poured into it (really, about twenty times as much energy as budget, as the non-existent monster effects will tell you) that it's almost like watching a movie on fast-forward, with the slow parts compressed to the absolute minimum time required and any exposition of what happened in the previous movie omitted. (I have a theory that Hong Kong sequels are designed to be watched immediately after the original movie)

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