Monday, May 10, 2004

Royal Tramp (Lu dung ji)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 8 May 2004 at Coolidge Corner #2 (Midnight Ass-Kickings)

Well, I take back what I said to Laurel about my having outgrown finding decapitation and dismemberment funny. Royal Tramp opens with one of those over-the-top martial arts fights where a kung fu master rips apart opposing bodies as if they were the stuffed effigies that they clearly must be. It establishes a tone of chaotic mayhem that will persist throughout the entire movie. Indeed, at the end of the show, more than one of the attendees was cackling maniacally, as if the sheer utter insanity and incomprehensibility of this movie had made him lose his senses.

This movie will do that. I think the plot involves three or four different factions, all trying to usurp the throne (or at least subvert it to their whim). The thrust of the plot is that when Stephen Chow's character - subtitled "Wilson Bond", but that can't possibly be right - is sent to infiltrate the palace as a servant, but winds up taking the wrong door, where they're taking applications for eunuchs. It's a much shorter line. However, the chief eunuch is plotting against the king, too, and the king turns out to be a pretty decent guy, although he's being pushed around by the head of the army. This is the guy who tore through assassins like a buzzsaw in the opening sequence; he's named O'Brian, played by an actor the IMDB lists as "Elvis Tsui", and has truly astounding facial hair. I'm not certain of this, of course, because this is one of those prints that opens with scrolling Cantonese text without subtitles to explain the story.

But the movie's fun. It's got a raunchy sense of humor (unlike Hollywood, Hong Kong filmmakers apparently find the male sexual organ funny and don't dance around this belief), and while the fighting is obviously complete wire-fu, it's got a good dose of physical comedy. Stephen Chow is apparently a huge star in Hong Kong (his latest big hit is Shaolin Soccer, which we've been seeing trailers for over the course of the last two years but won't actually see because Miramax is a bunch of jackasses), and he's apparently cut from the Ace Ventura-style Jim Carrey mold. It's broad comedy, but it's fast-paced, never letting up. When the movie runs out of jokes, it just stops with one of the most abrupt endings I've seen at the Ass Kicking series (which is saying something). The first credit as the movie freeze-frames is for Pepsi/Seven-UP, which is really strange for a movie set in Imperial China.

Which is probably blew the mind of the guy behind me. It's that kind of movie.

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