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Saturday, 2 September 2017

Retro Review: Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon (1990) #Hongkongcinema

Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon (Sau Fu Fei Lung)
Cast: Sammo Hung, Karl Maka, Carrie Ng, Lung Ming-yan
Genre: Buddy Cop Action Comedy
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $10, 2 million

Plot: Dragon-obsessed kung fu cop, Fatty with the help of his crime-fighting partner, Skinny, is intent on busting a drug-trafficking ring. When their single-minded pursuit of the drug dealers ruins their boss's wedding, they lose their jobs and go off on holiday with their girlfriends. But the drug dealer, who thinks they are still a threat, goes after them

'Conflicted Buddy Cop Comedy With Not Enough Action & Not So Good Comedy'

A buddy cop action comedy, Skinny Tiger Fatty Dragon is more the other way round as a comedy action flick and operates more on the lines of the Aces Go Places movies, as opposed to the Lucky Stars Sammo Hung & Jackie Chan efforts. Karl Maka and Sammo Hung are so-called buddy cops, Skinny - or be it baldy- & Fatty, who are in pursuit of a gang of drug dealers. Skinny is the bumbling cop, who manages to get in a few kicks, whilst Fatty channels his inner Bruce Lee from Game of Death and beats up the baddies with sticks and nunchucks. 

I didn't care much for the drug dealer story line and plot and the violence towards the women, is a bit nasty to watch, even though this is a comedy. Maka exists more as the comic relief and the polar opposite of Hung's more serious character. The comedy, such as the slapstick, is both conflicted and a hit and miss and on several occasions, a lot of it misses the target; this of which I am actually disappointed in. 

Whilst Sammo Hung gets plenty of the spotlight by doing some serious damage to the baddies, Karl Maka is the comedic wise guy, who also manages to acquit himself well in the fight and action scenes. It was a good move to have Maka in this movie for the comedy side of things, with Hung dominating the action. Though a lot of it is dialogue based, I didn't smile or laughed much. I wasn't offended by the transvestite and drag-related scenes, but it does get fairly old quickly. The scene where two Thai transvestite assassins kill one of the cop's witnesses did heighten my interest in the movie, as is the latter scene with Sammo beating the crap out of them in a restaurant. Sammo's awesome when he fights and shows how agile and flexible he is, even for a big man like himself. 

Released at the beginning of the 1990s, the subject was stale, the execution of the film but for some of the fight scenes, left me wanting more, and yet I just didn't get it. It's not funny enough for a comedy and the action, as sparse as it was and is, is relatively good to very good. But everything else is not as good, and I am a little let down by this as I had high hopes that Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon would be a great little Hong Kong action-based flick. 

If anything, the closest Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon resembles to in American buddy cop comedies, is Running Scared starring Billy Crystal & Gregory Hines: both the tone and the scarce comedy in this movie is similar in many ways to that film, only with this movie, it does have the added kung fu fighting. The other difference is the story in Running Scared is, in my opinion, better conceived than here and that I didn't find this aspect particularly engrossing with Skinny Tiger.

As far as the fight scenes go, there is less of the acrobatics, flips and twists and more brawl-related fighting where Sammo and Karl go all out and it all moves at a fast pace. 

Final Verdict

But for the poor treatment of the female characters and most of the comedy that falls flat, this is an above average contemporary action movie that is only saved by the impressive fight scenes and Sammo himself, who launches himself into every fight and beat down. The pacing and plot are what brings Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon down and the story should have been wittier, funnier and charming. 

As much as I really enjoyed the action scenes, this film should have been a whole lot better and there is also some gratuitous nudity which feels out of place. An action comedy where the latter in the comedy should have been funnier and the former in the action, that as good as it was, quantity wise, there needed to have been more, Skinny Tiger fell well short of the mark in becoming a Hong Kong action classic. 

This is definitely one for die-hard martial arts movies fans (only).


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