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Magic Cop

AKA: Mr. Vampire 5


Director: Stephen Tung

Stars: Lam Ching Ying, Miu Kiu Wai, Wilson Lam, Michiko Nishiwaki, Wu Ma, Frankie Chin, Billy Chow

Hollywood might try and copy all the wire-fu and dual-gun antics it can, but there are a number of Hong Kong films which are truly unique -- something which could only be created in that particular culture -- and Magic Cop is definitely one of them. It's not exactly a horror movie, even though there are ghosts, zombies and black magic. It's not exactly a comedy, even though there are some very funny moments in here. It's not exactly a action movie, even though there are a few impressive sequences. It's not exactly... well, you get the idea.

Magic Cop has perpeptual "ghostbuster" Lam Ching-Ying as a cop who specializes in the "spookier" cases. A team of cops try to bust a drug runner, and find that she can still run after being shot. The "old sifu" steps in and discovers a plot that uses animated dead bodies to do evil bidding, and sets out to stop a evil wizard (Michiko Nishiwaki) before she can do more harm.

The result is one of those wonderfully schizophrenic "everything but the kitchen sink" movies that only Hong Kong can produce. Like the Mr. Vampire movies, Lam Ching-Ying's serious performance keeps things rooted even when the action turns to the near-absurd (let's just say that Michiko is very resilient and refuses to die). It should be noted that Lam didn't like playing a "ghostbuster" (after the success of Mr. Vampire, he was pigeonholed into the role), but was professional enough to continue doing the roles because he knew that was what fans wanted.

As for the supporting cast, they provide some nice comic relief to allow the movie to digest smoothly into the viewer's system -- which is good, because the finale is a blitzkrieg attack of powerful magic and impressive martial arts (Lam manages to hold his own against the formidable Billy Chow). Even though some cheesy Evil Dead-style makeup and obvious mannequins cheapen things a bit, the ending mystical fight is one of the most inventive and visually intoxicating sequences put to celluoid.

Magic Cop may be one of the lesser-known Hong Kong films to Western fans -- lost in a sea of Jackie Chan and John Woo wannabes -- but those viewers who want to try something a bit different will find a lot to enjoy with it.


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