Friday, March 9, 2012

Banana Cop (1984) with Cherie Chung and Teddy Robin

My review should first stress the fact that Cherie Chung is only in about a third of this. She was really the only reason that I watched this.

Banana Cop (1984) is not bad in the way that other Hong Kong films from this era -- and many of Cherie's early films too! -- are bad but it's boring and uninteresting and too long. George Lam plays Inspector Yip, a Chinese police officer in London, who gets involved in a murder in the Chinese community there. Lam -- badly -- tries to make the inspector a sort of grizzled cop -- like an awkward parody of a TV cop show detective. Frankly, he's so obvious in his acting here that he reminded me a tiny bit of Nick Nolte in 48 Hours (1982), to which this film owes an enormous debt in the plot-department.

Somehow, the cop needs the help of Teddy Robin's convict from back in Hong Kong. This is a good excuse to have a few scenes in Hong Kong as Yip goes to get Robin's con out of the clink -- just like Eddie Murphy in that classic American flick.

Sometimes expertly shot, Banana Cop (1984) still suffers from scenes so ridiculous that it's as if we're watching retarded people enact the story. Yip, apparently out of touch with his Chinese roots, eats an apple from an indoor shrine in the police station and the local cops flip out. Now, surely if most white people could figure out that the shrine was obviously something not to be messed with, surely this Chinese guy twice the age of the local cops could too? The only pay-off to this scene is that the white, Brit HK cop is the one who instructs Yip in the error of his ways.

The other scene is when Robin insists on visiting his "wife" -- really a prostitute -- and Lam's Yip waits outside the curtained bed with his hand still handcuffed to the con who's inside getting his rocks off.

Again, this is one of those moments that seems to occur in a lot of Hong Kong films from this era and a viewer is -- I guess -- supposed to overlook the wild improbability of the scene because it has a funny pay-off. Not this viewer. Stuff like that in a film, HK or otherwise, just distracts me so much that I can't really pay much attention to the next scenes in the picture.

So, the two get back to London and begin their pursuit of the thief/murderer. Somehow, the blind Amy (Cherie Chung) ends up in the drama. She really adds nothing as a character except as a victim at the end of the film in a moment of jeopardy.

I have to say that when I watch George Lam I always feel like I'm watching someone's grandfather. So when Grandpa has a love scene with a young and hot British cop, it's a thing of repulsion. Really, who are you trying to kid Mr. Lam?

Add to that that he semi-swaggers through the film like a kid doing an impression of Bogie, and you've got another reason as a viewer to probably avoid Banana Cop (1984).

While I didn't really enjoy the film, I have to say that the ending featured some nicely framed shots in London's Underground. The final sequence, while improbable in one key moment, is not bad and there's the seed of a better film contained in these few moments.

Frankly, this would have been a better film without George Lam and his cop. The story of Teddy Robin's ex-con and Cherie Chung's blind Amy could have made for a poignant romance when set against the backdrop of London. And without that cop, the film would have worked as a heist-gone-wrong-sort of film. Maybe.

If you are a hardcore Cherie Chung or Teddy Robin fan, then maybe Banana Cop (1984) is a film to recommend.

You can buy Banana Cop (1984) on DVD here.