Forbidden City Cop (1996)

One of the best Stephen Chiau films of the 1990's
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-12-12

Agent 00F is a member of His Majesty's Secret Service, but having no particular kung fu skills his main contribution is science and technology. His latest inventions fail to impress the king and he is banished from his sight, returning to his doctor's practise and his charming wife. When a rival kingdom concocts a scheme to invade, 00F's skills prove to be useful after all.

FORBIDDEN CITY COP is one of the last Hong Kong wuxia films to be produced in the 1990's, well after audience had grown tired of the period martial films that boomed in the early part of the decade, which Chiau is spoofing. It also plays with James Bond references, with his character apparently being a predecessor of that he played in From Beijing With Love, but it's a relatively small part of it.

The real heart of this film is the relationship between Stephen Chiau and Carina Lau. There is a lot of honesty in it and their love feels very genuine. This film is more romantic than most films that would call themselves "romance", recognising that a big part of love is how you deal with the times you really piss each other off.

The film weaves together its romance and wuxia sides very well. About an hour in it looks like the film is basically over, but it's just getting started.

Stephen Chiau gets a co-director credit, which he probably should have had on most of his films since All For The Winner as they are always more like other Stephen Chiau films than those of whoever was the credited director.

The recently released bluray from 88 Films continues their record of excellent subtitles, perhaps being the first time one of Chiau's films from the 90's has had a translation that conveys the wordplay that forms a big part of his style, at least in part. It is transformative compared to the shoddy translation of Hail The Judge on iTunes, for example, and makes this a great starting point for anyone who discovered him via Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle and wants to explore his earlier work.