Curry and Pepper (1990)

Directed by
Good buddy cop action/comedy
Reviewed by Simon on 2006-06-25

Curry & Pepper are two CID detectives who "don't play by the rules" - or take their jobs very seriously, it appears. Dimply journalist Mimi (Ann Bridgewater) decides to do a "day in the life" special on the police, and picks these two as her desired subjects - to the consternation of their superior (talented scriptwriter Barry Wong). After screwing up an undercover operation to bust some gun smugglers, the gang's hitman (played by director Blacky Ko) takes a personal interest in the duo - an interest which they reciprocate. Meanwhile, a love triangle develops which threatens to destroy the buddies' friendship.

To become a big star in Hong Kong, an actor generally has two routes - a dual career as pop star and screen idol, or working really, really hard. Stephen Chiau chose the latter, and 1990 was the year when he paid his dues, appearing in 11 films before his breakout hit All For The Winner established him as a bankable star (presumably meaning he got paid enough per movie to make fewer of them). CURRY & PEPPER was one of the other films from that year, and although the signs of his talent and persona were starting to appear by this point, it's not in the mo lei tau style that became his trademark. It's one of those films that shows he has genuine range and talent as an actor, rather than just "playing himself". He is paired in this film with Jacky Cheung, who chose the other route to stardom (being one of the most popular singers in Hong Kong as well as a reasonably talented actor).

The love interest in the film is Ann Bridgewater, who is always quite lovely but isn't challenged with much actual acting in this particular film. Director and action choreographer Blacky Ko puts in a much more memorable turn as the scar-faced villain. Barry Wong offers a good supporting performance, and Eric Tsang... is rather annoying actually.

The film marries fairly standard buddy cop stuff with fairly standard love triangle stuff, which makes for a non-challenging but entertaining enough story that's driven by the charisma and chemistry of the two leads. Jacky and Stephen play well off each other, and keep the film fun to watch. Unfortunately Ann is a bit too weak and airy, meaning that she doesn't provide the antagonism that her character should have brought to the triangle.

Luckily Blacky Ko compensates for this weakness with his character and with some really nice action choreography. He's best known for his car/motorbike stunts, and there is a nice car chase scene as you would expect, but he also cooks up some of the best gun action pre-Hard Boiled. It's definitely the action and the comedic interplay of the two leads which make the film enjoyable, not the tepid romance.

The film also earns points for some really lovely cinematography from Andrew Lau. He uses many stylised tricks and tons of color filters, leading to some gorgeous imagery that is perhaps too lush for a comedy film at times. The man certainly had a special talent for capturing Hong Kong the city, in all its neon-lit glory, and the film definitely evokes the atmosphere of Tsim Sha Tsui, making me feel quite... whatever the opposite of homesick is... awaysick? :-p