Hail The Judge (1994)

Directed by
A few good scenes but suffers in translation
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-09-21

HAIL THE JUDGE is a loose sequel to Justice, My Foot! but this time Stephen Chiau is no longer a lawyer fighting against corrupt officials, he is the corrupt official! Pao Lung Sing enjoys a role as a court-appointed justice thanks to his ancestry, but he is too lowly to make much money from corruption even when he does let defendants bribe themselves out of trouble. When the son of a high official is caught more or less red-handed after raping a bride and murdering her family, and his wealthy family hire a top lawyer to get him off the hook, something stirs inside Pao (or his pants, anyway) and he decides to turn a new leaf and do the right thing for once.

I tend to find that Stephen Chiau's films haven't aged all that well, it's been a while since I've really enjoyed one. According to an old review I liked HAIL THE JUDGE quite a lot 20 years ago, rating it higher than JUSTICE, MY FOOT! despite issues with the subtitles on the old Mei Ah DVD, but rewatching it now I was mostly left cold by it.

The translation on the new iTunes 4K release is awful though, clearly failing to do the film justice, which is obviously going to limit enjoyment of a film whose central hook is clever verbal sparring. Well I assume it's clever, it's obviously supposed to be clever, but its cleverness doesn't come across in the subtitles. It's perhaps telling that one of the most entertaining scenes is when Chiau learns quarrel-fu from a brothel madam and their dialogue is so fast it is rendered unintelligible and is represented with animations instead.

Outside of this it's pretty typical Chiau/Wong Jing territory, pretty much what you'd expect it to be - a touch of nonsense, a touch of romance, a touch of moral comeuppance. It doesn't deviate from the formula much and basically relies on Chiau's charisma to carry it. Obviously he had charisma to burn in those days, and being paired with Ng Man-Tat helps to bring it out, but having to make educated guesses about why the dialogue is funny from the sparse clues provided by the subtitles meant it was a bit of a chore to get through the film.

Note: it looks like the subtitles on the Hong Kong bluray are a bit better - disappointing that iTunes doesn't use them.