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PANTYHOSE HERO

(Hong Kong 1990) 

Original Title: Zhi Fen Shuang Xiong

(aka) Lethal Killers

Directed by Sammo Hung Produced by Sammo Hung Action by Samo Hung Stunt Team, Brandy Yuen, Siu Tak Foo

Starring: Sammo Hung, Alan Tam, Joan Tong Wing Lun, Chu Wai Shan, Yam Wai Hung, Andrew Lam, Chung Fat, Billy Ching Sau Yat, James Tien, Ridley Tsui, Paul Chun, Philip Chan, Tai Bo, Chu Tau, Wu Ma

Reviewing: Bonzai Media Corp. USA DVD Release

Genres: Martial Arts / Action / Comedy

Rating - 4 / 5

DVD Synopsis: Cruising meets Police Academy in this flagrantly politically incorrect yarn directed by stocky kung fu master Sammo Hung. The film opens with the streets of Hong Kong being terrorized by a serial killer targeting gay men. Wisecracking veteran cops Jeff Lau (Hung) and Alan (Alan Tam Wing Lun) are assigned to go undercover as a gay couple and ferret out the killer. After hitting the bars, the two stumble on not only a few leads but also a few propositions. Meanwhile, Jef falls completely head over heels in love with the beautiful Chen-Chen (Joan Tong Lai Kau), which threatens to blow his cover. Worse, after Jeff's partner and Chen-Chen get loaded on spiked champagne, they wind up in the sack.

Views: Sammo Hung's politically incorrect action-comedy is about two Hong Kong cops, Jeff Lau (Sammo in a likely nod to the popular director) and Alan/Gaykey (Alan Tam), who must go undercover as a gay couple to find and stop a crazed serial killer who is murdering members of the gay community across the city! Of course, it just couldn't be simple and soon the cops are being trained by a lady officer on how to act gay. It doesn't take long for them to hit the bars and nightclubs, picking up a few leads along the way as well as a few propositions. A fight outside the club leads to Sammo getting hit by a car, which in turn has him falling for its driver (Chen Chen) and eventually, almost blowing his cover. As their new life on the case moves forward, Chen Chen soon ends up in bed with Alan after drinking a bottle of spiked champagne which was left by a handsome neighbour, determined to get into Alan's pants. On his return home, Sammo finds out about the affair and the pair quickly leaves, only to be replaced by the killer they are hunting who attacks the big man with a knife. After a brutal fight, Sammo only just manages to defeat him but the killer manages to escape. As if things couldn't get any worse, the burly cop finds himself in trouble with some local gangsters who soon kidnap the trio and hold them hostage amidst a drug deal. After managing to free himself, in yet another attempt to avoid the crazy serial killer, Sammo helps the others escape and sets out to take the gang down in a balls-to-the-wall action-packed finale!

There was a lot of controversy behind Pantyhose Hero on its release in 1990 and while audiences in the West were perhaps a little too PC about many things in it, some cinema-goers in Hong Kong felt that Sammo Hung's thoughtless approach to the gay community was perhaps a step too far. As I a gay man, I can totally see why – but as someone who doesn't get easily offended and can have a laugh, I can see past it for the fantastic action that's on offer. Yes, the script and humour may be a little crude at times (as if it was written by someone who had no idea of life in the gay community), but Pantyhose Hero isn't all that bad, and it's quite obvious that Sammo's character of Jeff is quite simply homophobic to some degree. They are out there! It's also a big part of Hong Kong culture in that they are very direct people. Black is black, fat is fat, and gay is gay. I must also point out that it was also made at a time when humour like this was rife in many movies, including that from Hollywood. Pantyhose Hero was written by Barry Wong Ping Yiu and Szeto Cheuk Hon, two veteran scribes with a long list of classic titles and hits behind them. Wong, who has also appeared in many films such as Winners And Sinners, The Killer, Curry And Pepper, and Fight Back To School, made his debut as a writer with Frankie Chan's Read Lips. From there he delivered a host of amazing titles such as The Prodigal Son, Dragon Lord, the Lucky Stars Trilogy, Mr. Vampire, Eastern Condors, Twin Dragons, Hard Boiled, and so much more. His writing partner Szeto also started writing in 1980 making Tsui Hark's fun We're Going To Eat You, his debut. Sticking with Hark right through to Zu Warriors, Szeto soon co-wrote with Wong on many of the aforementioned titles as well as delivering a few more Sammo Hung movies such as Slickers Vs Killers, Blade Of Fury, Don't Give A Damn, and Once Upon A Time In China & America...

Given the serious plot points of the film (with the opening murder scenes being particularly dark), the questionable comedy sequences and offensive AIDS jokes don't actually happen all that often. In fact, the whole gay act doesn't come about too much which in some ways was a shame. Had the comedic side of it been a little more refined, it would have been good to see both actors go down the route of something like The Birdcage for example, but the pace moves so fast between cops, killers, and gangsters it doesn't really have too much time to settle on the offensive stuff – unlike many reviewers and critics would have you think. This, ironically, would be down to Wong and Szeto's uneven script that sees Pantyhose Hero start as a cop-thriller with a serial killer, to finishing as a generic action-flick with triads and drug deals. Regardless, Sammo and Alan do a fine job in their roles, with the latter taking to gay life a little better than his rotund partner. Keeping his hair perfect and wearing more flamboyant outfits than usual, Alan minces his way around the place staying in character and speaking in a more feminine tone, constantly hounded by his handsome neighbour – a fitness freak that (as he puts it) is determined to rape him. He is played by Poon Chun Wai, a recognisable face that has been in films such as On The Run, Doubles Cause Troubles, and Cash On Delivery. This scene in itself is hilarious, with Alan trying so hard not to blow his cover while at the same time, trying hard to stop this muscle-bound, half-naked man from having his way with him. After all, it is a remake of the 1982 movie Partners, directed by John Burrows with Ryan O'Neal and John Hurt in the main roles. Even that had questionable lines in it that might just offend the sensitive today, but to be honest, I do think Sammo offers a more entertaining and funnier piece overall – to the point where you would think that Wong Jing himself had been involved.

While the supporting cast isn't made up of many A-listers, a host of cameos from regular faces help make up for that. These include Wu Ma, Philip Chan, Paul Chun, James Tien, Chung Fat, Chu Tau, and Tai Bo. The great Ridley Tsui plays the serial killer with a manic smile. It's a shame we didn't get to see more of his character to be honest, as we don't really learn too much of his intentions and I loved the twist of him being the bartender at the gay club. Joan Tong Lai Kau stars as Chen Chen, the love interest who hits Sammo (hard) with her car. I mean, it's one hell of a stunt for the big man! Joan made her debut alongside the legend in Alfred Cheung's so-so, To Err Is Humane, and appeared with him again in The Fortune Code which was made the same year as this. Joan also appears in titles such as The Crazy Companies, Fatal Vacation, The Tigers, To Live And Die In Tsim Shat Tsui, and many more. She does a fine job in Pantyhose Hero, even getting in on the action towards the end – as well as taking a bit of abuse, which is typical for any actress when Sammo is in charge! Apart from Ridley Tsui as the serial killer, Yam Wai Hung stars as the other big baddie and boss of the drug-dealing gang. As far as I'm aware, this was his first-ever role and impressive as he was both in acting and in action, Yam only went on to star in two other films – Slickers Vs Killers once again with Sammo, and Truant Hero for Wong Jing. Popular bad guy Billy Ching Sau Yat stars as Yam's right-hand man who gets into more than enough scraps with Sammo. Starting life in the Sammo Hung produced Yuen Biao movie, Those Merry Souls, Billy Ching very quickly became a part of most Hung Kam Bo productions as well as making an impression in Jackie Chan's Project A 2, Curry And Pepper, Off Track, Beauty Investigator, and so much more!

Of course, Pantyhose Hero will be in most Hong Kong film fans' players for the kick-ass, martial arts action – something there is definitely enough of. Sammo Hung and his stunt team are joined by Brandy Yuen (brother to Yuen Woo-Ping) and Siu Tak Foo, an actor and choreographer who has been involved with many great titles such as King Hu's Raining In The Mountain, Kickboxer's Tears, Royal Warriors, and a host of Sammo Hung projects including The Blonde Fury, Pedicab Driver, and Dragons Forever. Between them, they deliver some of my favourite Sammo Hung fight scenes combing tight choreography and painful-looking moves, along with some incredible stunt work that will have you cringing. Its opening action scene takes place at an old rundown house, where cops Jeff and Alan infiltrate a gang of thugs who come at them from all sides, one of which is the wonderful Chung Fat who attacks with a chainsaw. While it often gets overshadowed by the epic chainsaw fight from Tiger On The Beat, this battle still holds its own and is brutal, exciting, and well-choreographed. It's also nice to see Alan Tam getting to pull off some great moves here, having only just become more of an action star in the few years leading up to production in films like Rich & Famous, The Dragon Family, Casino Raiders, and The Fortune Code. He would follow this with the awesome Andy Lau vehicle, The Last Blood, which would pretty much be his last role as a hardened hero before going back to more comedy-based roles and kung-fu comedies. There are, of course, a number of other fights throughout the film from the awesome gang fight in the street - which leads to the aforementioned car stunt that sees Sammo painfully explode through the front window before hitting the road – to the fun restaurant scuffle between Sammo and some gangsters, to the brutal attack in his home by the serial killer. It's another fantastic fight that utilises everything and anything from the living room to the kitchen and gives Ridley Tsui the chance to show off some great stunt work as well as take some powerful hits from Sammo who gets to show off some incredible moves.

And then, of course, there is the epic end battle – perhaps one of the hardest and most exciting finales of any modern Sammo Hung action movie! After being kidnapped by the gangsters, Sammo, Alan, and Chen Chen are tied to large rope spools on an old construction site and threatened with fruit being shoved up their asses. But as the gangsters leave the trio to conduct a drug deal, serial killer Tsui appears (having followed them since their abduction) and attempts to finish off Sammo and Alan with his blade. As Alan literally kicks off, Sammo uses all his might to roll the huge spool and soon manages to free himself, taking care of the crazed killer with some powerful moves. As the 3 of them escape, they soon notice visiting dealer James Tien and his men leaving with some briefcases. Opting to steal them, the trio soon finds themselves in the firing line and are chased down by every gangster in the building. It all leads to a collection of amazing fight scenes that are packed with power, violence, and some incredible moves. This finale reminded me very much of the epic construction site fight in Heart Of The Dragon, but a little edgier. My only thoughts are that Sammo felt he missed out on that fight so much, that he made sure he got to play in a similar setting this time around – only cranking things up to eleven! The poor Joan Tong gets thrown about quite a bit, sending her into such a panic that she tries to get a hit in whenever she can. This is often executed in that typical Sammo Hung way and harked back to those moments of Cherie Chung fighting in Winners And Sinners. With Sammo delivering the most of the solid martial arts action, Alan opts to play a bit as he ducks, dives and dodges the gangsters while getting some nice moves in along the way and providing plenty of laughs. It all boils down to some amazingly choreographed martial arts action that, in my eyes, showcases the big man's talents perfectly and is most definitely a closing battle that has you reaching for the rewind button!

All in all, Pantyhose Hero is a bit of a lost Sammo Hung classic, that should have been given a proper clean-up and release by now - regardless of its small list of offenses. It should be a movie that sits proudly on any true Hong Kong film fan's shelf alongside the likes of Pedicab Driver, Dragons Forever, Eastern Condors, and so much more. While flawed in its script and uneven story, the film stands strong with its fast pace, crazy comedy, and powerful martial arts action (that deserves 5 stars itself) offering a fantastic team-up with Sammo Hung and Alan Tam in top form, and lots of memorable moments...

Overall: Fast-paced, funny, and featuring some of my favourite Sammo Hung fight scenes, Pantyhose Hero is well worth the watch and a lot of fun!

DVD Extras: Trailers