"You know I'm scary!"
- the late Grandma Four
A movie released in 2001. ('2001' as a title was taken).
Vincent Kok, Chi-kin Kwok, Kam-Yuen Szeto, Wilson Yip.
Nicholas Tse as Tide, hero.
Stephen Fung as Wind aka Fung, sidekick.
Kar-Ying Law as Paper Chan, mentor.
Rain Li as Rain, sidekick's love interest.
Sam Lee as Sam, first-reel sidekick.
Danielle Graham as Nurse Danielle, hero's love interest.
Anya as Fire Ghost, villain's love interest.
Alex Fong as Water Ghost, villain.
Kung-fu, action, comedy, romance, fantasy, science-fiction, you name it, it's in there.
Soundtrack: 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks in both the original Cantonese and a Mandarin dub.
Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese.
Aspect ratio: 16:9, non-anamorphic.
Length: 1hr 37m.
Extras: Character bios (virtually illegible!), trailer, "Making-of" feature (Chinese only).
(This review based on watching the Cantonese 5.1 track with English subtitles).
Tide is the sole living member of Division 2002 of the Hong Kong Police Department. Born with the power to see and communicate with ghosts, Tide and his deceased partner, Sam, are the policers of the Hong Kong afterlife. Think Ghostbusters but with long leather jackets, kung-fu, and a healthy dose of Chinese spiritualism.
It's re-incarnation season, though (didn't know there was a season for it, did you?) and Sam's off to begin a new life. (Naturally this is represented by a shot of Sam swimming the breaststroke through what one assumes is a fallopian tube). Tide needs a new partner! Luckily it turns out that a local traffic-cop, Wind, also has the sixth sense, so he becomes 2002's newest recruit.
But is it any good?
It's great! Only the coldest of hearts wouldn't be warmed by this movie - only the frowniest of frowns would remain... frowny.
Nicholas Tse and Stephen Fung are re-united, post Gen-X Cops, and they work really well together. Sam Lee is also a Gen-X Cops veteran and he's fun to watch but is only in the first five minutes or so. Kar-Ying Law does a perfectly respectable turn as dual mentor/comic-relief. No-one else has very much to do, really - the girls just have to look pretty, and the villains have to look menacing.
The central ghostly concept of the movie is a lot of fun. I'd guess it's firmly based on Chinese spiritualism rather than more familiar (to me) Western notions. There's a lot of things that seemed novel to me (guns loaded with human blood to kill ghosts, 'vision drops' to render ghosts visible, 'touch gloves' to render them tangible) which might be perfectly standard fare in Chinese ghost-busting movies; I don't know.
Tide: Vision Drops, so spirits will appear. Halves the ghost's power. But you only have five minutes.
Fung: Why five and not six?
Tide: How would I know? Why so many questions? Why are you a guy? Why are you named Fung?
The background seemed so thoroughly thought-out, in fact, that I found myself thinking it must be based on some previously-established fiction. I wondered if this movie was based on a TV series, or a book, or comic, but I did some digging and it appears to stand alone. (Alas! I wanted more.)
The most striking thing about this movie is that it has such a lot of heart. There are some genuinely touching moments throughout, as Tide helps people on their way into the afterlife. There's a number of laugh-out-loud comedy moments; some beautiful slapstick, some genuinely witty dialogue. The two love stories are both very lightly handled, so that you care about the characters but aren't drowned in sentiment.
My only real criticism is of the fight-scenes. Having been spoiled rotten by the incredible choreography in Jackie Chan movies and suchlike, the fights in this just aren't up to scratch. They're reasonably fun to watch, but they aren't really impressive.
The thing is, though, the poor fight scenes don't really matter. There's only a few of them anyway. This movie isn't about fighting; it's about people.
You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll wonder what the hell's going on and decide it probably doesn't matter! See this movie.
Sources: IMDB, watching my copy of the DVD repeatedly.
Tip: If you're having trouble finding this movie on DVD, because when you search for '2002' you get back all the films released in 2002, try searching for the actors involved, e.g. Nicholas Tse. Lots of sites let you search by actor.