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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

QUN LONG XI FENG / PEDICAB DRIVER (1989)

Cinematic agnostics to Asian Martial Arts pics, with their hyped-up chases, flying acrobatic fights & OTT sound design, may find a path to genre appreciation thru the form’s comic side. (When played straight, especially with today’s CGI nullifying physical limitations, emotional investment becomes Super Hero pic pointless.) Hence, in the tradition of agile funny fat men going back to Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, here’s Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, a Hong Kong force-of-nature action star little known Stateside. PEDICAB, reportedly one of his best, is crude, rude & a bit lewd, but often very funny in its broader-than-broad manner. Or is until a third act brings in unexpectedly serious consequences. Hung, not the tidiest of storytellers, drops plotlines right & left, like the war between coolies & pedicabs that opens the film with some delightful mayhem. Instead, a loose cannon of a narrative line involving Hung & his pal Pretty Boy as they court a couple of put-upon working gals with bad bosses. (Leading to a tragic turn of events the film’s tone has trouble supporting.) But with so many wildly inventive, funny, dazzling stunt-filled capers, you’re happy just going along for the ride. Subtle it ain’t, but strikingly drawn characters and Hung’s brio as unlikely action hero/director carry us thru all sorts of comic business and turf-wars. Sloppy, but winning.

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