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The Inspector Wears Skirts 2
(Shen yong fei hu ba wang hua, 1989)

Wellson Chin Sing-Wai

Hong Kong

91 min, color, Cantonese (English subtitles)

Review © 2007 Branislav L. Slantchev

Given the box-office smash hit that The Inspector Wears Skirts turned out to be, little wonder then that the ink on critical abuse (which normally accompanies financially successful films) had not dried yet before Wellson Chin started on a sequel. Most of the cast returns with the regrettable exception of Ellen Chan who did much to make the sagging middle of the original more bearable. On the other hand, the director has now enlisted the help of four newcomers to the series two of whom will have a somewhat special role: Joey (May Lo Mei-Mei) will get to thrash Chan Daat-Gong for the eminently worthy, if fantastic, cause of affirming feminine superiority in martial arts, and Amy Yip Ji-Mei will get to be the object of simultaneous lust (by the men) and jealousy (by the women) on account of her visibly superior assets in the upper part of the body.

Dreams like these mean this girl has serious 'issues' My award plaque is bigger than your puny award plaque

Plotwise, this is basically a rehash of the first film except we get even fewer real fights (bitch-slapping in the cafeteria does not count) and a lot more "humor." Unfortunately, the comedy is mostly of the toilet variety. Doubly unfortunately, it is literally so. For example, there's a gag where the gals wrap up some shit and then set it on fire next to the beds of the raw recruits. The disoriented victims of the practical joke wake up and start stomping, or, in Amy's case sitting (!), on the burning packages to put the fire out. Naturally, the get shit all over them. Hahahaha! Sublime comedy. There are other gags that are slightly less gross (and therefore could be counted as comedic) but the humor never rises above someone getting hit in the face with a cream pie or, cultural nod to the Chinese, medium tofu. The problem is that this is about 80% of the film right there.

The quarter of newcomers ready to be hazed Regina Kent in pout mode with Kara Hui being envious

There are some funny bits though, and they mostly have to do with the competition between the original squad and the newcomers. Hazing, it turns out, is not a male monopoly. I was particularly partial to the behavior that one would normally associate with guys (and usually to disparage it). Namely, establishing the alpha (fe)male. In this case, the four new girls, having been duped into lugging around sandbags, decide to correct the expectations of the old gals by behaving obnoxiously, constantly challenging them, and occasionally fighting for dominance. It's not as bad as it sounds in the sense that it's all quite good-humored (this is not a WIP flick), but again the idea of "let's show 'em who's boss" in this context is not what one would normally expect from the stereotypically female "let's communicate and resolve our differences" approach. I, for one, found this refreshing. Your mileage may vary depending on whether you happen to believe, like I do, that women placed in tense situations would tend to react in the same way as men.

Caused by tofu-based diet Inspection reveals dress code irregularities

The other little tidbit of hilarity was that women, like men, are also competitive on size. As in cup-size rather than body size. The busty Amy immediately attracts the attention of her female squad-mates who proceed to play a series of nasty jokes at her expense; the clincher being convincing her that wearing the bullet-proof vest would flatten her breasts, which causes her to cut holes in it! (Never mind that the bullet-proof vest should be scissors-proof as well.) One wonders whether all that blood that circulates around her breast has caused oxygen deprivation of Susanna's (Amy's character) brain. The point, however, is clear: women (again, just like men) can be viciously competitive, especially when it comes to something that is considered important to the opposite sex. (And indeed, Amy's rack is a huge hit with the juvenile Flying Tigers Squad members.) Whether this should be taken as an insight into the female psyche or as the inevitable result of the script being written by two hormone-crazed guys, must be left to the viewer to decide.

Nowadays this will lead to a sexual harassment lawsuit Amy Yip applying the advantages of her superior assets

As in the first film, there's the obligatory musical number which is exceeded in its ineptness only by the atrocity perpetrated by the so-called "dancing" actors. The embarrassment, however, does not stop there. There is a genuinely painful part where Billy Lau is forced to get naked in front of the girls and bathe in a small wash basin. This was an unusual punishment for peeping at the girls showering and it was also cruel to the audience. Nobody needs to see Billy Lau naked. The guy gets his comeuppance for being a dick and unlike the vicious beating in the original film, this time the girls have mellowed so they only get to sneer at his manhood. This was not daring film-making. If he was made to be well-hung, then it would have been daring. As it was, the whole scene plays so predictably that it would have been totally boring had it not been so embarrassing.

This is where the movie became a horror burlesque Billy Lau examines the tiny whirlpools caused by running water in the girls' shower room

As usual with these films, I am not sure just what to make of the fact that females play the leading roles. On the surface, this would seem to be a good thing. I like strong women and I enjoy seeing them being competent and deadly. Of course, their competence would have mattered much more had it not been presented as just a tad above that of the Flying Tigers who put the male species to shame with their adolescent antics. It's as if the film-makers did not dare present women who can hold their own against men who are not some buffoons. To add insult to injury, they also implicitly lobotomize each girl that falls in love with one of these dudes. Like Amy (Sandra Ng) who can't help it but pine for that idiot Nan (Billy Lau) despite the latter's unwavering attention to Susanna's tits and apparently inexhaustible ability to be offensive (as in shower-peeping). Now, we are led to believe that the guy actually likes her too, it's his immature way of showing it. As if that would make her being blind to all his faults ok. I am not even going to go into Sibelle Hu's character falling for Stanley Fung. Only in an alternate dimension can this happen.

Gratuitous shot of Sibelle Hu Varying reactions to the display of the Flying Tiger's parts protected by international convention

Breasts is not the only thing on which these girls compete. If cup-size jokes are not sufficient to rivet your attention, then perhaps the sport trophy comparisons would. (Yes, here also size matters.) If that is not enough, then perhaps the team competition in which Tigers have to pair with Banshees (the name of the girls' squad) and cooperate in order to win. Naturally, some Tigers behave very macho, which apparently means dragging your female partner in a most ungentlemanly fashion. Some girls, on the other hand, let their competitiveness take the better of them, and it is thusly that Kara Hui and Tiffany Lau end up losing despite winning. As I said, some serious insights into team work and the importance of overcoming one's personal ambition in order to enable one's team to function better. I knew none of that, and was scribbling down these ideas for future reference whenever I have to compete with a pretty female partner.

The real humiliation is that there was no shampoo Competition for the affections of the woman

So philosophical profundity is not enough either? How about some good old battle of the sexes. And not with that modern pansified contest of wits but with the good old beating each other senseless? Naturally, the gals bulldoze the guys and even though the triumph is marred slightly by the fact that said guys were instructed to pull their punches, by the end it's clear that the girls would have trounced them anyway. Why? Well, because they have rage on their side. Remember Evil Emperor Injunction #1? "Release your anger!" It works: Amy and Nan get into a stalemate after many bruises, and Regina pummels Fung Shut-Fung despite the latter being the best of the bunch. This success is only explained by his dastardly attempt to pulverize her despite them being in love and despite having promised to go easy on her (she's not the best athlete, as you might have guessed). This pisses her off mightily. The rest is a pelting which must have caused great pain to the stunt double.

Girlfriends can be such a drag This top I have no idea how to unclasp

This takes us 90% into the film and it is only near the end that all that practice gets used for real. A bunch of terrorists free Jeffrey Falcon who you should recall the girls mauled in the first installment. They then manage to kidnap the anti-terrorist expert Mr Lo (Melvin Wong Gam-San) who is apparently Cynthia Rothrock's replacement. This should have been good news for Stanley Fung who did not exactly like his competition for the affections of Sibelle Hu. However, duty triumphs over the fear of being outclassed in amorous affairs and they go in to rescue him. We have a nice fight in which Sibelle finally gets to kick around a bit and there are some pretty impressive stunts (e.g., Erica Roe's fight in the inflatable boat). Generally, a lot of stunt men fall on hard surfaces, and we cheer because we know it's all real.

Regina Kent gets "hell hath no fury" on poor Fung Shut-Fung Stanley Fung's plan of getting spanked by his rival finally pays off

The acting is not going to win any of the actors or actresses involved any awards. If they are lucky, it won't permanently disqualify them from future acting jobs either. Although Sibelle Hu had the occasional glimmer of emotion, she mostly has to portray a drill sergeant, and the range of expressions for that is pretty slim. Regina Kent spends her time pouting and looking cute, which in my book means she performed extremely well. Kara Hui gets less screen time and this is a loss, especially for the fight scenes. Of the men, the less said the better. Overall, a slightly disappointing sequel that is still entertaining enough not to make you regret you spent 90 minutes watching it. The fact that it is so damn good-natured is also a plus. However, the 1980s music and fashion styles nearly trump every positive aspect.

All terrorists are white men You can get these from Radio Shack

The Deltamac DVD is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the picture quality, while fair, is worse than the Universe DVD for the first film. There is a visible greenish cast (removed in the screen caps), and on my big screen the compression artifacts were all too noticeable. It's also interlaced, making my task with the screen caps doubly difficult. The Dolby Digital Stereo Cantonese soundtrack sounds a bit hollow but it's not too bad. The optional English subtitles are readable and are basically what we've come to expect from these films. The extras are limited to a trailer and, if you count that, a reversible cover. With this DVD now OOP, I am glad I have it for it's highly unlikely that we shall see it released again in the near future.

January 21, 2007