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審死官 (1992)
Justice, My Foot!

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/14/2007
Summary: 8/10 - good if you're a Chiau fan

Sung Sai Kit (Stephen Chiau) is a quick-witted and sharp-tongued lawyer in some undefined period of Chinese history. His talents enable him to win any case, regardless of the guilt of his client, but his unscrupled approach to his work seems to have cursed his children to an early death. His wife (Anita Mui) makes him to swear that he will never practise law again, and he reluctantly makes an oath. When she meets a young widow who claims her husband was killed by her greedy in-laws, she wants to help and persuades him to take one last case. Since the widow's in-laws happen to be related to an important official, he will have to battle corruption to bring the widow justice.

"Justice, My Foot!" is a fine blend of the surreal nonsense humour that nobody does like Stephen Chiau with a pretty good story and some strong characters that generate actual emotion. There's also a bit of action from. It's well directed by Johnny To and nicely lensed by Peter Pau. It was the top grossing film in Hong Kong in 1992.

Whilst most of the cast are over-acting and being silly, the principle leads (Chiau and Anita Mui) show their versatility by bringing depth and complexity to their characters. They get to be silly too, but also cover a wide range of emotions with their sometimes subtle performances (particularly Anita Mui, who is fantastic here).

It's a mistake to try to characterise the humour in a Stephen Chiau film as purely 'mo lei tau' or 'slapstick' - the humour in the film runs the range from outrageous slapstick and literal fart gags to the trademark wordplay that is presumed largely lost on a gweilo like me (I can spot odd pieces that the subtitles clearly weren't even bothering to try and translate) and some quite clever and subtle gags. It's actually rather sophisticated comedy, even whilst it's being incredibly low-brow. It's also a mistake to purely class the film as "comedy", as there is a warmth and humanity that transcends genre. What makes Stephen Chiau such a great film-maker is that he isn't pinned down by his 'style', unique as it is (even before he was officially writing and directing, it was very noticable that Stephen Chiau films were much more like other Stephen Chiau films than they were like the other film of his various writers and directors)

JUSTICE, MY FOOT! is very much a Stephen Chiau film, which means you probably know whether or not you're going to like it if you're reading this review - you just want to know how it compares with his other films. Not his best, not his worst, but certainly worth a watch if you like this style of film. Get the new DVD from Celestial - looks and sounds good, and I think the subtitles are a little better.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 08/14/2002

There are 2 extremely sad parts about this movie. First, Leung Kar Yan is wasted in this piece of crap. Second, this piece of crap was the highest grossing movie of the year, easily beating out Swordsman 2, King of Beggars, OUATIC 2, and other great work.

This movie is unbelievably bad. It's definitely one of Chow's worst I've ever seen. The story makes very little sense. It's just too damn unrealistic. And there's barely any funny moment. The same old gags from previous films pop up, and they are so frigging lame. Like many of Chow's movies, this movie offers some commentary to politics, which is nice, but it is far from enough to save this movie.

So what was the movie about, let's see... it opens up with Stephen Chow as a bad guy, defending a bad guy in court, followed by Chow's kids dying. So from there his wife forbids him to do any more court work. But by chance a woman's brother sells her to a friend, and it just so happens that her husband had been murdered (or poisoned) by some other relatives, and these relatives happen to be the siblings of an official (Leung Kar Yan). Leung gets forced into protecting them. He is quite funny at times, but it's just too painful to put up with watching him in this crappy role. LKY is special, and this kind of role could have been played by anyone. That just doesn't cut it.

So anyway, Stephen Chow gets to defend this poor woman, where of course he has to go through hell to prove things. And that's what the rest of the movie is about, pretty much.


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 08/09/2002
Summary: not for gweilos

1992 could be seen as the last true year of Hong Kong's filmic "golden age": the juggernaut of Jurassic Park had not hit local cinemas, and HK film-makers were still riding the wave of success that A Better Tommorrow had ushered in. The year was especially fortutious for Stephen Chow -- all of the top five films in HK were ones that he appeared in, with Justice, My Foot! being the top draw for the year. Ironically, though, it is probably the reasons why the movie was so popular with local audiences that it often fails to impress western viewers -- this one included.

Chow stars as a lawyer known for his fast-talking ways and ability to win any case regardless whether his clients are really guilty or not. His wife (Anita Mui) doesn't like all the bad karma that might become of this, so she persuades him to retire (or, as the subtitles put it, "seal his brush"). Of course, this doesn't last very long, as he is drawn into a case featuring a widow (Carrie Ng) who is accused of murder.

Though this is a pretty simple plot, it really doesn't translate well to western viewers. Enjoyment (or even just understanding) of the film is fairly dependent on one's knowledge of Chinese law, both old and new. When you thrown in Chow's usual Asian pop-culture/historical references, along with a heavy dose of Cantonese wordplay (even moreso than most Chow movies) and poorly translated subtitles, it can be a bit confusing to say the least. I will admit that a lot of the jokes probably went straight over my head due to lingustic and cultural differences; an instance where even an admittedly "fanboy-ish" attitude towards Stephen Chow's usually hilarious body of work could not cut through the barriers Justice, My Foot! presents to the gweilo (foreign) viewer.

This is not to say that there is not anything to enjoy in a viewing of Justice, My Foot!. As with most Stephen Chow movies, the supporting cast really shines, and manages to ursurp Chow in parts. Ng Man-Tat is funny as a beleagured (and very flatulent) judge, and Anita Mui steals the show at points with her portrayal of Chow's wife. Though best known for playing solemn and dour characters, she puts in an excellent performance and really shows a flair of comedy. Aided by Ching Siu-Tung's usual strong stunt work, she looks fairly formidable during the film's action bits as well.

Technically, Justice, My Foot! is also a well-done movie. Under the direction of cinematographer Peter Pau, the movie looks really good, and the sets and costumes are also very nice. Johnnie To's direction meanders in parts (he seems better suited to the more under-stated comedy featured in his later films), but for the most part, it's solid, with good pacing and decent performances from even the most minor actors.

However, all of this still cannot overcome the basic barriers the story presents. This is not really the fault of anyone involved with the movie -- I doubt a story about a lawyer in New England in the 1800's would translate well to Asian audiences -- but, still, I cannot give Justice, My Foot! anything other than a mild recommendation, just for the simple fact that most westerners wouldn't "get it". You can say what you want about how films translate across languages and cultures, but there are simply some that do not and cannot be truly enjoyed by everyone. Justice, My Foot! does generate a few laughs, but the average western viewer would probably be better off sticking with something like Royal Tramp or Forbidden City Cop if they want to check out a period Stephen Chow movie.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 01/19/2002
Summary: Ok-ish

Well this movie reminds me a lot of
but unfortunately this is not as good as it.

The basic structure is very close to HAIL THE JUDGE, the beginning shows how good a lawyer Chow Sing Chi is, then the middle part sets up the ending. Unfortauntely the ending is no where as good as HAIL THE JUDGE. And the middle, just bored me!!

I am a big Chow Sing Chi fan but this is not one of his better works. Anita mui does well in her role but the story just isn't that funny.


Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

Stephen plays a lawyer trying to save an innocent widow who has been framed in court. This was the first Stephen Chow movie I watched, and it's probably not a good introductory movie, as so much of the humour here is driven by Chow's linguistic virtuosity. Still, it's good fun, and Anita Mui, as usual, almost steals the movie.

Reviewed by: senordingdong
Date: 06/07/2001
Summary: Too many literal jokes and play on words

I didn't find this movie very funny. Maybe it's because I didn't understand many of the play on word jokes, but I barely laughed. Many of the visual jokes are either distasteful or disgusting. (Chow drinks human breast milk, a dirty diper is thrown in a guard's face) While Chow is very quick witted portraying a councillor, this movie isn't his best. The movie drags on at the beginning, and doesn't really pick up until half way through the movie.


Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

This period comedy starts Steven Chieu as ingeniousCouncillor Sung Shih-Chieh and lovely Anita Mui as his pregnant kung fu wife, as they uncover the political conspiracy behind a death by poisoning. For the most part, the jokes are exasperating and exhausting, but the movie is partially redeemed by its farting jokes, Anita Mui's flying kung fu wizardry (which there should be more of), and a brilliant courtroom scene where Chieu must simultaneously clear an innocent girl of a murder, implicate the guilty parties (who have bribed the judges), and prove each member of the tribunal guilty of conspiracy -- a scene yielding no less than five plot twists in ten minutes!


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 7