Forbidden Arsenal (1991)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-09-18
“Forbidden Arsenal”, one of the continuing adventures of Inspector Yeung has our heroine on the trail of arms smugglers from the Mainland. A PRC police officer has infiltrated the smugglers and another officer from Taiwan has penetrated another part of the gang. When both of them are pulled in a bureaucratic turf war erupts. Hui Siu-Hung, playing his usual harried police commander, is outraged that they are operating in his jurisdiction without so much as a “by your leave” and is ready to send them back to their homelands in handcuffs when his commissioner tells him to let them work in Hong Kong.

Do Siu-Chun as Hua Zhi Yong the PRC officer tries to defend his status in the Crown Colony by telling them that the leader of the operation is a Hong Kong resident but goes too far and winds up giving an over the top speech more suited to the mainland which amuses his listeners. Waise Lee, as Chen Ao Qun, the Taiwanese, seems more interested in pornography and in trying to seduce Madam Yeung. Since Cynthia Khan plays her with her usual imperturbable efficiency we know there isn’t much chance of his succeeding.

The movie begins promisingly, if unoriginally, with a quick shootout followed by a fight between Cynthia Khan and a desperado on the top of a speeding truck but not much happens afterwards to hold our interest. The criminals do everything wrong, getting hundreds of dollars from a robbery that they thought would net millions, shipping all their guns back to the Mainland so they have to set up a small arms factory in Hong Kong, fighting among themselves and almost getting caught several times. That they are almost caught is because the Hong Kong police are even less competent than they, always showing up at the wrong place, just a big too late, without enough firepower or otherwise failing in their duty.

There are a few laughs, or at least a few scenes that are supposed to be funny and that don’t make one cringe. The comedy bits have been done before—a long time before: the gaucheries of country bumpkins in the metropolis were described by Virgil—but they can still be funny if done right which many of them are here. Hua is the rube from the sticks with no understanding of the more advanced way that things are done in Hong Kong. When he puts cans of food in the microwave (Inspector Yeung has been assigned to keep an eye on the two interlopers so naturally she brings them home with her) something we can expect to happen, we are distracted by another country vs. city conflict. Hua squats on a couch to eat next to Chen who is seated. They bicker about that—squatting is natural and builds muscles, only a slob would squat when he should sit--until Madam Yeung comes in, asks what is in the microwave. Getting her answer she jumps behind the couch with Chen close behind her. The appliance doesn’t just burn but explodes and is hurled through the air into the living room. Recovering, Inspector Yeung tells Hua that he will be billed for the ruined oven and he laments that it will cost him a year’s salary. The sequence, which consisted of several jokes, one overlapping the next and none of which were original or surprising ,showed how the most shopworn bits can work if they are done flamboyantly and with confidence.

Most of the attempts at humor don’t work—carcasses of dead horses litter the screenplay and the characters continue to beat them for far too long. For example a television shop showing a fight in the Taiwanese Parliament on several screens might have been funny if it were in the background of a scene but not as it was used, simply as a way for Hua and Chen to argue while Inspector Yeung looked on in exasperation.

What “Forbidden Arsenal” does have going for it is Cynthia Khan. She was active, fit and physically committed to her role. As a special treat her fans (of which I am one) are treated to a scene of her partially disrobing—she just removes a bulky sweatshirt to reveal a very modest chemise beneath but it is a still delightful scene. The costume designers did a good job, outfitting her in a succession of very tight fitting slacks or very short skirts with form following function—she looked great and wasn’t hampered in delivering her signature kicks. One sequence was almost surreal. In it Yeung encountered the leader of the smugglers on the campus of Hong Kong University and gave chase. She was wearing a skirt and sweater and a very long, bright red coat which billowed behind her as she ran, jumped and almost flew. It would make sense, of course, for her to ditch the coat—it certainly would slow her down and probably get in the way if she did catch the guy. But she didn’t and it was so brilliantly red and flowed behind her so gracefully that she could have been a new super heroine. At one point during the sequence the bad guy rolled trash barrels at her—the campus had all the requisite props—and she jumped over three of them, on after the other, with a hurdling form like Jackie Joyner-Kersey, all of it emphasized by that cape-like coat.

Recommended only for Cynthia Khan fans
Reviewer Score: 5