Magic Cop (1990)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2009-05-05
“Magic Cop” announces its theme right away when Lin (the cuter than cute Wong Mei-Wa) tells Uncle Fung that he is more a Taoist priest than a cop. This is immediately after Fung averted a disastrous insult to the spirit world when his auntie accidentally doused a fire she was using to send gifts for the dead to bribe spirit officials. Lam Ching-Ying is at the top of his game as he uses figures cut from yellow-paper prayers, a special medallion he wears around his neck and a quickly assembled miniature model of an altar to keep the peace between the visible and the invisible worlds. Fung responds in his no-nonsense vampire killing way that both cops and priests serve the people. And with that superbly played perfectly shot and very entertaining 90 seconds we are off on another adventure.

We next see how ordinary cops--those without Fung's powers--aren't able to deal with a sudden surprise. The Hong Kong police have taken over a bar--really taken it over. The entire staff--piano player, waiters, bartenders--are undercover police officers as are many of the customers. This huge deployment of manpower is set to trap a drug courier who is expected to make a drop at the bar. An attractive but withdrawn young woman comes in. She is probably the only person there who doesn't draw a paycheck from the police so she must be the target. The difficulty that arises with which the assembled officers can't cope is that she is dead. She is also under the control of an unseen power who has animated her and who guides her actions as she literally walks away from the ambush, dragging Sgt 2337 behind her. When she finally encounters a force more formidable than her undead self--a runaway trash hauler that smashes her into a fire hydrant--the sergeant and his superior officer are mainly concerned with the bureaucratic details, such as the proper wording of the report. This takes missing the big picture to a whole new level.

Luckily for the two of them Officer Fung is in town. Sgt 2337 and Officer Lam are quickly established as a mismatched pair of buddies for him and his credibility is established when Commander Mu rolls through the squad room. He greets Fung who all but ignores him, and then Ma propitiates Fung in a meeting in his office with the two younger cops in attendance.

The real enemy is the evil sorceress Nishiwaki Michiko who is closely attended by an extremely fey Billy Chow. They make quite a pair with her ability to cause action at a distance and use the dead for her purposes. Chow’s supernatural powers are kept in reserve for most of the film but his jaw-dropping athleticism and martial arts skill are nicely displayed. Nishiwaki is a worthy opponent of the imperturbable Fung and her powers showcased very well by the stunts and special effects. Fung uses the unconscious Sgt 2337 to draw a map following Eddie, an employee of the sorceress. She isn't pleased with Eddie and kills him by strangling a cat. Impressive witchcraft.

Fung turns the tables by reanimating the newly dead Eddie but the sorceress regains control and they have a proxy battle using Eddie's corpse and Sgt 2337, once again made unconscious but useful by a Taoist spell. Fung and the two cops then face off with Eddie in a pitched battle in the morgue (where else) but the final showdown with the forces of evil is yet to come since the unfortunate Eddie was just a distraction thrown into their path.

Fung transcends most of the conflict in the movie since he embodies both the practical, sensible cop and the supernatural priest in touch with the unseen although everyone else seethes with it. Officer Lam, who has fallen for Fung niece, Lin, is interested only in what he can see and touch while Sgt 2337 accepts unconditionally everything Fung says. Commander Ma knows a lot more about the reticent Fung than he is willing to tell the other officers (or the audience) but is able to cajole him into using a very powerful set of spells that Ma somehow has possession of. And of course there is the resourceful Taoist against the always resilient forces of disorder and chaos.

There is much to recommend "Magic Cop"--it is a sterling example of the sub-genre. Nishiwaki Michiko is delightfully deranged while Billy Chow is perfectly cast as her loyal to the death assistant with a shocking secret. Wu Ma is crafty and clever, able to manipulate everyone around him from his wheelchair and Lam Ching-Ying is Lam Ching-Ying. He was an absolute master of this character. The only real problem is that the plan behind all the black magic used by the sorceress is dealing illegal drugs which takes some of the supernatural edge off the proceedings.

Highly recommended.
Reviewer Score: 9