Dragon Loaded 2003 (2003)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2010-03-30
Some humor travels well, transcends national boundaries and language barriers while remaining funny. Other attempts at comedy are local and simply don’t work beyond their local area. A pratfall or a pie in the face doesn’t need words; Harold Lloyd hanging from the clock face in “Safety Last” or Jacques Tati delivering a kick to the well padded backside of an overbearing petit-bourgeois in “M. Hulot’s Holiday" will work in any language or none at all. There is a lot of this in “Dragon Loaded 2003”, none of it very memorable, for example when Ronald Cheng runs after a fleeing robber and winds up entangled in a bicycle rack.

Puns, plays on words or double entendres aren’t funny in any language other than the original. They are not only based on spoken words but are almost always ephemeral, rooted in the slang and idioms not only of their places but their times as well. We see this often in the Cantonese humor of Hong Kong movies where a word will be substituted for one that sounds like it but means something else entirely. “Dragon Loaded 2003” is full of riddles, most of which elicit groans or even anger the hearers but some are incomprehensible to that part of the audience who don’t understand Cantonese. An example is an exchange between Cheng and another character that involves the unpopularity of credit cards in Thailand. The answer seems to be a play on the word card in Thai as translated into Cantonese—or something like that. It is an instance in which one thinks “That might be funny” but doesn’t know if it is or not.

It is clear that Ronald Cheng wanted to take on the mantle of Stephen Chaiu, a mistake since it both detracted from the impact of this film and kept Cheng’s own comedic genius well hidden. He has excellent timing, is physically very limber and owns a mobile face and looks good in air hostess drag or while trading punches and kicks with a bad guy. Cheng does well given the limitations of the role and his approach to it. Helping is the strong cast of excellent comic actors that surround him including his buddies who are even more hapless than he. One of them, for example, wants to use a voodoo doll with the face of their cadet instructor pasted on to disable the instructor but only accomplishes harming himself when he sticks a pin through the doll and into this hand.

The reliable and almost always funny Eric Tsang is the commanding officer for Cheng and his two layabout fellow cadets. He puts Cheng in charge of the public toilet at police headquarters to embarrass him into quitting and does everything possible to thwart the romance between Chang and the lovely cadet trainee Stephy Ting, his daughter. The role for Miriam Yeung, a midlevel commander who winds up saddled with Cheng and friends, seems to be to look fetching in her police uniform which she does. Dang Chi-Fung, the exasperated to the point of insanity main training officer, has a number of predictable but still funny comic turns. Steven Fung as a recruiting officer manages to be credible while describing signing up for the Hong Kong Police as not that different from being impressed into the crew of the British Navy ship during the 18th century. Michelle Yim added a bit of mature sexy pizzaz as Eric Tsang’s wife. Jim Shu is a goofy and very inept kidnapper/drug dealer while Brian Ireland brings a pitch perfect sleaziness as the gwiello police commander.

There is a lot of talent on display in “Dragon Loaded 2003” but it never really comes together. Since it is trying to do the impossible—create a new Cantonese comic actor to fill the shoes of Stephen Chaiu—it misses what it could have been, a funny Hong Kong screwball comedy
Reviewer Score: 4