Karl Mak(a) was undoubtedly and influential director and producer, and Hong Kong Cinema is probably somewhat the better for his influence... but I have to admit the man does annoy me. He was one of the people primarily responsible for the "stupid people pulling funny faces" brand of comedy that blighted far too many HK movies.
Reviewer Score: 5
BY HOOK OR BY CROOK is one of Maka's movies as director, and it falls firmly into the "stupid people/stupid faces" genre of films. I probably would have had no interest, were it not for the fact it stars Sammo Hung - not entirely unresponsible for this peculiarly Cantonese brand of comedy himself. No movie with Sammo in is ever going to be truly awful though, even if he does share lead duties with Dean Shek - possibly the man with the most stupid and annoying face in the whole of Hong Kong's history.
The movie has Dean Shek framed by Karl Maka then sent on a mission to track down and apprehend a thief called The Flower Kid. He finds him easily enough, but finds that he's not the only person looking for him. In order to collect his reward, he has to get him to prison alive. This is a rather kind assessment of the plot, which in practise is rather muddled and doesn't make a lot of sense. It's basically just strings together a series of sketches and a little bit of action.
The comedy in the movie is definitely very low brow and crude, but does actually manage to be quite funny several times. The plot is not the most coherent, but is actually a little bit of an original take on the Kung Fu Movie archetype.
The action is always the main reason to watch a Sammo movie though, and unfortunately BHOBC is a little disappointing in that respect. There are a few fights throughout, but nothing particularly special until Sammo has a showdown with the godly Chung Faat - this fight alone is good enough reason for Sammo fans to pick up the movie, though it's still no classic.
Taking the movie as a whole, there's little reason to recommend it but it is watchable and somewhat entertaining. Worth seeing, but shouldn't be too high on anybody's priority lists.
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