You are currently displaying Big5
Lawyer, Lawyer

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 04/30/2006

The Hong Kong film industry missed an important opportunity in the late 1990s and early in the first decade of this century. The extreme drop-off in box office revenues for movies from the Special Administrative Region could have been avoided if the producers had simply done something that was well within their power but for some reason wasn’t considered—or if considered was not implemented. With the advantage of hindsight, of course, it is clear what had to be done but in the everyday cut and thrust of getting movies made, distributed and exhibited while dealing with the encroachments of other media, the rise of digital piracy from just across the border and the general malaise following the takeover it just wasn’t an option. The obvious plan would have been to put either Karen Mok or Chingmy Yau (or both) into every movie released. There could have been plenty of special stock footage shot of the two actresses in front of blue screens for insertion into films in which they didn’t actually appear before the camera. However, looking at the filmographies of the two, they each could have done four times as many movies in the traditional way of showing up, getting into costume, delivering dialogue, shooting guns, blowing stuff up and always looking drop dead gorgeous while doing so.

“Lawyer, Lawyer” is one example of a movie that, while almost criminally underusing the talents of Karen Mok and Chingmy Yau, is made significantly better by their truncated presence. It is far from Stephen Chow’s best work although the combined comic genius of Chow, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers and Mel Brooks couldn’t have made this pasted together script consistently funny. “Lawyer, Lawyer” tries to be extremely silly possibly in the manner of the best of the Abrams/Proft comedies of the 1980s. But those movies succeeded, at least in part, by a non-stop flood of jokes and sight gags and the way that the characters in the movies reacted—or more importantly, didn’t react—to the chaos around them. Chow and company just don’t have enough material—it’s OK if a joke or three doesn’t work as long as there are ten thousand or so more funny bits on the way. The first eight minutes, for example, is essentially one long (much too long) urine/feces/anus joke that has a few inspired touches—the King of the Beggars thinking that Chow is a ghost because of his odd Western glasses for example, but it stops being funny long before it is over.

Introducing the Beggars guild and the bit with the glasses is also an indication of some of the structural problems with the film. The beggars are introduced, given a lot of screen time and then dropped until a quick and not very important appearance much later on. Chow’s glasses—which, while outrageous looking are not the strangest looking pair of spectacles on view—are no more than a funny prop which isn’t funny after the first time the audience sees them. Based on the reaction of the beggars to the glasses one would expect to see themes involving the countryside vs. the city (the action goes from Guangdong to Hong Kong) but the main conflict is between the newly arrived British colonizers and the Chinese—it is set in 1898. This makes sense in that the movie was released one year after the Takeover and ninety-nine years after the first takeover. The British are shown as both rule-bound and illogical, with no feeling for the people over whom they now (in 1898) rule, possibly like the new rulers from the PRC who arrived the year that “Lawyer, Lawyer” hit the screens.

Chingmy Yau plays Lotus Shui although the credits could have read “the part of the flower vase was taken by....” A puppeteer in a traveling show—a show with a plot on a par with this movie—she is an immediate target of both the predatory Chow and the bumbling Eric Kot. She is given very little to do while onscreen—not always a bad choice with this actress—but then disappears for most of the movie. Karen Mok’s role as Chow’s wife is frustratingly full of missed opportunities. She is basically along for the ride, serving as the secondary foil for Chow—Kot is the primary straight man. There is even a set up for a scene in which she would be forced to deliver the final summation of a capital case against Kot because Chow has gotten himself locked up for contempt, but after setting things into motion for her, the director simply decides to drop Chow back into the lead defense role. She does have one of the few genuinely funny lines when she tells a friend that while she was in England she didn’t study law, as had been the plan, she studied “fashion design”. It is anachronistically funny, of course, since if she had said she studied rocket science in 1898 it would have made as much sense, but also has a post modern quality, since (apparently) there is no term as such for fashion design in Cantonese—at least on the DVD she said it in English. This line was repeated often enough that it became tiresome but at least it was humorous the first time. Most of the jokes that were used over and over again were terrible on first appearance and got worse.

I assume the anti-Indian images—that they are smelly, duplicitous and don’t mind eating chicken pulled from someone’s rectum—made sense locally nine years ago but it certainly didn’t travel well.

Worth missing.

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/25/2004

Having talent like Stephen Chow's is a double-edged sword. It allows you to get away with a bit of dodgy film-making, but at the same time, fans expect more from you than from your "average" actor. Lawyer, Lawyer was one of Stephen Chow's few mis-steps, actually bombing at the box office. But I would say that it's not a "bad" movie by any stretch of the imagination -- it's just more disappointing than anything else.

The film takes place in Guangdong shortly after the transfer of Hong Kong to the British. Stephen plays a lawyer named Chan Mong Gat who spends his days playing pranks on people, most notably his servant Ho Foon (Eric Kot). After Ho Foon meets a pretty puppeteer named Lotus Shui (Chingmy Yau), Chan plays a cruel trick that sends Ho packing to Hong Kong and leaves his recently-returned wife (Karen Mok) angry. After an altercation, Ho is framed for murder, and so Chan heads to Hong Kong to defend his friend, only to be stymied by British law and procedure.

In my review of Chow's Justice, My Foot!, I noted that perhaps most of the humor would probably be lost on Western audiences due to cultural differences. Even though the situation is somewhat similar here (both films involve Chow playing a fast-talking lawyer) the fact remains that Lawyer, Lawyer just isn't that funny. Sure, things falling out of Eric Kot's ass generates a chuckle the first time, but the joke is repeated several times throughout the movie. Even though Stephen Chow's movies feature plenty of over-the-top mugging and physical comedy, in his best films (like King of Comedy) there is a degree of subtlety to the proceedings, which is not at all present here. It seems like director/writer Joe Ma just threw everything at the viewer, hoping that something would stick. Unfortunately, nothing really does.

Woefully, the supporting cast is under-used as well. As talented as Stephen Chow is, a strong supporting cast has been key to his more successful films. A lot of Chow's movies have strong female characters, but that is not the case here. Both Karen Mok and Chingmy Yau play stereotypical "jade vase" roles. Chingmy's character, in particular, is extremely under-written -- she literally disappears for the middle portion of the film. Also, even though I am not a big fan of Eric Kot, he has proven in movies like You Shoot, I Shoot that he can actually be funny, but you wouldn't know it from his performance.

Lawyer, Lawyer is one of Stephen Chow's lesser-known movies and after a viewing, it's easy to see why. While, again, it's not a bad movie by any means, it lacks a lot of the spark and creativity of his better work. From the start, the film as a whole feels a bit flat. While there are a few funny bits here and there, Lawyer, Lawyer fails to maintain the manically funny pace of most of Stephen Chow's output.

(review from

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 02/05/2004
Summary: Better than I thought....

After initially being disappointed
with this movie it sat on the
shelf for a year. I continued to
collect and watch more of his films.

Now, I've watched this for the 3rd time
and I really liked it! I laughed at
this one more than some of his older
ones. I was surprised....even Eric Kot
wasn't so bad....maybe I'm just waiting
for "Kung Fu Hustle" to be released in


Reviewed by: mehaul
Date: 07/22/2002

Enjoyable but uneven Stephen Chow period comedy set in 1899. Not as good as many of his other works.
The movie slows in the middle and the courtroom finale lacks a big enough punch. 6.5/10

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 04/19/2002
Summary: Poor

Same old thing, same jokes which have worn off a long time ago and far from funny now. A few people here admitted to laughing once or twice, but I think I laughed even less than that!

One for Stephen Chow fans only, though even they seem to not think too much of this.

Rating: 1.5/5

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/09/2002

1997 offering from Stephen Chow, and one of the least funny movies he's ever made. Perhaps it's the absence of Ng Man-Tat, perhaps it's the choice of the majorly annoying Eric Kot as his sidekick - whatever it is, this movie just doesn't work. The production values are high, the plot adheres to the proven Chow formula and as usual Stephen assembles a good supporting cast (inclusing Karen Mok and Chingmy Yau), but the movie just doesn't get off the ground.

Set in Canton in 1899, Chow plays a lawyer who's also a known prankster. This part of the movie actually features some comedic setpieces that work (most notably a contraption involving cubicles, water and a pig's tongue...), but once the story shifts to HK, where Chow's assistant Eric Kot has been accused of murder, the movie just dies. Watch Hail the Judge or Justice, my Foot instead...

On a sidenote, the judge in the HK court is played by Paul Fonoroff -- perhaps that's what soured me on the movie. I don't mind his movie reviews (he's entitled to his opinion), nor does it bother me if he feels he wants to work as an extra in HK movies, but the guy is not an actor, and seeing him embarass himself in a fairly substantial speaking part like this (or as the British ambassador in OUATIC2) is more than I can bear, especially considering how he always decries the lack of professionalism in HK movies...

I watched the VCD, which is letterboxed with readable subtitles, as the DVD is apparently fullframe...

Reviewed by: xiaoka
Date: 06/26/2001
Summary: pretty decent

I'm a big fan of Stephen Chow's so I enjoyed this one. But its definitely not as great as some of his other films (I like the Gambler ones the most probably). It has a lot of the same elements as most his movies - smart ass character, pretty girls, simple moral, good guys win in the end - this time layed out over a courtroom drama, sort of.

I thought it worked out pretty well, although the beginning act and the ending were somewhat disjointed (although not as severly as Forbidden City Cop), and Chingmy Yau was under utilized (as not really ever being a fan of Karen Mok, I would have preferred it if Chingmy Yau and her switched roles...)

Good for a few laughs and passing a few hours.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 02/28/2001
Summary: OK

Not his best but you will get a few laughs!!


Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/09/2000

This recent Stephen Chow film again features him as a lawyer, as in Justice, My Foot. The plot is basically that Stephen Chow is a jerk with a good heart (sound familiar?) whose friend/servant runs away to Hong Kong and gets accused of murder. Chow has to defend him with the help of his wife Karen Mok.

This is not one of Chow's best films. It definitely has its moments. Chow does nonsense comedy better than almost anyone I've ever seen. However, this film never quite develops the momentum of humor that some of his best films (Flirting Scholar and Forbidden City Cop, to name two) do. Nor does it reach the truly bizarre heights that his more ambitious (and also recommended) Chinese Odyssey films manage.

It's not that it was bad, just that it wasn't all that good either. Worth renting if you've seen all of Chow's better films twice and you want something new.

Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

Stephen Chow scores yet again with this hilarious comedy in thetradition of his classics from the early 90's. He plays a nationally renowned "King of Pranks" in 19th century China. As always, he regularly humiliates and takes advantage of those around him, especially his pupil Eric Kot. When Eric is embarassed in front of the girl of his dreams, Chingmy Yau, he decides he needs to make it on his own in Hong Kong, which has just been taken over by the British. But he is soon framed for murder and it is up to fast-talking Steven Chow to defend him in court. It brings back memories of JUSTICE, MY FOOT! and HAIL THE JUDGE. The ever-annoying Eric Kot is kept in check by Chow's commanding screen presence, and Karen Mok and Bowie Lam do well in standard supporting roles. The first half of the movie is non-stop fun, while the second-half slows the pace a little. If there is any drawback to the movie, it's that Stephen follows his standard formula for laughs a little too well, giving you the feeling that you've seen this movie before. While the gags are new and unexpected (and sometimes fairly vulgar), they're still classic Chow Sing-Chi. Still, I would rather see a genius like Stephen Chow continue to create hilarious comedies than futilely try to create groundbreaking work every time out. He's more than proved himself with ambitious movies like A CHINESE ODYSSEY. As long as he keeps alternating between the two, I will continue to watch his movies.

Reviewed by: hktopten
Date: 12/21/1999

Let's get the bad out of the way. It's not Justice My Foot, not by a long shot. It's not even Hail the Judge. Every time it seems when Stephen Chow Sing Chi takes a step forward, he takes two steps back. He took one step forward with God of Cookery, now he is taking two steps back first with All's Well Ends Well 1997 and now with this Lawyer Lawyer crap. When I said crap, I mean literally crap, as in the opening scenes' immature toilet jokes, which of course, you realize, is right up my alley. Once I recognize the direction Joe Ma Wai Ho is taking this film to, I learn to turn off my brain and had a good time. However, the cast pretty much sleepwalks through the roles, and like Sing Ye's previous recent films, the cameos stole the film. Karen Mok Man Wai's role is a clone of Anita Mui Yim Fong's in Justice My Foot, except it just isn't as well written (the same goes for the rest of the film). I personally found all the foreigner bashing in the film disturbing. It's worth a look, especially if you are a fan of Chow Sing Chi, Kot Man Chi, or stupid bathroom jokes.