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Hong Kong's Tiger On The Beat was most likely filmed the day after the unashamedly similar cop-buddy flick Lethal Weapon was released in 1987. TOTB stars the ever-versatile Chow Yun-Fat along with his police-pal Conan Lee. Chow Yun-Fat presents yet another side to his complex mix of alter-egos, this time as a buffoonish smart-alec womanising slob who doesn't always see the bark for the trees in his line of work, although he inexplicably returns to Hard Boiled form in the final act. Conan Lee however plays the no-nonsense kind of guy who gets the job done whether or not he ends up with the credit for his efforts; ironically Conan Lee also played one of the Four Fathers in Lethal Weapon 4. Finally there's Gordon Lui, better known for his dual roles in Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2, as the nasty pasty head hitman.

Tiger On The Beat
As if you couldn't tell already, the DVD packaging for Tiger On The Beat has been reworked to look just like the promo posters for Kill Bill, which might cause some confusion at the video rental stores when both of these films are on the same shelf. The rather unexciting image of Chow Yun-Fat with his shotgun on the front cover doesn't stir up the imagination all that much for its potential audience, however the back end reveals nothing but chainsaws to give you an idea of what to expect. A sequel exists involving Conan (as a different character) but without Chow, though it hardly compares to this rather natty original.

Movie
It's hard for me to give a synopsis for most movies without spoiling them thoroughly, so avert your eyes.

Francis Li (Chow Yun-Fat) is about as care-free as you can get when it comes to stealing other men's wives or eating enough cholesterol to make a regular fast food patron cringe with nausea. However, he takes his police work just as seriously as his new partner Michael Tso (Conan Lee) does, both of whom meet for the first time in bizarre circumstances. Trouble is afoot at the local Surfboard factory where the head drug-dealer has been duped out of his merchandise, but unbeknownst to him one of his men is behind the deception. This man then gets his sister Marydonna (Nina Li Chi) to deliver his package of heroin so as to see them both with enough money to last them forever. The two cops are close on her tale but they both end up losing their pants to the main suspect and only end up with Marydonna in custody. They "persuade" her that it's in her best interest to help find her brother before he gets killed.

However, things go from bad to worse when Marydonna's brother is finally found out by the drug-dealers and is dealt with accordingly, however the cops finally bust the head drug pusher but lose sight of his right-hand hitman (Chia Hui 'Gordon' Liu). Just when everything seems to be going right for once, Marydonna also gets offed by the bad boys and in the panic Francis' sister (Shirley Ng) gets kidnapped by the hitman and his goons in exchange for the detained criminal. The ensuing battle sees Francis Li picking off each bad guy with a craftily roped-off shotgun, whilst Michael Tso saves the damsel in distress by having it out with the hitman using a couple of well-located chainsaws.

Tiger On The Beat
Even though Tiger On The Beat lasts barely ninety minutes and for the fact that it steals from many of the Hollywood blockbusters of its time, it manages to pack in a quite varied storyline along with some white-knuckle inducing action. It also rides a rollercoaster of differing emotions from humour to sadness, from violence to drollness, from seriousness to campness, and anything else you can imagine. There is a warning to the more sensitive viewers about how Francis treats Marydonna even after her brother has been killed; what's even more bizarre is why she falls in love with him - watch the movie and find out.

Video
Considering the way in which Hong Kong films were generated until recently, it's not surprising that this movie in particular suffers from the "cheap as" syndrome. However, the Hong Kong Legends mob have yet again proven that they are the world-class leaders in prettying up what can sometimes be little more than Plain Jane source material. Whilst there are still many shortcomings present, none of them are the direct result of the digital remastering that has been afforded for the original film negatives.

First up is the relative lack of sharpness in the image, although there is still a lot of detail that can be garnered on further viewings. Colours are somewhat dull and quite muted even for the quite garish fashions of the 1980s. Black levels are okay although nothing fantastically deep, so too the shadow detail is a lot better than what should be expected considering the other problems associated.

Contrast and brightness are the biggest losers even in the daytime scenes, but thankfully both the day and night shots are sufficiently rendered so as to not make the experience a disappointing one. Grain is not immediately obvious but you know subconsciously that it is there somewhere, but the compression is good enough not to let any major film or MPEG artefacts slip by unnecessarily. Speaking of which, the image is relatively clean in terms of any dust or hairs; quite surprising when you think about it.

Tiger On The Beat
Although the majority of this film is rather stable, there is still some telecine wobble present in some of the more frenetically cut sequences, but overall it's an acceptable transfer given the original budget. There is a rough and ready rawness to the image that helps to sell the often sensational antics of the heroes, villains and everyone else in between; at least it's much better than your worn-out VHS version.

Audio
Again, you won't be writing to your dear old grandmother about the two soundtracks in this movie, but considering the shoe-string budget involved it is a small miracle that we get more than should be bargained for. Both the Cantonese and English DD 5.1 dubs are equal in their reproduction of the music and sound effects, with the music itself sometimes sounding like a chorus of strangled cats in heat. I must point out though that the music seems a little over-pronounced compared to the rest of the mix.

Fidelity is given a typical 80s production value for everything from the voices to music to gunfire to the punches and kicks, however the subwoofer does help in filling up this rather large hole with some limited bass response. Dialogue is easily discernable and mostly well-balanced against the rest of the sounds generated. Surround is only used to support the front speakers in their generally stereo-ish recordings. Overall, both soundtracks have no discernable hiss or distortion present.

Now normally I would suggest avoiding the English dub altogether for any Hong Kong created flick in general, but considering the now-cheesy look to Tiger On The Beat one cannot go past this particular offering. The hammy voice-acting especially is even funnier than the common subtitle misspellings that used to be our experience of Hong Kong films well before DVD was born. The way that Francis and Michael argue with each other make them sound like bickering lovers more than anything else, plus the even more ridiculous voices given to all the western bad guys will make you think twice about moving to Hong Kong as a budding Caucasian actor. The cheap 1980s look gives rise to a lack of seriousness from today's well-educated audiences, so this English dub is more than recommended for that extra bit of tackiness that would otherwise not be considered even for a Hong Kong comedy.

Tiger On The Beat
Extras
Not a lot to get all fired up about, but this is a nicely rounded-off collection of supplemental material.

A man who needs no introduction by now is Bey Logan with his rather typical but thoroughly researched Audio Commentary running alongside the main feature. As usual he carries on about all the films that each actor has ever been involved with, he also admits to not identifying a few of the western actors as well. If you've heard this guy talk about Hong Kong movies before then you'll know what to expect here.

Two interviews are supplied: one entitled The Godfather: An Interview With Producer Wellington Fong, the other Breaking The Mould: An Interview With Gordon Liu; both running at 22 mins. Wellington Fong speaks rather good English which makes a pleasant change from trying to understand the more subtle nuances of a subtitled translation. Here he discusses his past job at the movie production house called Cinema City, what he and his fellow filmmakers expected to happen for this movie and the important role that everyone played in developing the company's future in the Hong Kong film business. Gordon Lui then brings us back to the world of closed captions as he talks about his early days in film and general life experiences, his memories from the shoot of Tiger On The Beat as well as a welcome insight into the two roles that he plays in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. All up, a rich and diverse two-pack of trivia.

Next up is the Tribute To Lau Kar-leung text-based information packet about the director, compilated by Bey Logan. I think this is meant to replace the dreaded rolling credits version narrated by thrill-a-minute American voice-over man from past HKL DVDs; I also wonder how Bey Logan is able to come across this kind of personal data for each and every participant of Hong Kong filmmaking. Suffice to say that this little gem tells you everything you've ever wanted to know about the director; but if you don't remember what his most memorable forays in fan's eyes have been, then this trio may help to ring some bells: 1978's 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, the upcoming HKL DVD of 1990's Sammo Hung choreographed hit Skinny Tiger & Fatty Dragon, and the one movie we may never see in its original uncut widescreen glory is Jackie Chan's 1994 opus Drunken Master II. Finally, there are the two obligatory UK and HK Trailers for Tiger On The Beat as well as six other UK/HKL promos in their Further Attractions catalogue.

Tiger On The Beat
Overall
Unlike some films that stick to the one genre and barely set foot into another, Tiger On The Beat has something for everyone; although it's hard to know whether the director was trying to make a stunt-filled dramatic comedy or a comical action drama! Usually when a movie attempts to become too many things at once it often ends up disappointing everyone in the process, but since the actors and situations that they revolve around take place in the 1980s then anything is possible. This cake mixture somehow seems to be right this time around, even though the pendulum swings rather widely from drug-dealers who play with fluffy toys to the violent dispatchment of hostages and villains alike. The icing on the cake of course goes to the unique chainsaw duel finale that has had no equal before or since in my opinion.

Tiger On The Beat will probably not even appeal to those who have no sense of humour at all, more so to those who can't handle the continual face-slapping between farcical comedy and extreme violence all in the one breath. In fact, if you weren't a fan of Peter Jackson's The Frighteners for its similar mix of horror and humour, then I'm afraid that you'll be missing out on this almost unintentional send-up of the genres that Tiger On The Beat tries to be all at once. Other than that, enjoy this DVD at your leisure.


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