Ling Ling Fat is a member of the elite Emperor's guardians. He knows nothing about martial arts and as such is the most neglected of the team, allowing him to spend time with his day job as a doctor. When an evil martial arts expert decides that he wants to assassinate the emperor, only Fat realises that an invitation the Emperor receives could be a trap. Fat manages to go from nothing to hero, but in doing so incurs the wrath of No-Face who will stop at nothing to gain revenge.
If there is one thing that Stephen Chow is good at, it is taking the piss out of other films. Or maybe to put it less crudely, he is great at spoofing other films. With Forbidden City Cop he makes his 2nd James Bond spoof, the other being From Beijing With Love. The main difference this time is that this film is a period film, not one set in modern day.
The film's tone is set very early on, right from the opening sequence. In this sequence we see the familiar James Bond shadow figures dancing and whatnot. It starts very much like in James Bond, but gets more ridiculous the further into the titles we go, culminating in Stephen Chow attempting some fancy sword work, but dropping the sword instead. All the early scenes in the film are used to great comedic effect and to show what Chow's character, Ling Ling Fat, is like - intelligent, but not a good fighter. In fact the early scenes contain, for me, one of the funniest moments in the film and a fantastic example of comedic anti-climax. We see three of the four Forbidden City cops performing for their Emperor, each showing incredible martial art skills. They jump, flip and fight many people and have numerous things broken over their body. They are kick-ass tough. Then it is Ling Ling Fat's turn. He knows the stage is his, he runs up to the performing area, jumps and... does a little forward roll, then rolls a little more, gets dizzy and almost loses his hat... etc! Brilliant! It had me in stitches the first time I saw the film several years ago, and on this occasion I was laughing a bit in anticipation before it even happened. When it did, I laughed more. Genius moments like that are why some Stephen Chow films work so well.
The rest of the humour in the film is not of quite as good quality, but a lot of it hits the mark well. Like with a lot of comedy films there are so many gag moments that law of averages suggest that some of them have to work, fortunately here more hit than miss. However the overall standard is only a small bit above average. With the exception of two other scenes, the best the rest of the humour managed from me was some nice smiles and smirks, no actual laughter. The only two scenes that were the exceptions were the spoof Oscars ceremony towards the end - this wasn't actually that funny, but it is so stupid and nonsensical (in a reasonably good way) that it had to make me laugh - and the battle scenes between the kick-ass Forbidden City cops and the bad guys. Those scenes have the cops fighting for their lives (and losing them) but at the points where things are about to end for the cops, the film cuts to scenes of Ling Ling Fat having a idyllic, happy time with his wife, but the thing they are doing always is similar to how the cop is meant to have lost his life. It was hilarious! When one is about to have his head pulverised by a club, it cuts to Fat bludgeoning open a water melon and so on! It reminded me of the scene in The Fifth Element where the bad guy discovers that the case is empty and it cuts to Milla Jovovich laughing and then all the scenes are interspersed... well, if you've not seen The Fifth Element then you won't have a clue what I'm talking about, but its funny when you see it...
We are also treated to some martial arts which while never astounding, is still entertaining to watch for action fans, as it serves as a nice filler to pad out the humour. All the characters are much as expected. There are the ones who are solely there to add humour and have the ridiculous character to match. None really marvel in their role, but each is as effective as needed to serve the humour in the film. Carina Lau is damn cute too!
Audio & Subtitles
Dolby Digital stereo is the Cantonese option here. I never know what to say about stereo soundtracks as they don't give a wide soundstage, or anything that is really effective in the audio department. All I can say is that for what it is, it sounded decent enough, with the exception of one or two brief audio dropouts.
The subtitles are burnt in English and Chinese. Spelling is decent enough and there are few grammatical errors too. Some moments the subtitles don't appear on the screen for long enough and others have them going off the sides of the screen. Being burnt in with no dark background there are occasions when they also blend into the background and become unreadable.
Despite being a letterbox transfer on an otherwise rather poor disc, the film print is actually quite decent. It is a little soft, but not overly so and while colours look like they are bleeding in a few scenes, for the most part they appear well produced and nice and vibrant. Relatively frequent small marks appear on screen but nothing to detract from the film.
DVD & Extras
There is absolutely nothing on this disc at all, not even a menu screen.
Forbidden City Cop is not Stephen Chow's best film ever, but it is still a good laugh. There are some comedic genius moments in the film which stand head and shoulders above the rest. The rest is just a little above average, but still make the film well worth watching.