Thunder Cops (1987)

Once again, we have a moderately confusing film numbering situation. My copy is actually billed as “Operation Pink Squad 2”, and while the name might have you think it’s a more, er, “adult” movie than we normally cover, it’s merely a sequel to a movie about a group of female cops who have to put up with office sexism and so on. But there’s a sequel to this which is called “Thunder Cops 2”, which is only related to this in that it shares a director – it’s a dark thriller, apparently. Not quite as weird as the late numbering of the “No Retreat, No Surrender” series, but still.

The 80s and 90s gave us quite a lot of supernatural-themed movies from Hong Kong – there’s the two “Heroic Trio” entries; “The Bride With White Hair”; “The Storm Riders”; and so on. But what few of them gave us was a solid five minutes of jokes about “turd”, a pissing contest to decide which one of the two remaining men gets his penis chopped off, and the implied sacrifice of a foetus to save the world. Yes, dear reader, when I say “you’ve not seen anything like this before”, you’re going to have to believe me.

It starts off where I presume the first one ended, with one of the lady-cops getting married to a guy who looks like an extremely nerdy Chow-Yun Fat. Their wedding night, he’s ludicrously nervous, but when she asks if he’s a virgin, he says no to try and look cool. She says she isn’t either and is delighted!

But, of course, our friend isn’t delighted, because now he thinks his wife is damaged goods. This rather insane state of affairs, which is played for laughs throughout, ends up with him chasing his boss through a hotel with a gun, thinking his boss is having an affair with his wife; but as we all know, he’s merely hired Pink Squad to go undercover as prostitutes or money forgers. It’s a little unclear what he expects them to do. And then it turns out the hotel is haunted, and is on the Hellmouth (it’s not called that, but it’s much easier to call it that than look it up again).

Things go bonkers quite quickly. There’s a Buddhist monk (whose gear is absolutely covered in swastikas, which is a bit weird to our Western eyes) trying to trap an infestation of ghosts; the criminal the ladies are trying to trap, a fun performance; and the chief ghost, a woman who spends about a third of the movie as a disembodied head.

First things first: I’ve got no idea what’s going on. At all. Why the ghosts have picked this spot, why the Buddhist guy is trying to trap them all, why they need four cops and a hotel room to do a simple handover, why Chinese ghosts are sometimes solid and can have their heads chopped off, and why elves are on hand to save the day at the end. Yes, elves.

This weird farce, where you get gore and pee jokes in the same scene, is also staggeringly sexist. You’d think the four female stars of the movie would get to be, you know, the stars, but until about ten minutes before the end, they do absolutely nothing, just simpering in the corner while the guys do all the actual action. Given the number of Jackie Chan films from the same area and era that treat women as objects, it’s not extremely surprising, but it’s still crap. I’m sure it didn’t even enter their heads to have the women do any of the action, and they saw it as entirely natural, which just makes it worse. The mild racism (a black woman in a strip club dressed up like a savage, dancing to jungle drums) is almost quaint in comparison.

If anything, it feels like “Re-Animator” without any of the decent acting or script that that classic had; but even that doesn’t quite cover it. The sheer what-the-hell?-ness of seeing all these ideas and styles just getting thrown at each other is something we poor Westerners aren’t really used to. But imagine Re-Animator played as a farce, and way more sexist, and you’ll be somewhere around the right area.

The thing I left this movie with was I wanted the ghost to win. It might have been the comically poor subtitles confusing me as to everyone’s motivations, or something else, but she was just interested in helping her people out, and getting some sweet loving from one of the living people. Nice and simple, she only fought in self-defence and had some fun with being a ghost.

There’s a parody of “The Killer”, the John Woo / Chow Yun Fat classic, in there, which leads me to believe there might be lots of other parodies I just didn’t recognise due to being, at best, a casual fan of Hong Kong cinema. We don’t get to see tons of HK comedy (I guess because most of it remains un-translated for Western audiences) so if this is what they get on the regular, I want to see more.

It’s really really strange, and to say it throws everything at the wall to see what sticks is almost underestimating it. If only they’d bothered to have the women seen as in any way remotely equal to the men!

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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