Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nightmares In Precinct 7 (2001)

Be warned, I'm going to spoil the ending. I find it impossible not to.

Hong Kong police officer Fong Jing (Andy Hui) is the only cop in the city worth his salary. At least that's what he thinks, and the film isn't going to try to convince us otherwise later on.

Still, even super cops get in trouble, so it shouldn't be too surprising that he's getting a bullet in the head during a shoot-out and falls into a coma. At least, Fong Jing is better off than two of his colleagues present during the shooting who don't survive their wounds.

He wakes up two years later, but it's not all joy and happiness for Fong Jing. His mother has died while the cop was in his coma, and his girlfriend May (Fennie Yuen) has found someone else. The latter turns out to be not that much of a problem. Our hero's nurse Oscar (Loletta/Rachel Lee) has fallen quite badly for him, so he isn't going to be girlfriendless for too long. But his coma experience has changed something in Fong Jing.

He is now seeing and being able to talk to ghosts, an ability that will turn out to be quite useful on his first new case. Someone has been going around raping and killing nurses in the last two years, and since every other cop in the movie is absurdly bad at anything beyond saying "Yes, Sir", only the re-awakened Fong Jing and his ghost connections can solve the case.

Solving the case is getting even more pressing when the cop's ghost buddy Kit (Cheung Tat-Ming) informs him that Oscar's life bar (it seems life is like Tekken when you're a ghost) is looking kinda short. Both the dead and the living man suspect the nurse killer.

And here comes the spoiler: even after Fong Jing has caught the killer, Oscar is randomly crushed by a container, appears as ghost and talks our hero out of committing suicide, so they can have one of those great "no touching" love affairs and he can continue to protect the citizens of Hong Kong. Yeah, I don't know about that one either.

But let me pretend for a moment that ending wouldn't exist. Before the tear-jerking downer ending without any tonal connection to the rest of the movie nearly killed me through the fit of giggling it induced, Nightmares in Precinct 7 (possibly the film's title because the dead nurses' bodies are only found when their ghosts point random cops in the right direction, an element the film forgets again as soon as it has been brought up, never to speak of again) was one of the more entertaining films made by the late period Herman Yau.

Don't get me wrong, Yau is as far from his classics here as possible, with not much of what goes on on-screen seeming to interest him very much, but at least he's doing a professional job of it.

I imagine it must be quite difficult to make a comedy romance cop movie melodrama with ghosts and have it hang together even slightly, so the passable flow of the not very interesting story is something of an achievement, especially when the script is mostly a mess. It looks as if someone had taken every cliché out of half a dozen movie genres, shot them, thrown their bodies against a wall and called that wall a script. There really isn't much that holds the film together, and while there are elements that threaten to cohere to give the film a theme or at least emotional logic, these elements are never given enough room to truly do that.

If one can ignore how little the single scenes hang together, one can still be able to find some entertainment value in them. Some of the romantic scenes between Andy Hui and the quite adorable Loletta Lee are fine in their cutesy way. Even some of the more melodramatic scenes work through the professionalism of the actors and Yau, they just aren't connected to anything in any sensible way.

And then there's the utterly tone-deaf ending. I'm quite positive that it is meant to leave the viewer with a feeling of having witnessed a tragic destiny. Alas, the eighty minutes before never bothered with any emotional preparations for that, so that the feeling the film really left me with was of a production trying to test out how much crap an audience is willing to swallow when it is presented with a "sad ballad" on the soundtrack.


No comments: