Ah, the late, great Dean Shek. Few stars of Hong Kong cinema can create such a violent reaction when their name is uttered, but few have also played such an important role in the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema. The latter part of his reputation was based on his role in Cinema City, the studio that rivalled Golden Harvest for supremacy of the box office in the 1980s. Yet his irksome role as comic relief in many kung-fu comedies of the period – the first part of his reputation – tends to be what many remember about him.
Street performer Cho (Lau Kar-Yung) is desperate to learn kung-fu from the wizened old master and local doctor in town but finds it easier said than done when he is asked to care for his new teacher’s barmy daughter (Eric Tsang – yes, it’s that kind of film). Meanwhile, Cho befriends the eccentric Yan, son of another of the nearby masters, something that becomes invaluable when a gang of bandits come looking for hidden loot. Neither Cho nor Yan is any match for the newcomers and are sent away to learn special skills from the avaricious master who had previously conned them.
My tolerance to Dean Shek has improved over the years. When he either has a straight role or a side comic character that isn’t TOO over-the-top, I can sit quite merrily through most of his films. BUT when the Shekness is dialled up to eleven, when his facial mannerisms are almost supernatural and when his lewdness is on its highest setting, I really do struggle. In ‘Crazy Couple’, Dean Shek reaches ‘Infinity Glove-wearing Thanos on steroids and Red Bull’ levels of terrifying power, a point where even the most patient viewer gets their nerves trodden on throughout. And those in charge of the dubbing make sure that they marry up his absurd pantomimic performance with their most ear-piercingly sharp artist, meaning that the English version is almost a weapon of mass destruction.
The shame about this is that Shek and Lau Kar-Yung had the potential to be a solid pairing, the former bringing in the humour while the latter provides the physical prowess. Unfortunately, despite moments that hint of Lau Kar-Yung’s part of the dynamic coming to the fore, director Ricky Lau makes the Dean Shek show. The plot is also flimsy; in a genre that isn’t known for its focus on byzantine storylines, the ambling nothingness of ‘Crazy Couple’ is especially frustrating. The few moments of promise at the beginning do not last long and the occasional flashes of action are merely there to trick us into sitting through the whole thing. At the end of 90 minutes, one just feels overwhelming regret over how they spent their precious time.