Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon: Standard Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (29th July 2022).
The Film

Plainclothes cops Mak (Knockabout's Karl Maka) – aka Baldy or Skinny depending on the audio track – and Fatty (Eastern Condors' Sammo Hung) are too chaotic a duo to play "good cop/bad cop" with their suspects; and yet, they are able to manipulate and intimidate Johnny Boy (Police Story's Tai-Bo) – loyal driver to crooked casino owner Prince Dak (A Better Tomorrow II's Ming Yan Lung) – to divulge the details of a drug deal between a transvestite courier and Dak's girlfriend Ah Lai (Sex and Zen's Carrie Ng). Their attempt to catch the pair in the act, however, takes place in a women's shower room and results in Ah Lai pressing charges against them for molestation when they confuse her with the transvestite. Their superior Inspector Woo (Dragons Forever's Fung Woo) reads them the riot act in public but privately advises them to be more circumspect in their attempt to link Dak and his bigshot brother Wing (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin's Chia-Yung Liu) to a criminal offense.

When Dak tries to bribe Skinny and Fatty, they destroy his sports car; after which, Dak arranges an ambush for the pair against the advice of his brother. The duo turn the tables on Dak by making him believe that Ah Lai has been sexually-involved with Skinny and plans to double cross him. The duo land in hot water again when the ensuing chase literally crashes the wedding of the police commissioner's daughter and the groom calls for them to be fired while Dak's influence buys his freedom. Woo advises them to take a vacation until things cool down. In Singapore, Skinny and Fatty meet two wealthy and beautiful young women and return to Hong Kong with the intention of quitting the force and living on easy street in paradise. Their breaking with their old lives is complicated by Fatty being the only living relative of his father (screenwriter Kuang Ni) while Skinny's longtime hooker girlfriend "Tall Sister" (Wanda Yung) – or Lanky depending on the translation – is not about to let him slip away without a marriage proposal. When Dak and Wing send assassins after them and their loved ones, Skinny and Fatty realize that they will never be safe unless they close the case for good (using unconventional means).

A zany, outrageous, even offensive Hong Kong variation on the Hollywood buddy cop film Running Scared, Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon is as much a vehicle for Maka and his Aces Go Places persona as it is a seeming work-for-hire job for Hung who had already been directing his own vehicles since the late seventies. Outside of the exhilarating fight scenes – in which Hung emulates his idol Bruce Lee – the film feels very different from Hung's comic ventures, but the more slapdash aspects may be mitigated for most viewers by the typically non-PC elements of the era of Hong Kong genre production from seemingly representing the entire Thai nationality as transsexuals or transvestites – we cut from Dak mentioning "Thai hitmen" to a sexy dressing montage – and the sight gags of onlookers witnessing Hung beating up women, in addition to an earlier scene of both good guys "comically" roughing up Ah Lai while lecturing her character that she is bound for a bad end associating with criminals. The short Singapore sequence really fails to establish any more chemistry with the duo's unnamed love interests than they have with their loved ones back home, and even the buddy cop chemistry between the leads feels as forced as your average Lethal Weapon entry more so than the more acknowledged rip-off source. Compared to Hung's earlier and subsequent comic action films, Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon is more interesting as a time capsule of the look of the period and the attitudes about what was fair game for a laugh.
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Video

Released to VHS and import laserdisc in the US – English-friendly since the bilingual subtitles were burned into the print source – Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon was still relatively obscure to Western viewers until the early 2000s when Tai Seng put the film out on DVD stateside – a port of the Mei Ah non-anamorphic disc – while Hong Kong Legends in the UK got a 16:9 special edition that did not make it stateside via the Fox/Fortune Star deal (presumably due to potentially offensive content). The film made its HD debut in Japan as a BD-R bonus disc on a DVD release. We have not seen that edition, but Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray - previously issued earlier this year in a two-disc limited edition with a bonus disc featuring a feature-length documentary on stuntman and martial artist Mark Houghton who has a small role in the film as the white hitman - comes from a brand new 2K restoration and for the most part it looks like a nineties production if only because it is not as reliant on eighties-style outdoor diffusion and the color scheme is more cooler and neutral in keeping with the grayish Hong Kong setting and wardrobe choices. Saturated reds pop but blues seem sedate from the skyline to the punctured plastic canisters during the warehouse climax, and the night scenes seem to be a mix of night and day-for-night (or possibly a few shots are just underexposed).
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Audio

Audio options include the original Cantonese and English LPCM 1.0 mono tracks along with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix from the DVD era. Both mono tracks are post-synchronized – sync sound in Hong Kong cinema was about two years away – and the commentary mentions that neither of the leads dub themselves (not at all unusual in Hong Kong cinema in general or even with prolific stars before the sync-sound transition). Optional English subtitles are provided for the Cantonese track, and one wonders if the translators made some politically-correct changes in referring to the transvestite character as "she" if only because the English track has Hung referring to the character as "it" repeatedly. The setup menu has a second English subtitle track that it states is for the English dub, but this is not an SDH track as it only translates Chinese text and song lyrics (this sort of track is usually not included as a menu option and is simply enabled by default when the English track is selected and the other English track not turned on for viewers who want to compare the dub and the translation).

Extras

As with Eureka's previous Sammo Hung release of Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son (reviewed HERE), Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon is accompanied by a pair of commentary tracks. The first is an audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) and martial artist/actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels in which they note the antecedents to the film in Maka's Aces Go Places character and Hung's previous Bruce Lee homage Enter the Fat Dragon, the increase in original scores over library music once synthesizer scoring became more accepted, the film's politically incorrect content – as well as suggesting that it would be likely to be made today more so because of the way it ridicules the Hong Kong police – and the treatment of the actresses Ng because of her Category III roles and Yung because of her height (often being cast as transsexuals including a film in which her character demonstrates "AIDS Kung Fu"). Samuels provides more anecdotes about acting as a black western actor in nineties Hong Kong cinema while Djeng translates some of the Cantonese wordplay for the viewer. On the audio commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, the pair are a bit more boisterous in discussing their experiences in nineties Hong Kong and the film's politically incorrect content – expanding on Djeng's casual mention of the concurrent Hung bad taste directorial effort Pantyhose Hero in which two cops go undercover as a gay couple to capture a killer – Hong Kong cinema's preference for blonde western actors, and the shady ways productions obtained police cooperation and resources.
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Video extras start off with a new but brief audio interview with stuntman and martial artist Mark Houghton (6:35) – who plays one of the male assassins sent after Skinny while Fatty is fighting the transsexual killers – in which he recalls meeting director Chia-Yung Liu who was the brother of his Sifu Lau Kar Leung, compares Hung to Jackie Chan in terms of ego when it came to staging fighting scenes, and how Hung hired him for an additional week of work even though his character had been killed because he had let Hung really kick him in the face for a shot. Ported from the Hong Kong Legends release is "The Weapon Master" (25:47), an interview with director Lau Kar-wing aka Chia-Yung Liu in which he recalls meeting Maka and then Hung, forming a company with Maka to collaborate on two films and then years later reuniting with the two for Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon which was co-written by all three and the credited writer, and noting that the Singapore vacation sequence was motivated simply because the tourism board gave them money (and two former Miss Singapore as the love interests).

Also ported over is "Partner in Crime" (19:18), an interview with actor, stuntman, and action choreographer Ridley Tsui (Tiger Cage III) in which he recalls wanting to learn martial arts because his father and brother were filmmakers – who did live performances of fight scenes before screenings of their films – his Peking Opera training, getting into stunt work at age twelve, and volunteering for the most dangerous stunts due to his eagerness to advance to the director's chair (resulting in an accident that put him out of commission for six months with two broken ankles), working with Hung on his Bruce Lee-inspired choreography, and even doubling for Hung in padded suits for the flying kicks as well as for the Thai "lady boy" actors who were accommodating to the parts but had no fighting experience. The disc also includes an extended fight scene from the Taiwanese cut (8:24) for the climax from a video source with burnt-in English and Chinese subtitles, as well as the international trailer (5:32).
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Overall

Compared to Hung's earlier and subsequent comic action films, Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon is more interesting as a time capsule of the look of the period and the attitudes about what was fair game for a laugh.

 


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