Tiger On The Beat

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Lau Kar-leung made a career out of directing action movies. He bagan his career working for the Shaw Brothers and ended up helming some of their most famous martial arts movies, like The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin (1978), before moving into the realm of the action-comedy which often mixed styles of action violence. One of Lau Kar-leung’s earliest ventures of this kind was Tiger On The Beat (1988); a buddy-cop action comedy that paired Chow Yun-fat (known for heroic bloodshed pictures) with Conan Lee (a martial artist).

Equipped with a catchy theme song, out of control eighties fashions (the black leather visor) and a healthy mix of slapstick and violence, Tiger On The Beat has everything anyone is likely to want from a Hong Kong film of this era. The plot is pretty boiler plate (two unlikely partners crack a drug smuggling case) and the gender politics are what one would expect, but that doesn’t really get in the way of the films kinetic energy. Lau Kar-leung directs the action scenes well, keeping the tensions high and the laughs frequent. Like any buddy-cop film, Tiger On The Beat is only successful because of the chemistry between its two leading men. Chow Yun-fat and Conan Lee are both a couple of half-wit cops, one is just more charming than the other.

There are some pretty inventive set pieces in Tiger On The Beat. The funniest one contrives an excuse to get Chow Yun-fat and Conan Lee to discard their trousers in the midst of a chase and hostage situation. In terms of action spectacle it is hard to top the combination of Chow Yun-fat’s shotgun on an elastic rope which fires when taut like a yo-yo and Conan Lee’s chainsaw duel with the main heavy.

Tiger On The Beat is a lot of frivolous fun but there is no real emotional investment here. None of the characters’ arcs really call for the empathy of the audience. Lau Kar-leung delivers all flash, just very little substance. There’s nothing wrong with this on its own, it just keeps Tiger On The Beat from being one of the great Hong Kong action films of its time.