Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon (1990)

A buddy-cop action comedy starring Sammo Hung, Karl Maka and Lau Kar-wing, who also directs.

Trailer

Cast

Hong Kong action legend Sammo Hung stars as “Fatty Dragon”, a simple but tough Hong Kong CID detective. He is partnered by the philandering “Baldy Mak Sui Fu/Skinny Tiger”, played by Karl Maka. He is a Hong Kong film producer, director and actor, who found great success with the “Aces Go Places” series of comedy films. He also made appearances in “Knockabout“, “The Victim” and “Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog”.

Younger brother of Shaw Brothers legend Lau Kar-leung, Lau Kar-wing plays the ruthless crime boss “Wing – The Cocaine King”. Lau Kar-wing is a successful martial arts actor and director in his own right, having started at a young age in Kwan Tak-hing’s Wong Fei Hung movies. He had previously worked alongside Sammo Hung and Karl Maka in “Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog” and “Odd Couple”.

Carrie Ng, most famous for her roles in the Category III films “Naked Killer” and “Sex and Zen” plays gangster’s moll turned informant “Ah-Lai”. Lung Ming-Yan plays a Triad gangster (as he has done so before in films such as “A Better Tomorrow II” and “My Hero”) known as “Prince Tak”. Popular television actor and former matinee idol Bowie Wu Fung plays the hapless cops’ boss, “Officer Wu”. For older Chinese audiences he is best known as “The Dance King” after starring in a string of musicals opposite Josephine Siao in the 1950’s and 60’s.

In support are novelist and screenwriter Ni Kuang as Fatty Dragon’s father. He notably created the character of “Chen Zhen” for Bruce Lee’s “Fist of Fury“, a character that would also later appear in Jet Li’s remake “Fist of Legend“, and Donnie Yen’s “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen”. Former Miss Hong Kong Wanda Yung Wai-Tak plays “Tall Girl”, the long-suffering girlfriend of Baldy. Regular action actor Tai Bo plays police informant “Johnny”. Tai Bo is a recognisable face from films such as “Enter the Dragon“, “The Young Master“, “Encounters of the Spooky Kind“, “Project A“, “Police Story” and many, many more. British martial arts actor Mark Houghton appears as one of Wing’s henchmen.

Plot

Fatty Dragon and Baldy Skinny Tiger are a pair of unconventional Hong Kong CID detectives investigating a crime syndicate of Triad gangsters. Having thwarted an armed robbery, they discover the details of a drugs drop to be carried out by a transvestite. Intercepting the deal, they suspect the pretty Ah-Lai is connected to gang boss Prince Tak.

Prince Tak persuades Ah-Lai to help set up Fatty and Baldy by arranging for a meeting in an abandoned warehouse. The ensuing running battle ends with Fatty and Baldy gate crashing and ruining the Deputy Commissioner’s wedding.

Fatty and Baldy are ordered to leave Hong Kong while things settle down, so they head to Singapore. The holiday convinces them to quit their jobs as cops and move to Singapore to run a karaoke bar.

When they return to Hong Kong, they discover that Prince Tak has been bailed. The gang boss makes it personal when he goes after Baldy’s girlfriend and Fatty’s father. Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon decide the only way this will end is if they take the law into their own hands, and go after Wing and Tak themselves.

Action

The action kicks off with Karl Maka working undercover in a Circle K store single-handedly taking on three thieves armed with machetes and a pistol. Maka handles the fisticuffs well with a mix of authentic-looking power punches and comedy slapstick.

Having established that Sammo Hung and Karl Maka are a pair of unconventional cops who enjoy a laugh at their detainee’s expense, they stumble across an armed robbery at a jewellery store. In an hilarious combination of comic timing, stunts and slapstick, Maka chases down their informant “Johnny” using various fruits to stop him! Meanwhile, Sammo pretends to be a thief and interrupts the robbery at the jeweller’s. The action here mixes violent gunplay with Sammo’s trademark fast, powerful kicks and strikes, whilst he mimics Bruce Lee. The thieves really don’t know what’s hit them as Sammo sends them flying through the glass jewellery displays.

Following a tip off, our heroes end up fighting a transvestite in a women’s changing locker! Sammo performs the more serious action using his Bruce Lee impersonation, whilst Maka fights a woman in more comedic style. The female characters in this film are just as brutally knocked about as the men are, although in this case, Karl Maka gives one of the funniest facial reactions after receiving a swift kick in the unmentionables!

The next action scene involves car stunts as Sammo and Maka decide to aggravate gang boss Prince Tak by stealing and wrecking his Mercedes.

When Sammo meets Prince Tak and his gang in a warehouse, the scene is set once more for Sammo to do the serious action, whilst Maka concentrates on the comedy. Maka still acquits himself well with some nice kicks, and Sammo also gets the chance to display his weapons skills with some steel bars. He even copies the way Bruce Lee tapped two sticks together in the “Game of Death”! The fight progresses through a kitchen with plenty of props for Sammo to use as he chases down Prince Tak. As they stumble into a packed restaurant, Sammo kicks his prey over and through tables, wrecking the Deputy Commissioner’s wedding reception!

In a particularly brutal scene which doesn’t involve the two leads, two Thai “Ladyboy” assassins are dispatched to take out a witness under police protection. The action here is much more ferocious and raw than the preceding fight scenes. It establishes the deadly pair as dangerous opponents when Sammo later fights them at a street restaurant. The street fight features some spectacular kicks, take-downs and moves with frantic pace.

The two cops decide to take matters into their own hands and set up a sting in an old abandoned building. When the gangsters arrive, the scene is set for the most frenetic action of the film as Lau Kar-wing finally enters the fray. Sammo produces a pair of nunchakus delivering some moves in the style of Bruce Lee, that wouldn’t have looked out of place in “Way of the Dragon“. British martial artist Mark Houghton gets to fight Karl Maka and Sammo Hung here in a great display of his ability to not only throw a shot, but take the hard hits and falls too.

When Sammo and Kar-wing finally go mano-a-mano, we witness two masters of timing and rhythm in a pulse-pounding machete duel. Weapons fights can be hard to make look natural but here, with the long takes and tightest of near misses with the blades, you wonder how they managed to complete the scene with out losing an ear!

Summary

This film is a blatant rip-off of the action-buddy-cop film “Running Scared”, starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. That film is more successful in it’s pacing, plotting and comedy than this one, but this film has a major ace up it’s sleeve – the fight scenes.

The comedy is very broad and sexist, and our heroes aren’t the most sympathetic of characters. The actresses are often treated brutally, with one particularly unpleasant scene in which Karl Maka knocks about Carrie Ng. Some of the comedy scenes are reminiscent of the “Lucky Stars” series of films, such as a scene where our two cops have to hide in the female suspect’s bedroom. There is even a fart joke in there. Occasionally the slapstick is funny, and it was probably a smart move to have Karl Maka lead that side of things, allowing Sammo Hung to get on with the real action.

For most of the fight scenes, Sammo impersonates Bruce Lee. Although he does a good job of mimicking the “Enter the Dragon” icon, it is humorous in itself as Sammo looks nothing like him and his body-type is virtually the polar opposite!

The success in the action choreography comes from its mix of fighting techniques and sticking to a more realistic style of combat, even when there are comic elements. There is hardly any wire-work and very little in the way of acrobatics. Everything is shot wide and moves very fast. The stunt team really earned their money on this picture with every blow, fall to the ground and crash through the furniture looking genuinely rock hard.

If you can get past the appalling treatment of the female characters and the very dated soundtrack and fashions, there is actually a half-decent buddy-cop movie here. Some moments will make you chuckle, but the main attraction is some great contemporary-style fights, especially for Sammo Hung fans.

Trivia

  • There are several references to Bruce Lee movies; the tap with the two metal bars is seen in “Game of Death” with Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto before the nunchaku fight; the use of the nunchaku in the finale is similar to “Fist of Fury” in which Bruce Lee introduces the weapon; Sammo holding one of the henchman’s hair is seen in “Enter the Dragon” in which Jackie Chan tries to attack Bruce but got his neck snapped; the fight with Sammo Hung and Mark Houghton is similar to “Way of the Dragon” with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris; during the jewel robbery Sammo attacks a man on the ground with a groin strike in the same way as Bruce Lee did to Bob Wall in “Way of the Dragon”.
  • Wanda Yung Wai-Tak is married to “Flash Point” bad guy Collin Chou, who worked alongside Sammo Hung on “Blade of Fury”.
  • The film was originally titled “Tiger on the Beat 3”, although it bares no relation to the previous films.
  • Lau Kar-wing was the fourth child of Lau Cham, a martial arts master who studied Hung Gar kung fu under Lam Sai Wing, pupil of the legendary Chinese folk hero, Wong Fei Hung. Mark Houghton studied Hung Gar with Kar-wing’s older brother, Lau Kar-leung.

Film Rating: 7/10

Influenced by the movies of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, Glen began training in martial arts and gymnastics in 1995. He made his first of many visits to Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 to learn Chin Woo kung fu under the supervision of Master Teng Wie Yoo. Glen is the author of "The Art of Coaching" and "Fearless The Story of Chin Woo Kung Fu", and runs a kung fu & kickboxing school in Hertfordshire, England.

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