Sunshine Cops (1999)

Directed by: Lo Kim-Wah
Written by: Felix Chong
Producer: David Chan
Starring: Stephen Fung, Ken Cheung, Angelica Lee, Eileen Tung, Ken Wong, Spencer Lam, Chan Maan-Loh, Simon Loui & Andrew Lin

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An off-beat training exercise for all manner of candidates within the police force is in fact part of a program to find two picture perfect role models as propaganda tools for the police. Selected are two standout thinkers, H20 (Stephen Fung) and Harry (Ken Cheung - The Era Of Vampires) who goes through image training, media exposure and adoration as the Sunshine Cops...

Working himself up through the ranks as both assistant director and even executive director (meaning he may have had more to do with the likes of Forbidden City Cop and Dragon Squad than many may think), Lo Kim-Wah has also plowed a path as director that's gone by relatively unnoticed. Although he's returned to assistant gigs in between, he occasionally sits in the main chair and Sunshine Cops sees him in that position making relatively fine noise from it.

A commercial fluff piece on a slightly minor scale, it allows for first-time writer Felix Chong (Infernal Affairs) to feature a media power examination, flirts with teen romance and action esthetics not often found in a small vehicles like this. Flirting quite cleverly with the Gen-X Cops feel and even SDU movies such as Gordon Chan and Dante Lam's Option-series, Chong and director Lo rightfully takes the opportunity to provide a counter balance rather than be yet another tired imitation. The triad genre of the late 90s for instance got deconstructed in hilarious ways (Once Upon A Time In Triad Society 1 & 2 chief among them) but Sunshine Cops isn't out to satirize a genre. It's rather taking a cue from various sources to make its own multi-mood product. Successful on a full scale it is not as it does quite openly tick off its checklist but the package is an infectious ride, one various audiences may take to heart a bit, including action junkies.

Johnnie To's Breaking News subsequently painted a picture of media manipulation but Felix Chong's script echoes less of a cynical view on it and presents the image concept more favourably. Although someone forgot to tell us that the police force apparently ARE desperate for an image make-over, the idea is treated as an actual good one and the duo chosen for the task even transcend their pop star status by actually being good cops (although them turning up on the scene of crimes quite conveniently does stretch believability a bit). Lo Kim-Wah speaks in a frenzied way but squeezes entertainment value out of the rise to fame of the contrasting duo. One from a family of cops and one motor-mouthed island kid not opposed to fame. It is refreshing though that neither character falls too deeply into the temptations but remains focused as civil servants.

Interludes of possible light romance (featuring a spunky but unexceptional debut act by future The Eye-star Angelica Lee), backlash of the media attention and the expected bad guy plot that will ultimately prove the worth of these guys makes sure Sunshine Cops never grows into a REEEAALLY clever vehicle and the dangerous tone the filmmakers strive for is rather absent despite some unusually crafty fight set pieces (for its time and size of the production) by Ma Yuk-Sing. But sufficient casting and a slick frame are assets that drive proceedings nicely forward and while the team of Stephen Fung and a dubbed Ken Cheung never approaches classic, you have a funny, likeable clown in Fung to decently contrast Cheung's, straight-laced Harry. Andrew Lin is saddled with the standard villain role, being rather poorly dubbed while Phillip Kwok turns up in a cameo as an action director. One of the few times we get to hear Kwok's real voice in Cantonese.

Lo Kim-Wah continued to plow in unexceptional teen horror territory together with Stephen Fung in Shadow subsequently and certainly remains an obscure player. But that's ok because Hong Kong needs these guys working in smaller venues, honing their creative craft and just as much as the Hong Kong Police Force plants a seed for future cadets in the film, Sunshine Cops represents something growing in Lo Kim-Wah's hopefully bright career.

The DVD:

Universe presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.72:1 approximately. Print is clean but the transfer looks generally unexceptional as it's slightly murky looking and only fairly sharp.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track uses front speakers frequently but never provides a noticeable sound experience. Dialogue is often clear, with only some scenes exhibiting distortion. A Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 dub is also included.

The English subtitles suffer from a select few spelling errors but are clear and coherent otherwise. Traditional and simplified subtitles are also available.

The extras starts with a single Star's File for Stephen Fung. Although unusually in-depth, the text-piece is rather flimsy. Trailers for Sunshine Cops, Gen-X Cops, Purple Storm and The Mistress concludes this standard package.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson