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  Curry and Pepper  
  Chinese: 咖喱辣椒 Jacky Cheung and Stephen Chow  



Blacky Ko Sau-Leung


Peter Chan Ho-Sun


James Yuen Sai-Sang


Blacky Ko Sau-Leung

  Cast: Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau, Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Ann Bridgewater, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Blacky Ko Sau-Leung, John Sham Kin-Fun, Barry Wong Ping-Yiu, Bruce Fontaine  
  The Skinny: This seemingly by-the-numbers buddy cop flick proves to be an enjoyable ride thanks to the engaging performances of its two comic leads and some surprisingly nifty action sequences from director/action choreographer Blackie Ko.  
  Review by

Starsky and Hutch, Riggs and Murtaugh, Tango and Cash - the American "buddy cop" subgenre is rife with iconic partnerships. In 1990, action choreographer-turned-director Blackie Ko added two more names to that list with the comic duo of Curry and Pepper, the lead detectives in the Hong Kong movie of the same name. Already well-established "Sky King" Jacky Cheung and a pre-superstardom Stephen Chow headline this amusing action-comedy, starring as two mismatched partners who take the familiar concept of "male bonding" to a whole new level. While by no means a comedy classic in the same league as Chow's later works, Curry and Pepper boasts some engaging performances from Cheung and Chow, not to mention some surprisingly effective action sequences, which significantly enlivens the film's otherwise clichéd, fairly predictable storyline.

Cheung stars as Curry, the more level-headed of the two, while Chow portrays Pepper, the requisite fast-talking hothead who has quite the knack for getting himself into trouble. Whatever their differences, Curry and Pepper have been friends since childhood and are more or less inseparable "best buds" who are not only partners on the police force, but roommates, too! Can you say 'homoerotic undercurrent'? I knew you could.

Although Curry and Pepper spend most of their time joking their way through their jobs, they also seem to get results. Their daily routine is soon thrown for a loop, however, when Joey Law (Ann Bridgewater), a beautiful news reporter, gets permission to follow them while they make their daily rounds in Tsimshatsui. Unsurprisingly, the not-so-dynamic duo's efforts to look like supercops in front of the beguiling journalist backfire in almost every conceivable way, providing ample laughs. Of course, friction soon emerges between the two pals, and they end up competing for Joey's affections, although it's pretty much "no contest." Pepper is infatuated with Joey, but she's got a serious hankering for Curry (sorry, bad joke). Needless to say, the outcome of this love triangle puts the Curry and Pepper partnership in serious jeopardy.

From here on in, you can pretty much guess what'll happen, as the breakup of the friendship plays out in the most conventional way possible. The two heroes part ways, but end up missing each other dearly to much comic effect. Of course, they eventually put their differences aside and reunite as partners for a greater cause - in their case, Curry and Pepper realize they're the only men capable of putting a vicious baddie named Abalone (Blackie Ko) behind bars for good, although not without cracking a few jokes along the way.

Curry and Pepper varies the buddy cop formula in that its lead protagonists aren't at odds with one another as the film begins. That's usually the source of conflict in buddy movies, as the two opposites are forcibly paired together and must learn to work with one another and appreciate each other's strengths as the film develops - for examples, just see Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash, Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, etc. Funnily enough, even when conflict does finally rear its ugly head, it turns out that the reason Pepper becomes jealous has less to do with losing a woman to Curry and more to do with the fear that he's lost his best friend in the process.

That's not to say Curry and Pepper is completely innovative. Plot-wise, it's actually quite predictable, and the director's by-the-numbers approach to the script is made worse by the fact that a lot of the comedy falls flat in the early-goings of the picture. But patient viewers will be rewarded, as the film eventually begins to pick up steam, in particular thanks to the developing and quite palpable chemistry between Cheung and Chow. Slowly, the funny bits start to add up, and after a while, you find yourself actually caring about the characters, despite the rather predictable narrative frame and requisite wacky antics.

While the humor on display is not exactly classic Stephen Chow, there's certainly a lot to laugh at in this film, especially in the characters' rather, shall we say, "creative" use of the English language throughout the movie. Of course, this is an early 1990s Hong Kong film, so there are tonal shifts aplenty from broad comedy to bloody run-and-gun action, and director Blackie Ko handles the transition well. Whether they're acting courageous, cowering in fear, or just cracking jokes, Jacky Cheung and Stephen Chow are pitch perfect when the bullets start flying in Ko's impressive action sequences. When all is said and done, Curry and Pepper is, true to its name, not in the least a bland experience at the movies. Despite its problems, I found it to be a winning action-comedy thanks in large part to the crackerjack chemistry between its two leads. To tell the truth, even all these many years later, I'd happily welcome the announcement of a Curry and Pepper 2. Stephen Chow and Jacky Cheung together again? Make it so. (Calvin McMillin 2007)

  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mega Star
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese, Mandarin, and English Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Mega Star

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