This spin-off of "Supercop" is one of my favorite Hong Kong action movies. "Once a Cop" ("Chao ji ji hua") kicks off with a rousing high-energy title sequence and never lets up. The story is meatier than most action yarns: a Chinese policewoman (Michelle Yeoh) tracks a gang of bank robbers to Hong Kong, unaware that their ringleader is her fiancé, an ex-cop (Yu Rong-Guang). This intriguing set-up searches the emotions of the main character as it explores the cultural clash between get-rich-quick Hong Kong and the duty-bound mainland. There's also a sympathetic subplot about a Hong Kong cop who's attracted to Yeoh but feels intimidated by both her and her fiancé. The action sequences are all superbly executed, credibly grounding their martial arts in the actors' own athletic abilities (rather than falling back on wires and special effects). And Yeoh's graceful gymnastic prowess has never been used to better advantage.
Unfortunately, not everything about "Once a Cop" clicks. The relationship between Yeoh and Yu isn't developed as deeply as it could be (though it's still more interesting than most action-movie romances), and it ultimately doesn't make the most of the premise's irony. Jackie Chan's cameo (reprising his "Supercop" role) is awkward and not well integrated into the story. And Alain Guernier as the central villain gives the worst impersonation of an Englishman I've ever seen (even if John Malkovich's Dr. Jekyll in "Mary Reilly" comes pretty darn close). But pound per pound - and punch per punch - "Once a Cop" is as thrilling and exciting as any reality-based martial-arts movie to come out of the Crown Colony. Anyone wowed by Michelle Yeoh's work in "Tomorrow Never Dies" should definitely check out this
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