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UNDERCOVER HIDDEN DRAGON begins promisingly enough with down-on-his-luck delivery boy Fat (pop star/comedian Ronald Cheng) being recruited by a band of thugs. While Fat doesn't show a lot of street smarts, he's nevertheless willing to lead a one-man charge against his recruiters' enemies, a rival gang that looks like it could use a visit to the Hair Club for Men. Fat's attack ends predictably with his fleeing from the band of baldies, but then the action shifts into high gear when a raincoat-wearing fighter (Philip Ng) shows up to demolish the follically challenged foes. This fight sequence and its encore that occurs two-thirds of the way through the movie are easily the best scenes in the film and truly deserved to be a part of a much better movie.
The remainder of this taxing time-waster sees Fat being approached by the world's skinniest cops (Theresa Fu, Miki Yeung, and Ella Koon) and told that he is actually an undercover police officer who has suffered amnesia and is living out an assumed identity. While Fat is not wholly convinced, he is willing, for a price, to help the policewomen get information on mob boss Wind To (also played by Ronald Cheng) and take him down. When he gets TOO close to Wind and is promoted to a lieutenant and personal bodyguard to Sharon (model Pace Wu), the boss's wife, Fat's friends try to lead him back to the path of justice and righteousness, encouraging him to be a hero. This, unfortunately, leads to an interminable sequence where Fat and his good buddy (played by Lam Chi Chung of SHAOLIN SOCCER and KUNG FU HUSTLE fame) fight crime as the Chinese Kamen Riders.
If you think the plot sounds like a confusing mess, then that would just prove you are perfectly normal because the script for UNDERCOVER HIDDEN DRAGON is in serious need of editing if not a major rewrite. Ronald Cheng is his normal just-short-of-over-the-top self and tries hard to get laughs, such as in an early scene where Fat answers a call using what little English he knows--for no apparent reason.
Unfortunately, directors Dante Lam and Gordon Chan, who gave us the brilliant BEAST COPS in 1998, do not seem to understand Cheng's approach to comedy and saddle him with lame gags like having him deny groping the chests of the lady cops in the back of a van when he's the only male in sight. They also include a love triangle where Fat has been pining for Sharon long before she became Wind's wife but has also developed feelings for Chong Ching (Fu). While this subplot does not feel entirely out of place (it figures prominently in the climax), it unfortunately ends a little too neatly and rather unbelievably (just ask my wife--women do NOT act the way Wu would in her position). The directors also include go-nowhere story lines about Fat working at an arcade and the bald gang engaging in drug trafficking, seemingly for the sake of including a musical number involving some ridiculous afros--I wish I were kidding--and some serious hand-to-hand combat. In other words, Lam and Chan seem to be throwing to the wall everything not nailed down in hopes that some of it will stick. Some of it does, like the impressive fight sequences involving the baldies, but most of it doesn't and is just forgettable material that has been recycled dozens of times over (good guy looking like the bad guy, anyone?).
Overall, this is a largely unfunny and disposable film that will hopefully serve as a stepping stone for bigger and better things for all those involved. Ronald Cheng has shown that he can be funny given the right material and, with any luck, he will put this movie behind him and find his form again. The top-notch fights in UNDERCOVER HIDDEN DRAGON--which are not quite good enough to justify anyone sitting through the rest of the film just to see them--prove that Lam and Chan still know how to direct and entertain. If they can recover and build on those scenes then fans will probably have a solid action picture to look forward to in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.
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