Pantyhose Hero (1990)

Posted in Reviews by - March 04, 2013
Pantyhose Hero (1990)

The moment Sammo Hung‘s career commercially nose-dived can be pinpointed to around the time of this homophobic crime caper. It’s a brash, pernicious film which signals a shift in Sammo’s comedy from a childlike innocence into something altogether quite mean. Perhaps, in the midst of a growing AIDS epidemic, the film is indicative of Hong Kong attitudes towards homosexuality in the 1980s – where sexual activity between same-sex partners was still a criminal offence – but I doubt it. Watching it in the 21st century is like being caught in some kind of grotesque and unsettling time vortex. It is reassuring to know audiences at the time thought the same.

As undercover cops infiltrating Hong Kong’s gay mafia, Sammo and Alan Tam undergo three days of intensive gay training, which involves working out who is the more feminine and practicing their camp walk. “There are three types of gays,” says their mentor Jaclyn Chu quite categorically, as if gay people are clearly defined by their bad habits and devious intentions. They are told to “cultivate the mentality of disliking girls” by way of training their gaydar, hitting the local bars for an uncomfortable series of pick up scenes. With Sammo’s sinister portrayal of what he clearly sees as a strange and seedy subculture, coupled with a few AIDS gags thrown in for good measure (always a great topic for humour), you may have to keep reminding yourself that this is a comedy.

However, Sammo’s action is faultless; sublimely choreographed and brutally performed, particularly a punishing finale with criminal kingpin Yam Wai-hung and his crazy kicks. The action scenes are visceral, edgy and genuinely exciting, but it was Sammo’s crude comedy which was proving to be out of step with the changing attitudes of the time.

AKA: Pantyhose Killer

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