TSBH: Tiger on the Beat (Lau Kar-leung, 1988)

As an obvious send-up of its Western action-comedy predecessors, Tiger on the Beat is legendary Shaw Brothers staple Lau Kar-leung’s head-scratching departure from traditional martial arts fare. Paired with hotheaded rookie Michael Tso (Conan Lee), notorious slacker and womanizer Sergeant Francis Li (Chow Yun-Fat) is tasked with taking down a heroin trafficking ring. Trailing their only available lead in the form of a key player’s sister, criminal involvement escalates as the mismatched duo comically overcomes explosively tone-deaf adversity on the path toward justice.

Billed as an HK equivalent to Lethal Weapon, this descriptor isn’t far off as the film strays from typically redundant heroic bloodshed fare. It forgoes the themes perpetuated throughout the likes of Lam and Woo’s features for an agreeably lighter take on action formula with an emphasis on chemistry between leads. While mostly effective, there’s no denying the aforementioned tonal inconsistency plaguing alternating scenes of general wackiness and extreme violence. Whether it’s Chow Yun-Fat “interrogating” the key players’ lone female link to the criminal underworld or the latter-act chainsaw battle crescendo, it’s this brand of insanity that instills Tiger on the Beat with enough of an engaging personality.

Well-intentioned as it is, Lau Kar-leung’s emulative employment of familiar Western tropes is startlingly uneven as the bickering duo nears resolution. The humor, while effective, is easily overshadowed by events comparable to the female lead being beaten within an inch of her life by a corn starch-wielding Chow Yun-Fat. You’ll have to see the film to gather relevant context of course, but Lau’s priorities become a bit muddied leading up to a during the expected blowout characteristic of the subgenre, of which comes complete with some of the more inventive pump shotgun use I’ve seen.

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