Tiger on Beat (1988)
By: Mr Intolerance on February 23, 2009  | 
Universe (Hong Kong). All Region, NTSC. 1.85:1 (Non-Anamorphic). Cantonese DD 5.1, Mandarin DD 5.1. Chinese (traditional), English, Chinese (simplified), Japanese, Bahasa Indonesian, Bahasa Malaysian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese Subtitles. 89 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Lau Kar Leung
Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Conan Lee, Nina Li
Screenplay: Tsang Kwok Chi
Country: Hong Kong
External Links
Now then, as to whether or not you will be predisposed to watch Tiger On Beat may well hinge on your answer to the following question: where do you stand on chainsaw duels?

Tiger On Beat is a film that thankfully never takes it self too seriously, and tries, like all good action films, to provide its audience with a few thrills and spills (and laughs) along the way. I'm a big fan of Chow Yun Fat's HK films (once he moved to the US, I just don't think the directors knew how to make the most of him, which is a crying shame). If you look at the brilliance of things like A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, God of Gamblers or Hard Boiled, you will see action hero brilliance from beginning to end – even his practically cameo appearance in The Seventh Curse reeks of so much cool, I think I'm about to pass out. I've certainly never looked at rocket launchers in the same way since…

I digress. Tiger On Beat is a bit of a Lethal Weapon riff, a cop buddy movie. And the opening credits are so 80s it hurts. Both the music and the visuals will destroy you – and they are cheap – the final image of the Tiger on the beat looks like it was drawn by a twelve year old.

We start off with a visor-clad Chow Yun Fat as undercover cop Sergeant Li, a philandering bastard who's trying to get out of a situation of getting caught of having fucked another man's wife – the usual HK Keystone Kops humour ensues. His breakfast (taught to him by Bruce Lee to Jacky Chan to him) is something that left me aghast, but I guess it was meant to – you'll see what I mean.

A botched robbery initiates the action that brings our two mis-matched heroes, Li (Fat) and Cho (Lee), together. (Can I just point out at this point that the soundtrack and the subtitles don't really match up? And then there's the English dialogue to English subtitle comparison that is just completely baffling). Our criminals are coke dealers, and they prove themselves to be pretty bad-ass from the get-go. All the main players are together? Let's paaaaar-tey!

Li and Cho try to find out what the hell's going on in the criminal underground by using the best methods possible – sleaze and beating people up. And enter the love interest, Marydonna (capitalising on the name Madonna had made for herself in popular culture by this time? More than likely – unless they were referencing the soccer player Maradonna – but let's not go there) but not all is quite what it should be. A formulaic HK action film? Sure. But what else were you expecting? You know it's going to be good. Not to mention loads of fun.

The fight scenes are hyper-kinetic, bloody and totally over the top, laced with a great deal of slapstick humour. If this was a US film, I don't think it'd have the same amount of laughs. Lethal Weapon, for example, and as cited before, is a similar kind of film, and had all the action and violence, but in the end took itself far too seriously, despite its moments of comedy. This is a much more glib riff on the notion of the "buddy movie". This is no bad thing and does tend to lighten up a rather predictable cops and robbers flick, but in the end, leaves you feeling a little unsatisfied, because the action does suffer a little bit by being that little bit too Buster Keaton, at times.

The elements of romantic-comedy tend to get a little intrusive, but I guess that's just the light-hearted nature of the film showing through. Unlike tragic action films like The Killer, or say, Leon: The Professional, this is the kind of thing we're meant to walk away from with a smile on our faces – catharsis be damned! That said, there are a few bleak elements that creep in to Tiger On Beat, which kinda sorta sit oddly with the predominant tone of the film.

The climactic fight scene of this film is worth the price of admission alone. It features all the best elements of an HK film gunfight, kung-fu action and a chainsaw duel. Yep, that's right, a chainsaw duel – and not some piss-ant one like in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, a really cool one that moves like greased fucking lightning with many kung-fu moves thrown in for good measure. It's a thing of beauty.

And so the whole film is about cocaine smuggling, and the rather comical attempts of the HK police force to shut the whole thing down, mixed up with some moments of weirdness, some Chaplinesque humour and some moments of nastiness that you don't expect. Chow Yun Fat is pretty good in a comedic role, although I do prefer to see him in something more dramatic, like The Killer. I'm just still trying to work out why he felt the need to wear white trousers and a sun-visor for almost the full duration of the movie.

The subtitling on this disc certainly needs addressing – there was one point (a really dramatic moment of the film) where one character had another at gunpoint and yelled, "Don't try to do funny things!" I thought I was going to choke… It's up there with, "I'm a police!" Bad grammar and Engrish amuse me…
Not so hot. It's not the best of pictures with a rather crackly-grainy at times almost pixillated feel. Surely someone could have restored it properly? Still, the subtitles are better than the old VHS version I saw originally in the 90s. At least this way you can see them. The R2 Hong Kong Legends version apparently has an anamorphic transfer.
Serviceable. I don't think, despite the 5.1, that anyone's really gone to any great lengths to do this film any kind of service. And if that's the best audio track anyone can do for this film, I'll eat my boots.
Extra Features
There are text bios for Lau Kar Leung (director), and stars Chow Yun Fat and Conan Lee, the original theatrical trailer (seriously, if you watched this , you wouldn't have a single fucking clue what the film was about, and it's a 4 and a half minute long trailer – it is so shy of coherence I can't even tell you), and trailers for City On Fire, All About Ah Long, Prison On Fire, Prison On Fire 2, and Hong Kong 1941. Now, it's not exactly a comprehensive package, but what are you gonna do? Answer – buy the R2 Hong Kong Legends version which has an audio commentary and a bunch of interviews apparently. I only discovered this while researching this version of the disc. More fool me.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Tiger On Beat isn't going to change your life, but it will definitely entertain you greatly for the better part of 90 minutes – which is exactly what it sets out to do. If you can't get a giggle out of this or at least get some fun out of the hyperbolic action scenes then (to paraphrase Blackadder more than slightly) you're a stiff with no more right to live on god's green earth than a weasel.

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