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鹹魚番生 (1980)
By Hook or by Crook


Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 07/20/2008
Summary: Irritating but with a few funny moments

This mostly forgotten comedy film has probably only been seen by the hardcore Sammo fan. The plot (such as it is) centres on a mysterious Robin Hood-esque thief called the Flower Kid, who the authorities want to capture. The Sheriff (Karl Maka – also the film’s director) enlists the help of Skinny Gee (Dean Shek) to track him down. In the course of his travels, he comes upon Fatso (Hung, obviously) who is masquerading as the Flower Kid. They strike up a friendship of sorts and together go in search of the real Flower Kid to help rid the town of a nasty villain in the form of the Golden Killer (Chung Faat) and his gang.

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK doesn’t start too promisingly and it gets a lot worse before it gets better. The comedy is extremely broad, crude and base, not to mention dated and basically unfunny. This goes on for quite a while and it is pretty much an endurance test to get through it. At various times I was sorely tempted to reach for the “off” button, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t now.

Although it never really redeems itself, the movie gets significantly better with the introduction of Wu Ma’s character about halfway through. I don’t think I’ll be accused of giving too much away if I reveal he’s the real Flower Kid – an old hero who’s given up robbing the rich and giving to the poor and is more than a little cowardly these days. I’m not really a Wu Ma fan – he tends to play slimy unsympathetic characters (and I’ve never forgiven him for making fun of Sammo in HEART OF THE DRAGON or directing the God-awful CIRCUS KIDS) but there’s some mileage to be got out of a rusty old hero coming out of retirement. He’s made up as old man, but when he comes out of retirement, Sammo and Shek make him up to hide his advancing years, so you end up having a fairly young man playing an old man made up like a young man...well, it made me laugh, anyway. There are also some wacky costumes that made me smile and a good cameo by Eric Tsang as an unbeatable gunman (cue THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY theme!).

The mark of a good comedy is when you’re still laughing after the movie’s over and in that respect BY HOOK OR BY CROOK is a winner - I was belly laughing for hours after the movie ended. Trouble is, I was laughing at the one moment in the whole movie that was supposed to be serious. A man stumbles into a family’s garden, whips out a knife and stabs a young woman in the back, killing her instantly. The family are understandably distraught at the killer, who sticks around after the event while the grief-stricken father admonishes him with an emotional tirade translated in the subtitles as: “You are too rude!”

The more physical side of the movie doesn’t impress too much either. Everyone who has watched WARRIORS TWO will remember the movie was nearly ruined with some ill-placed slapstick humour right at the end with the Dean Shek character, and that’s the tone that’s used throughout this film. The end fight is handled in pure cartoon style – Sammo gets beaten to a pulp and regurgitates a battery and a table is pulled from under Dean Shek, who remains floating in the air until he realises there’s nothing underneath him and then comes crashing down to earth. Funny when it happens to a cartoon cat and mouse, less so in a live-action environment.

So while By Hook Or By Crook is not the complete write-off it appears to be at first, it is far from being a classic movie and I can’t honestly see the point of ever watching it again.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: cpardo
Date: 05/15/2006
Summary: Worth a second look!

A local rich man has his money stolen and they believe it to be the work of "Flower Kid," an outlaw hero who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The man's wife suggests hiring Skinny Gee, a sneaky con man famous for catching crooks. Gee is able to track him down, but it turns out this Flower Kid is only a guy named Fatso, who idolizes FK and is continuing in his tradition. They eventually find the real one, but he's old and retired and has no desire to become a hero again. That's when Gee and Fatso band together to retrain him and give him the courage to come out of retirement. Good timing too, as they're on the trail of a nasty killer and his cohort, who need to be brought to justice...

I didn't think much of this film when I first saw it--it was sort of funny. But that was mainly of the bad VHS copy I had. Now that I've seen it on DVD it makes a big difference. This is mainly a mystery comedy featuring a great cast ensemble. I probably still missed some jokes, but there was a lot to laugh at in the film. Dean Shek is a hoot to watch and Sammo adds muscle in his role. Veteran Wu Ma is effective in the FK role, while Chung Fat makes a good ugly villain (those eyebrows). Eric Tsang has a small role as a Chinese gunfighter, complete with Good Bad and the Ugly music! Dashes of Kung Fu are thrown in, and the ending is an interesting mix of fisticuffs and wacky comedy. Seeing Sammo and Dean decked out in ridiculous armor costumes (for the final assault) is hysterical. I also liked the catchy music, with the repititive guitar flamenco opening theme and the bouncy Skinny Gee theme and all it's variations. All in all, this is a consistently entertaining production. I'd watch it again.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 04/25/2006
Summary: fun fare...

karl maka directs, produces and even has a supporting role in this fun comedy. dean shek, at his lanky, weird and boggle-eyed best, plays skinny; a scheming con-man who has been employed to track down flower kid, a robin hood-esque character who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. along his way, he teams up with fatso (sammo hung), a man who is inspired by flower kid's actions and immitates them, albeit at a lower level. when skinny and fatso meet up with flower kid, the plot thickens...

this is a fun, if at times, slightly confusing film; i'm sure a couple of badly translated lines throw you off track, but everything becomes apparent soon enough. shek and hung make a good comedy pairing and as the film progresses, there's a few fights (a big one at the end, of course) that are pretty damn good. there's a great cameo from eric tsang, as some kind of gunfighter...

good fun.


Reviewed by: vikungfu
Date: 05/29/2005

A comedy/action movie starring Sammo Hung. Comedy was about average. Action was good but there was far too litte. The cameos by Eric Tsang and Lam Ching Ying were fun.

5.5/10

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/18/2003

Karl Mak(a) was undoubtedly and influential director and producer, and Hong Kong Cinema is probably somewhat the better for his influence... but I have to admit the man does annoy me. He was one of the people primarily responsible for the "stupid people pulling funny faces" brand of comedy that blighted far too many HK movies.

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK is one of Maka's movies as director, and it falls firmly into the "stupid people/stupid faces" genre of films. I probably would have had no interest, were it not for the fact it stars Sammo Hung - not entirely unresponsible for this peculiarly Cantonese brand of comedy himself. No movie with Sammo in is ever going to be truly awful though, even if he does share lead duties with Dean Shek - possibly the man with the most stupid and annoying face in the whole of Hong Kong's history.

The movie has Dean Shek framed by Karl Maka then sent on a mission to track down and apprehend a thief called The Flower Kid. He finds him easily enough, but finds that he's not the only person looking for him. In order to collect his reward, he has to get him to prison alive. This is a rather kind assessment of the plot, which in practise is rather muddled and doesn't make a lot of sense. It's basically just strings together a series of sketches and a little bit of action.

The comedy in the movie is definitely very low brow and crude, but does actually manage to be quite funny several times. The plot is not the most coherent, but is actually a little bit of an original take on the Kung Fu Movie archetype.

The action is always the main reason to watch a Sammo movie though, and unfortunately BHOBC is a little disappointing in that respect. There are a few fights throughout, but nothing particularly special until Sammo has a showdown with the godly Chung Faat - this fight alone is good enough reason for Sammo fans to pick up the movie, though it's still no classic.

Taking the movie as a whole, there's little reason to recommend it but it is watchable and somewhat entertaining. Worth seeing, but shouldn't be too high on anybody's priority lists.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Kncklz2000
Date: 06/28/2001
Summary: Mexican eastern/western

Since no one has a decent review of the movie, I guess it's up to me to write one up. The strange thing about this movie is that it's not very well known. Heck, I dind't know about it until I saw it for sale.

The movie starts out with some guy in black stealing some jewelry (I think).
So the guy whose merchendase was stolen beleives it was the famous FLOWER KID (this guy steals from the rich and gives to the poor) and so he hires the sheriff (Karl Maka). But the rich guy's wife insists that someone else help.

So Karl Maka gets this someone else (Dean Shek Tin- the beggar from "Half a Loaf of Kung Fu", and the instructor Jackie emberassed in the beginning of "Drunken Master"). Dean is introduced in a very humorous way.

Wha wha wha wha wha, Dean manages to find Flower Kid. Except it's not the real Flower Kid, it's Sammo who pretends to be Flower Kid (you following along?). Very very very little action and some good humor here.

So Dean tells Maka that he wants to set up Flower Kid. As it turns out, Dean and Sammo set the whole set-up up, and after Sammo helps Dean escape from jail, they go to find the real flower kid. There's some action here and there- not too long, but it's good stuff. Also some good comedy in a whore house.

Wha wha wha wha wha wha, so the rich guy's wife hires an assasin (Chung Faat- guy from "Spooky Encounters" (the good wizard)) to kill the real flower kid (Wu Ma).

Sammo and Dean manage to find Ma, and when Ma learns that Faat is out to kill him, the boys must train him. Oh, they try to get a bodygaurd for Ma but it doesn't work out. They find this huge guy that throws knives. So he is paired off ( a Mexican stand-off) against Eric Tsang (who's dressed as a Mexican with an eye patch)- some really funny stuff here.

So things don't work out, and the boys must train Ma. But before they do, they have to get him to beleve in himself. So Dean bets with Lam Ching Ying that everytime Ma hits one of Lam's guys, Dean will give him a dollar. But if Lam's guys hit Ma, then Lam owes Dean 4 dollars. Watch the movie to see what happens. Then they begin to train/prepare Ma. Really funny stuff, especially with the background music.

The three of them go to find Faat. First, you have Sammo and Dean pair up against Faat's two guys. They both have a chain with a ball at the end of it, while Sammo and Dean are dressed in goofy ass costumes. The fights are awesome and really funny.

Them Ma fights Faat for a little while, and Sammo steps in. The battle continues, and I must say, it's really awesome.

So basically you have a really good STUPID comedy with great fights, even though they were undercranked. I know at points during the movie you'll want to stop and just leave, but stick through it. It's really a light/fun-filled movie.


Reviewed by: SBates
Date: 03/20/2001
Summary: What The?

I am a Sammo Hung completist, so I had to track this one down. It's primarily a comedy, with a dash of kung fu at the end. The main attraction is the outlandish costume design. The get-up of the characters is cartoonish.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

An amusing martial arts comedy about a Robin Hood-like hero named"FLOWER KID" who stole from the rich & gave to the poor.

[Reviewed by Tai Seng Catalog]