Plot: cops travel back in time to stop top criminal in the past
Nobody had a greater gift for anticipating what audiences might want than Hong Kong exploitation mogul Jing Wong. Seeing the worldwide success of Nintendo arcade beat-em-up Street Fighter II: the World Warrior (1991) Wong set to adapt the property for the big screen. In the resultant bidding war the rights went to Jackie Chan. Chan put these newly acquired copyrights to good use in his City Hunter (1993). There he, and not Joey Wong or Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching as you'd reasonably expect/hope, ended up in Chun-Li's signature blue qipao. Undeterred by not obtaining the necessary licensing he quickly rewrote the screenplay for his Street Fighter II: the World Warrior adaptation as pre-production was already under way. Thus came to be Future Cops, an action-comedy where pretty much nothing makes sense and where juvenile humor is the order of the day. If you thought the American Street Fighter (1994) was terrible, pray to the god of your choosing that Jing Wong never got his way. At least Chingmy Yau, Charlie Yeung and Winnie Lau brighten up this barely coherent romp.
In the far-flung future of 2043 criminal mastermind The General (Ken Lo Wai-Kwong) is incarcerated in a high-tech prison. His cronies, The Future Rascals, Thai King (Billy Chow Bei-Lei), Toyota (William Duen Wai-Lun) and Kent (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) have created a time machine to travel to 1993. There they will kill Yu Ti Hung, the judge that imprisoned The General in their own time. The Future Rascals are assailed by the Future Cops, a team of law enforcement officers comprising of Ti Man (Andy Lau Tak-Wah), Broom Man (Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau), Sing (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) and Lung (Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing). The Future Rascals manage to transport themselves to 1993 and the Future Cops are ordered by their department’s highest-ranking commander (Newton Lai Hon-Chi) to apprehend, arrest and detain the fugitive felons no matter what the cost. The General is too much of a high-priority target to be allowed to run amok. Thus the Future Cops are given permission to travel all the way back to 1993 when The General was nothing but a dopey high school student.
Tai Chun (Dicky Cheung Wai-Kin) is your average 24 year-old student at St. Yuk Keung high school in Hong Kong. He’s relentlessly mocked by bully Yu Kei-On (Andy Hui Chi-On) and his gang of misfits. At home he is constantly berated by his popular high school sister Chun May (Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching), their high-strung mother Mrs. Chun (Kingdom Yuen King-Tan) and her beau (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon). About the only thing that keeps poor Tai Chun alive is his unrequited love for Choy Nei (Charlie Yeung Choi-Nei), a crush he has been harboring for probably far too long. Tai Chun’s world is thrown upside down when the Future Cops land on his roof. After a bit of back-and-forth he agrees to help them find The General – but only if the Future Cops offer him protection and help him improve his reputation and standing in school while they’re there anyway.
Thus each member of the Future Cops goes undercover at Chun’s high school. Broom Man infiltrates by pretending to be a teacher. He breaks into song in the middle of class and makes a pass on student Siu Wai (Winnie Lau Siu-Wai). Ti Man pretends to be a student and quickly catches the eye of Tai Chun’s sister Chun May. Sing agrees to be Tai Chun’s loyal servant if only to protect him from the gang of bullies. Hilarity ensues when Siu Wai, the girlfriend of Kei On, falls head over heels in love with Tai Chun. While all of this is going on, this leaves the Future Cops with one problem: who is The General and how will they find him? An 11th hour plot twist not only reveals his identity, but pits the Future Cops in a fierce battle against the Future Rascals in a conclusion so in(s)ane it defies mere description.
Future Cops is the kind of movie that could only be made in Hong Kong by Jing Wong and still secure a theatrical release. Words cannot properly convey how utterly deranged and out-there Future Cops truly is. Granted, you’ll have to endure an hour’s worth of puerile situational comedy, unfunny puns/quips and kitschy gags straight out of The Inspector Wears Skirts and the main plot is liberally scribbled from Gordon Chan’s Fight Back to School (1991). Future Cops is bookended by two fairly impressive fightscene setpieces, but they are seperated by an hour’s worth of plot. On the other hand where are you going to see Winnie Lau, Charlie Yeung, Kingdom Yuen King-Tan, and Chingmy Yau together in the same movie? Where else are you going to see Chingmy Yau dressed up as Luigi Mario from Super Mario Bros and a grown-up Fanny Leung Maan-Yee from Infra-Man (1975) as one of the student body at St. Yuk Keung? In the end Tai Chung gains superpowers and transforms into Goku from Dragon Ball Z. It makes Wellson Chin Sing-Wai’s Super Lady Cop (1992) with Cynthia Khan look positively sane and measured in comparison. Il faut le faire...
The only reason that Future Cops has garnered any kind of longevity is thanks to its inherent insanity. The finer details of the plot make no sense and the Future Rascals only dress up as Street Fighter II: the World Warrior (1991) characters because the costumes were already made when production began. Chingmy Yau was no Brigitte Lin and certainly no Gong Li but as a reliable second-stringer the sheer variety of roles that she played over the years are testament to her versatility as an actress. Yau appeared in everything from gambling movies and romantic dramas to dopey comedies and about anything in between. She was in everything from Casino Tycoon (1992) and God of Gamblers Return (1994), and fantasy wuxia send-ups Legend of the Liquid Sword (1993) and Kung Fu Cult Master (1993) to laugh-a-minute action romps as Naked Killer (1992), City Hunter (1993) and High Risk (1995). Future Cops winks, nods and liberally borrows from everything from Back to the Future 2 (1989), and Ghost (1990), to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Demolition Man (1993). The screenplay barely makes sense and Wong has no interest in pursuing any of its better ideas. Future Cops plows mercilessly forward; logic and coherence be damned. Not all the jokes are funny, and they seem to miss the mark more often than they don't. In one of the funnier scenes Chingmy Yau can be seen shaking her petite derrière. No wonder Wong loved her...
To say that Future Cops is acquired taste is understating just how insane it occasionally gets. It often feels as three different movies choppily edited together in only a way Hong Kong would attempt. The tonal shifts are sudden and frequently jarring making the quirkier indulgences of comedy specialist Wellson Chin Sing-Wai’s Super Lady Cop (1992) look measured in comparison. Future Cops begins as a scifi-action movie before turning into a high school comedy (complete with slapstick humor and cartoony sound effects) in between segments of hastily edited in down-market chopsocky action. The situational – and slapstick comedy is hopelessly puerile (as you would expect of Wong) and that Future Cops depends so much on it is to its everlasting detriment. The Magic Crystal (1986) also mixed genres, but was far more elegant in doing so. The screenplay is a barely coherent mess that cannot even be redeemed by the electrifying presence of Wong babes Chingmy Yau, Winnie Lau, and Charlie Yeung. Future Cops is both disparate and desperate to make something, anything, of what in a better world should have been an official Street Fighter adaptation. Future Cops is a lot of things, but it clearly wasn't Jing Wong's finest moment.