THE INSPECTOR WEARS SKIRTS (1988) review

Also known as TOP SQUAD in some countries, THE INSPECTOR WEARS SKIRTS was very successful when it came out in 1988, starting a franchise that would yield four films, the first two being produced by Jackie Chan. Three of the four episodes star Sibelle Hu as Madam Wu, an instructor for an elite squad comprised only of women, nicknamed the amazones, and who are supposed to take on missions men can’t, their advantage being based on the fact that women are not usually expected to be elite agents (at least at the time), which can prove useful in situations such as infiltrating a hostage situation. Therefore young women are selected to go to a boot camp under the hard supervision of Madam Wu. All this set up is of course little more than a pretext to get a dozen attractive actresses in a situation of competition and cohabitation, with the added sexual tension brought by the fact that an all-male squad is being trained in the same premises, under the direction of Stanley Fung.

The girls are mostly differentiated by one single feature, a la the seven dwarves : there’s goofy (Sandra Ng), naïve (the pouty Regina Kent), ambitious (Kara Hui), seductive (Ellen Chan), congenial (Ann Bridgewater), and so on… The situations they throw themselves in rarely rise above juvenile humor (reading someone’s love letter aloud, falling into a muddy pit…), with occasional lapses into surprising violence (witness the brutal beating they give to an unfaithful boyfriend). There’s some mild drama as well, like when Kara Hui’s character denounces the squad’s slowest and less gifted member, seeing herself rejected by everyone in the process, but it’s all very inconsequential and undermined by the film’s episodic structure : there’s little to no tension, until a final hostage situation that puts the girls’ training to the test.

And so it’s left to the cast to make the film worthwhile, and in a way they do manage that. Sandra Ng, as the butt of numerous jokes about her not being desirable, throws herself with her usual abandon into her role, and entertainingly (if sometimes annoyingly) grimaces her way through the film. The delightful Kara Hui is of course underused but remains the most appealing character, with a slightly more fleshed out personality than the rest and a big fight scene in the end. Ellen Chan’s role is simply about being beautiful to look at, and she manages that pretty well, while the rest of the squad is simply interchageable but obviously easy on the eye. In a way the best part of the film is Stanley Fung’s performance as a middle-aged, self-conscious sergent who is in love with Sibelle Hu’s character but doesn’t know how to tell her. Fung is both funny and touching, and this subplot is about the only heartfelt part of the film.

There’s not much action (apart from an opening action scene with Sibelle Hu and Cynthia Rothrock, and a mid-film boys vs. girls martial arts match-up) until the final scene where Jackie Chan’s stunt team orchestrates a satisfying finale. Think American Pie mainly with girls, and ending like a Police Story film.

Long Story Short : Cheesy, dated, juvenile, THE INSPECTOR WEARS SKIRTS is also fun and generous with eye-candy. A guilty pleasure. **1/2

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4 Comments

  1. Leesa

     /  October 13, 2012

    FYI, the women were chosen out of 1000 police women to train as apart of the female commando.

    Reply
  2. Leesa

     /  October 13, 2012

    You’re welcome. Sibelle Hu also only stars in 1, 2, and 3. But annoying nitpicking aside, I loved your review, it’s great.

    Reply

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