Following a successful first film and an even more successful second film that was basically a carbon copy of its predecessor, Raid on Royal Casino Marine finally mixes up the Inspector Wears Skirts formula. After spending the last two instalments silently longing for her, instructor Kan (Stanley Fung) is now married to Madam Wu (Sibelle Hu), who has retired but not mellowed : to keep fit she always rope-climbs to her hilltop house, and she’s managed to train her housemaid into a killing machine. When the Hong Kong police decides to mount an operation against an illegal gambling operation aboard a cruise ship, five members of the decommissioned female commando (returning actresses Sandra Ng, Kara Hui and Amy Yip plus new additions San Yip and Wong Wai Kei) are brought back into action to infiltrate the ship, but not before they get whipped back into shape by instructor Kan. As with the previous films, the training is actually closer to an escalating series of pranks between the instructor, his scapegoat/assistant (returning Billy Lau from the previous films’ male squad, which doesn’t return), and the five girls. The training ends more quickly, as the film segues into a God of Gamblers rehash (the immensely successful Wong Jing film had come out shortly after the release of The Inspector Wears Skirts II) for a saggy middle section. Then as the ship gets hijacked by its own captain (Michael Chow, who had a different role in the first film in the series), the film gets its obligatory yet perfunctory action finale (in which Kara Hui is unfortunately underemployed) : the Jackie Chan stunt team doesn’t return, and it shows.
Raid on Royal Casino Marine is, when watched in the right state of mind, an immensely enjoyable, mind-bogglingly weird little film. The previous two instalments were fun, cheesy, sophomoric action comedies full of eye-candy and sprinkled with good action ; this film is a sweetly demented little concoction. Its crazy ideas are muted by Wellson Chin’s pedestrian direction, but that doesn’t make them less odd : this is a film that gives us the be-all and end-all of romantic subplots, a Sandra Ng-Shing Fui On romance. He finally rejects her for money (he’s part of the hijackers gang), but when he decides love is more important after all, Michael Chow shoots him in the kneecaps and groin. After which Sandra Ng rejects him because his genitals have been shot off. After which they end up together anyway and head for Hawaii for genital surgery. If ever a film was robbed for Best Screenplay at the Hong Kong Film Awards, this is it.
Elsewhere the female squad has graduated from extreme pranksters in the previous film, to all-out violence maniacs in this one. They’re first re-introduced beating up a van-driver who’d been teasing them innocuously. At various points in the film they also beat up Billy Lau and Stanley Fung in protracted hammerings, but the ‘best’ is saved for last as they literally castrate one of the bad guys, as Sandra Ng repeatedly kicks his groin while the other girls have him pinned down. And alongside tired jokes like Amy Yip flashing her breasts to opponent numerous times to get a surprise effect, there are more offbeat ones like a bird that Sibelle Hu appoints to surveilling Stanley Fung, by smearing it with the latter’s saliva (!), or a incredibly elaborate prank in which the girls enact scenes from A Chinese Ghost Story, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th to their dazed and terrified instructor. The film is light on the action, save for an amusing finale where Sibelle Hu gets back in action and foreshadows Under Siege by single-handedly wiping out the hijackers, using kitchen utensils and a cloth-hanger. The cute, satisfied look on her face as she makes a molotov cocktail and has it land on a bad guy’s groin (yes, groins are a big thing in this film, believe it or not), is a perfect representation of this film’s noble spirit and lofty ambitions.
Long Story Short : The Inspector Wears Skirts formula gets shaken up a bit in this third instalment which is derivative and moronic, forcedly referential and unabashedly politically incorrect, but also incredibly weird in an endearingly matter-of-fact way. ***