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Category III rated Hong Kong comedy “SDU: Sex Duties Unit” is another of the recent attempts to cash in on the success of Pang Ho Cheung’s foul mouthed and raunchy hit “Vulgaria”. Following a motley foursome of Hong Kong cops who head to Macau in search of women, the film does at least have a decent pedigree, being produced by Pang and based upon stories of his creation, with a script by “Vulgaria” co-writer Jody Luk. Gary Mak (“The New Option”) directs, with Chapman To (“The Midas Touch”), Shawn Yue (“Motorway”), Chow Hoi Kwong (“Overheard”) and Derek Tsang (“Lover’s Discourse”) taking the lead roles as the perverted policemen.
The four are members of the Special Duties Unit B Team, who, clearly not being as good as the A Team, are turned down for an international competition to prove their skills against other squads around the world. Deciding to boost morale, team leader Keung (Chapman To) persuades Josh (Shawn Yue), Ho (Chow Hoi Kwong) and Dried Shrimp (Derek Tsang) to smuggle themselves into Macau in order to have some fun with prostitutes – a mission he codenames ‘Sex War’. Unfortunately for them, their schemes are derailed by the local vice squad, and they end up mistaken for drug dealing gangsters and are forced to go on the run as they try to find a way home.
The ambitions of “SDU: Sex Duties Unit” are pretty clear from the start, aiming to appeal very much to the Pang Ho Cheung and “Vulgaria” crowd, the latter in particular, going for the same kind of creatively obscene use of the Cantonese language. As Pang-lite, the film does have a lot to offer fans, and while it’s not up to his standard by any means, there are plenty of laughs to be had for those who enjoy crude humour and bawdiness, both of which it has a great deal of, not to mention cameos from a number of the director’s regular team, including Lam Suet, Simon Lui, Jim Chim, and Dada Chen.
Essentially a comedy of errors charting mission ‘Sex War’ as it spirals out of control, the film has some very funny scenes and entertainingly manic moments, and while it’s likely that some of the gags will mean more to local viewers and Cantonese speakers, the action and daftness come thick and fast. Category III aficionados won’t be disappointed, the film serving up a fair amount of nudity and with most of the attractive female cast appearing unclad at one point or another, though the film has an odd air of innocence, and as a result never feels particularly sleazy and comes across as a harmless bit of old school naughtiness.
Crucial to the film’s modest success is the chemistry and camaraderie between the male leads, and the four are suitably convincing as buddies, even if their characters are fairly sketchy genre cut-outs. Chapman To predictably dominates, though Shawn Yue also puts in a solid shift, with Chow Hoi Kwong and Derek Tsang being mainly on-hand for comic relief. Where the film does let itself down somewhat is that rather than capitalising on male bonding and the group dynamic, it lurches off into drama, giving them all inconsequential backstories and subplots (in particular Yue’s pointless burgeoning relationship with kindly prostitute trainee stereotype Liu Anqi), and wandering into territory reminiscent of Pang’s popular 2003 black comedy “Men Suddenly in Black”. Mak and Luk lack the finesse or insight to pull this off unfortunately, and the film is at its weakest when trying to convince the viewer that it’s far more moving or relevant than it really is.
More of a focus on ribald humour would definitely have been a good idea, though “SDU: Sex Duties Unit” still should go down well with anyone who enjoys this kind of thing. With most of the gags hitting their targets, a likeable cast and a reasonably sharp script, while it’s not quite Pang Ho Cheung, it’s agreeable and entertaining, and perhaps most importantly, feels very Hong Kong, something that’s sadly becoming rather rare these days.
Gary Mak (director) / Ho-Cheung Pang (novel), Luk Yee-sum (screenplay)
CAST: Singh Hartihan Bitto
Kwok Cheung Tsang