All the Wrong Spies (1983) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: Not rated but probably PG-13 for violence
Running Time: 102 min.
Cast: George Lam, Brigitte Lin, Teddy Robin Kwan, Tsui Hark
Director: Teddy Robin Kwan
Screenplay: Wong Bak-Ming
Review published March 22, 2000
Hong Kong cinema in the early to mid-80s was marked by its homages to American films of the Thirties, and ALL THE WRONG SPIES employs it so thoroughly, it can almost be seen as a loving spoof, a la Mel Brooks, to these classic Hollywood films. Bits of many well-known movies are pieced together to form an altogether different film with Chinese sensibilities. It is these sensibilities that keep things different and breathe new life into what would have normally been a stale "been there, done that" kind of film.
Set, of course, in the late 30s, World War II is imminent and there is a formula for a nuclear weapon (dubbed The Beast) which Nazi Germany is determined to get their hands on. The formula works its way to Hong Kong, and with Germans in pursuit, Yoyo (a Hong Kong private eye) is hired to make sure that this formula gets to the Americans before the Germans can get it. The police chief has other ideas, and wants to sell it to the Japanese for big dollars. Now all parties get in the mix and The Beast is up for grabs.
Teddy Robin is not only the costar, but also the director, and it's hard to believe it's his first time as director with how competently he handles the very broad slapstick. This is also Teddy's second film as an actor, with the first being the similarly-titled ALL THE WRONG CLUES, which contained the same character he plays here. Raymond Wong is the writer-producer, and does a wonderful job in the overall production, while keeping the writing fresh despite its naturally derivative nature. It takes a bit of time getting used to the slapstick humor, but it definitely grows on you, and by the end of the film, don't be surprised to find that you had a good time watching it. George Lam and Brigitte Lin are extremely likeable as the leads, with a very energetic and fun-to-watch supporting cast bolstering the show.
ALL THE WRONG SPIES is definitely recommended for fans of 30s comedies, CASABLANCA, and the films of the 60s by Blake Edwards. If anything, it proves that while the humor may be old-fashioned, there's still a lot of mileage to be had in the farce genre when done by people who obviously love it.
©2000 Vince Leo