Cat and Mouse (2003) / Action-Comedy
aka Liu Sue Oi Seung Mau
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence and some language
Running time: 92 min.
Cast: Andy Lau, Cecilia Cheung, Anthony Wong, Li Bingbing, Cheung Tat-Ming, Chapman To, Wong Yat-Fei
Director: Gordon Chan
Screenplay: Gordon Chan, Felix Chong
Review published April 22, 2005
I used to look forward to films directed by Gordon Chan (2000 AD, Beast Cops), but after discovering he makes just as many duds as he does good films, I don't know what to expect anymore. Cat and Mouse falls under the dud category, which is actually surprising, considering Chan had a good cast and a fairly high budget to work with. What Chan didn't bring to the production is a coherent script, as the mood changes between revenge action vehicle, slapstick comedy, and sappy romance from scene to scene, and none of them very successful. With no laughs, little chemistry between the leads, and some poorly edited action sequences, all we're left with is to admire how much money they poured into the costumes and sets without anything to show for it.
Andy Lau (Dance of a Dream, Fulltime Killer) stars as Zhan, the most talented swordsman in the land, and the protector of Judge Bao (Anthony Wong, The Mission), the wisest crime solver in his position. Both Zhan and Bao have spent the last few months bored beyond comprehension, as there is nothing going on that requires their services. Zhan eventually meets Shining Mouse Bai (Cecilia Cheung, Second Time Around), a woman pretending to be a man, and the two hit it off as friends and rivals at the same time. Soon, a plot to assassinate Bao is uncovered, leading Zhan, now known as the Cat, to request the services of Shining Mouse to keep the peace among the factions. Cat finds out Mouse is a woman, and one with a secret love for him, but he has already become engaged to another, the Emperor's daughter, Yue Hua (Li Bingbing, A World Without Thieves). Meanwhile, they have assassins to thwart.
If you can believe Cecilia Cheung can pass for a man because she wears a pencil-thin moustache, you're probably already in the right mindset to appreciate what little Cat and Mouse has to offer. Almost everyone mugs their way through this painfully unfunny undertaking, which mixes silly slapstick, useless puns, and claustrophobic fisticuffs without any real purpose to the overall story.
Gordon Chan is clearly on autopilot here, not once showing any of the style of his previous efforts, content to go through the motions of the silly romance and lackadaisical drama without distinction. None of the actors are used to even a quarter of their actual potential, and I'll bet top dollar that filming began without anything resembling a completed script.
Just like Zhan in an early scene, Gordon Chan can't seem to draw his sword out of its scabbard, which after a three year hiatus from filmmaking, has probably forgotten how to be of use. If you think Zhan and Bao are bored from a lack of activity, you'll know exactly how they feel after 92 minutes of this film. Cat and Mouse has its appealing cast all dressed up, but gave them nowhere to go.
©2005 Vince Leo