Friday, October 18, 2013

RUNNING ON KARMA (2003) -
Johnnie To & Wai Ka-Fai


Where did this movie come from? Oh yes, mainland China. After watching Andy Lau run around for an hour and a half in a prosthetic naked man muscle suit, sometimes I have to remind myself.

Running on Karma is perched in that precarious non-genre somewhere between cop movie, kung fu comedy and religious film. Andy Lau plays a Buddhist monk turned stripper/bodybuilder. Why did he leave the faith? Something to do with killing a sparrow (don't ask), an act which he must pay for karmically by lifting a lot of weights. After being busted for some minor stripper-related crime, he teams up with the lady cop who entrapped him to help find a murderer, an Indian guy who can fit himself into very small boxes (again, don't ask). As you might expect, they fall for each other en route.  But there's just one problem: Lau can see into the lady cop's karmic past and, apparently, she was a pretty heartless Japanese soldier with a yen for beheading the Chinese. Dealbreaker? Just how picky should an ex-monk really be about his love interests when his muscles are made of detachable foam latex?


There is definitely some interesting stuff going on here, though I'm not sure how well it all holds together. I do wonder how it would have played if To had cast an actual young Pumping Iron Arnold type instead of the always reliable (though pencil thin) Lau. I wouldn't call Karma classic To, but it's a diverting oddity nonetheless. At the very least, it paved the way for a later, better film (Mad Detective) where the lead also hallucinates past events to solve crimes.

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