Hoping to sustain a recent mini-resurgence of Hong Kong films through to lunar new year, Ying Chi-wen’s second feature is a silly, initially laboured but increasingly endearing comedy mashup. A remake of 2021 Taiwanese gangster film Treat or Trick, which is itself a do-over of 2004 Korean horror-comedy To Catch a Virgin Ghost, it manages to hit virtually every branch on the genre tree on the way down: Bad Boys buddy action comedy, dead wet girl Asian horror, knockabout Beijing opera farce, wuxia parody.
Yau Shing (Hong Kong singer Hins Cheung) is a hotshot point man in Ray-Bans for So Good security firm. Told to escort a consignment of diamonds across the city, he fails to anticipate his driver Jelly (Kaho Hung) hightailing it with the bling, which also cheeses off some bungling triads out to nab it. So the gang boss orders his minion Monk (Michael Ning), as well as Yau Shing and rookie recruit Penguin (Jeffrey Ngai Tsun Sang), to the off-the-grid village where Jelly has holed up on his way to Malaysia.
Everything Under Control takes a long time to hit its groove, casually dropping its main title 35 minutes in like it thinks it’s Drive My Car. On the way, there are wide swathes of stiff comedy that the young cast struggle to sell, such as Penguin’s overzealous modus operandi, or the villagers’ incompetent corpse disposal (cue nodding heads as it rolls down a hill). But as commune leader Wong Cool (a nicely authoritative Ivana Wong) spins the three intruders a tale of a female succubus haunting the forest, the film engagingly heaps up even more scatty scenarios: Penguin’s belief in his almost psychic ability to read crime scenes, or Jelly’s tall tale – involving a mythical kappa – of what happened to the diamonds.
The film begins with a trite reference to Hong Kong’s street protests, but in other ways – not least an erratic loopiness in Ying’s writing reminiscent of Stephen Chow – it proudly holds the local end up. Every time someone switches on the radio, there’s a running meta gag involving a film programme, on which the commentator says at one point: “Hong Kong film is about passion, not money.” This hard-pedalling caper won’t be enough to revive the city’s cinema in the face of the mainland film behemoth, but gets points for effort.
• Everything Under Control is released in cinemas on 20 January.