So…apparently the 25th of September is going to be National Lobster Day in the United States? Okay…
The movie starts out with a cartoon sequence through the opening credits, showing how the crayfish go from trapped in a crayfish cage to cooked. I was under the impression, though, that crayfish were brown until they were cooked. Is that just lobsters? Well, whatever.
The crayfish get cooked and chopped and put into boxes for delivery.
Hey, what the heck is he putting on top of them? Is that sauce?
Okay, I guess that we will have to find out later.
Du Yufei is a crayfish delivery man. As he is walking to a delivery, he babbles to himself that he is an artist, working to serve the people. He drove a taxi three months ago, he sold movie tickets two months ago, now he is delivering crayfish.
Oh, wait, no. Yufei is not talking to himself. He is talking to Sister Hua, who is in a car listening to him on an earpiece. He starts teasing her about how she has fallen in love with him despite how ugly she is and…uh…she seems to take it in good humor. Neng, who is also in the car, starts to tease Yufei for getting long-winded, so Yufei starts theorizing why Neng has not been able to find a wife.
Yufei gets to a warehouse, where a group of youths are holding a bit of a get-together. One of them goes over to Yufei and asks where San is. San? Oh, the guy whom Yufei pulled off of a deliver motor scooter and threw in the back of the car that Hua and Neng are in? That San? Oh, he got into some trouble with his bike. The guy interrupts the story. He just asks for the goods and holds out some cash.
The guy probably should have waited for Yufei to at least get to the part of the story where San got arrested. And then Yufei kicks the door in.
Once inside, Yufei tells the people to stand up and put their hands behind their heads. They are a little slow to do so. Especially the…undercover cop? Oh, right. That’s Chen Li. Of course, even with two cops, they are still outnumbered in here and a fight erupts. But here come Hua and Neng to make things a little more even. Eventually, through more luck than anything, they apprehend…one guy.
So, we have been introduced to Yufei, Hua, Neng, and Li. They are the members of Squad 8, which should mean that they are lucky, but not so much, it turns out.
Chief Wu has the team come to his office. They got arrests, but arrests…for what? The police cannot hold the suspects, so the bust was a…bust. In walks Xu Xin and Dafan from Squad 1, talking about a General coming. Apparently, his arrival is related to the drug smuggling case. Yufei wants in on the case, but Xu Xin reminds everyone that Yufei had let the General slip three years ago. The two continue bickering until Chief Wu gets them to shut up. He tells Yufei that his team has a month to find out how the rich kids are getting their drugs in.
While on the drive to…somewhere, we get a bit of exposition. San, the arrested drug mule, got his product from someone named Dongzi, who has many contacts in a…racing club. Well, the team makes their way to a logistics company, which Yufei presumes to be the source for the drugs. He says that Dongzi is just an errand boy in a gang run by Brother Hui. Got all that? Well, nevermind, it’s just a means of introducing some of our antagonists.
This is Brother Hui, who is quite upset at his operation being compromised and suspicious of everything outside of the hideout. He has one of his underlings check on a car that has been parked outside for a while. That underling must be Dongzi.
It turns out that Brother Hui is right to be suspicious of the car, because that is the car that Yufei’s team is in. Yufei goes into the restaurant nearby to use the bathroom. Neng does not feel right about that, since they keep using that bathroom without buying anything. So, he also goes in and asks for some crayfish.
Meanwhile, Yufei (is gross) notices that he can see the front entrance of the hideout from the upstairs bathroom. He hurries back down as Dongzi is about to cause trouble with Hua and Li. He interrupts the confrontation to scold the two of them for just sitting around while he is struggling to negotiate a price for the restaurant. Wait…what? No time to think. Yufei orders them to go into the restaurant and get the price lowered.
The three go in and Dongzi follows them to observe the proceedings. The restaurant owner tries to stick to 200,000 a year, though his pitch could use some work. After some…back and forth. The owner agrees to half and…wait, is that it?
Only one problem…where will that 100,000 come from? Oh, problem solved. Li’s mother is offering him 200,000 to attend her wedding. But he still doesn’t want to go. Well, he is going now. So, here is the money. And with that, the restaurant owner is now the former restaurant owner…and gone.
Now it is time for the team to work on their cover. They are a family. Neng is the father. Yufei and Li are brothers…even though, Yufei’s actor 11 years younger than Neng’s and nearly 19 years older than ANYWAYS, Hua is…Yufei’s wife. She is not happy with this, but really, no one is particularly happy. In any case, they get to cleaning up the place and…eesh. Yufei almost gets taken out by the shutter gate. Better keep a lookout for that.
Yufei is marveling at the view from the bathroom, but Neng is wondering when they are going to open. Yufei argues that no one is going to come when…oh, someone is at the door. Uh oh. It is Brother Hui. He has heard that this place has new owners and would like to try out what they have to offer. Neng goes down and stumbles for a bit until the others arrive. Yufei tries to explain why they are not open yet, but his lies kind of don’t work. I guess that they did not quite work out their cover story beyond the family structure. So, now they have to cook up some crayfish for Brother Hui and his brothers.
After some back and forth over who should cook the crayfish, Neng gets to cooking. It is only fair, I guess, since he had told Brother Hui that he is the chef while he was bumbling through his lies. And…he looks like a natural. The others are in awe.
More importantly, Brother Hui and his brothers seem to enjoy what he cooked enough to order a bunch.
A few days pass and no customers come, partly because Yufei makes it look like the place is still closed despite them having an opening ceremony. One day, he calls up Xu Xin so they can trade insults. Xu Xin claims that his team is about to nab the General, but it looks like he and his lackey are stuck out on the water trying to avoid capsizing.
Later on, Yufei sees Dongzi leave in a car, and he tries to give pursuit. Dongzi goes to a carwash where he meets with one of the youths whom Yufei’s team busted, but couldn’t keep. The guy mentions a cop who took San’s place and says that he could recognize the guy anywhere. Dongzi gives the guy some drugs and tells him to scram.
The guy leaves, somehow not noticing the very cop whom he was just talking about. Dongzi notices him, though, so Yufei has to think fast. Even faster when the youth returns and sees him. While Yufei tries to prevent Dongzi from noticing the kid as he runs off, Li and Hua chase him on a motorcycle. The two manage to corner him in an alleyway and…erm…scene change?
Xu Xin manages to track down the General to a public bathroom. He doesn’t arrest the guy, but he does put some sort of listening device on his jacket. Back in the police van, Xu Xin listens to the General’s meeting with Uncle Nine…or the first few seconds of it before the device gets stepped on. Well, I don’t know who Uncle Nine is, but the look on everyone’s face seems to imply that he is important.
Yufei, Li, and Hua return to the restaurwhat the fuck?
Neng seems to have turned this place into a genuine restaurant. Sometimes, there is even a line outside. And it is bringing in money. Hua and Li gladly help Neng downstairs. Yufei, however, is all about the case. He allows them to keep the restaurant going in order to maintain the legitimacy of the location, but he is going to remain upstairs for the surveillance operation, providing absolutely no aid to the restaurant work. The others are not happy about that, but whatever.
The three restaurant workers leave Yufei to do his surveillance work. And not a moment too soon. What is going on here?
So, the original title of the movie is…Lobster Detective…so, close enough. But why call it Lobster Cop instead of Crayfish Cop? The works just as well in English. And I am pretty sure that Chinese people know the difference between crayfish (which has become a popular dish) and lobster. Perhaps it was simply for the English pun, turning Lobster into Loser.
This movie is some goofy nonsense. And I love it. It was such a pleasant surprise seeing a Chinese movie showing Chinese cops being something other than personality-free weapon of the ruthless incorruptible state. And big city cops, even. Johnnie To was not allowed that when making Drug War five year earlier. Okay, maybe it is not as rare as I may imply, but I would rather have these heroes than…the heroes in some Chinese films.
The conceit of the movie kind of necessitates the cops to be fallible. Sure, there could be comedy to be mined from the story of four ultra-competent non-nonsense cops struggling to act as restaurant workers while undercover and then struggle to avoid the temptation to stay in the restaurant business. But I find this decision to be so refreshing. Heck, even though the rival cops are compared favorably to our protagonists, they are not simply the ideal foil to show what a real cop should be; they mess up too.
Speaking of messing up…the movie is perhaps a bit messy. I mean, it is a broad comedy; it is going to have some mess. There are maybe three or four levels of criminal: those rich kids, Brother Hui’s operation, the General, and Uncle Nine. And…what is the operation again? These things tend to fall apart under scrutiny, but whatever. Part of the charm is in its wild sloppiness that is deliberate as opposed to simply due to laziness. There is a bit of a wild “throw ideas at the wall to see what sticks” element to the movie. Not a ridiculous amount, but some. It doesn’t always work. I could have done with less toilet humor. And there is one particular subplot that might get the eyes rolling. But you can’t make crayfish without breaking some…crayfish.
The sloppiness allows for the characters to have personality. It allows to show them stressed out, prone to bickering, and maybe in over their heads. Like a…family. They are regular people…or as regular as people in a broad Chinese comedy are allowed to be. Also, it allows for one small gag spoofing an undercover cop trope, even though it is totally unrealistic. But, more importantly, it gives a bit of stakes to the proceedings. Sure, we might be certain that they will solve the case, but will they each make it out in one piece? That is not really something that I can say when it comes to personality-free Chinese superheroes. Will they live? Will they die? Who cares? Either they will live to continue bringing glory or they will give the ultimate sacrifice in service to the glory of their country. But here? I do kind of care. Kind of. I mean, it is still a fairly broad comedy.
So, apparently, this movie came from a…uh… Korean-Chinese story co-development project. I don’t know what that means, but what resulted is this film, and a Korean film called Extreme Job a few months later, which involved chicken instead of crayfish. That movie was…okay…it was a bit too sterile and the pacing was kind of molasses compared to this Lobster Cop. Yet, that movie managed to become the second most popular South Korean movie…EVER? Jesus Christ! THAT MOVIE? The Roaring Currents movie getting first, I get, even though I also thought that that was only okay. But Extreme Job getting second?? You know what? Fine. I am not unfamiliar with being an outlier when it comes to movies. And…is Kevin Hart still doing an American version? Pfft.
Anyways, I Lobster Cop entertained me.
WTF ASIA 226: 24 Hours to Die or Truck (South Korea: 2008, approx. 96 minutes)
WTF ASIA 227: Milestone (India: 2020, approx. 98 minutes)