The Odd Couple Review
Courtesy of a pre-credits history lesson, we are informed of the short weapon and the long weapon, the “deadly sabre” and “lethal spear”, personified by the fighting styles of Lau Kar Wing and Sammo Hung. They’re the odd couple of the title and the crux of the plot is that they meet up once a year to pit their skills against each other in a duel. Of course, as this practice has been going for years, there’s never actually been a winner and indeed there’s no great animosity between the two. Rather they exist on a petty rivalry, one of a mostly good-natured variety.
In this respect The Odd Couple (which should really be Odd Couple, Hong Kong Legends having erroneously added a The to the packaging) isn’t all that far removed from its 1968 American namesake. The relationship between Lau and Hung is quite similar to the one between Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, whilst the fact that the actors are playing older versions of themselves (complete with grey wigs and, in Sammo’s case, a red nose) perhaps also draws a vague comparison with Grumpy Old Men. Yet this particular Odd Couple is a comedy martial arts picture and so in the place of Neil Simon’s snappy dialogue we instead find inventive action scenes (the Chinese Opera-themed one being a particular highpoint), over the top acting styles, downright stupid hair and make-up (giant moles sporting eight inch hairs, buck teeth, etc.), and an overall comic book tone. Needless to say, this is a film which involves plenty of tongue-in-cheek beard stroking.
And you could dismiss it all as shameless mugging were it not for the fact that The Odd Couple is so utterly amusing. On top of their roles as old-timers, Lau and Hung also embody a pair of younger characters who become the students of their older selves. (Though late seventies Hong Kong technical expertise means that they’re never paired with themselves, rather Hung teaches Lau and vice versa.) As such not only do we get the greater opportunity for comic performances from the two, but also a greater energy as we cross-cut between their respective training sessions. And of course, this also allows for a far greater demonstration of their physical prowess, plus a few in-jokes which inevitably point the finger at indulgence. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Lau also serves as director as well as occupying two of the leading roles.
It is here where a split in the audience is likely to emerge. The energy and the enthusiasm are undoubtedly there, yet there’s also a lack of focus because of this. The Odd Couple often deals in cameos and digressions – sketches if you will – such as the Master Rocking character who walks to a permanent breakbeat. Meanwhile, plot developments, including the means of reaching some kind of conclusion, appear to have been last minute additions as opposed to anything considered. That said, the film is tonally consistent throughout and those who enjoy the company of such works will find much to enjoy. Certainly, both Lau and Hung have done better within the comedy martial arts form (and it’s not quite the “lost classic” of Bey Logan’s estimation), but then you could also do a lot worse.
Made in 1979, The Odd Couple looks pretty much as good as could be expected on this Region 2 disc. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, we get the film with anamorphic enhancement and taken from a very near spotless print. Moreover, the colours are crisp and the clarity of the image is generally fine. Certainly, in close-ups it looks absolutely flawless and it is only in the longer shots that we genuinely notice any softness. As for the soundtrack we get both the original Cantonese dialogue and an English dub, both was DD5.1 mixes. The latter is often exceptionally bad – it may get the tone of the film right, but technically it sounds awful, especially when the voice cast add their own grunts and groans the fight sequences. As for the Cantonese, this on the other hand sounds especially. Of course, it’s disappointing not to have it in its original mono form, but the 5.1 mix is low-key affair, with any use of the rear speakers being belated in the extreme. Indeed, it really isn’t too far away from mono anyhow.
In terms of extras, this being a Hong Kong Legends release, The Odd Couple unsurprisingly comes with a Bey Logan. As enthusiastic as ever, he proves an exceptional host, taking us through the use of the locations and the background of the actors and much more besides. He’s often ridiculously knowledgeable and talks non-stop, but then we wouldn’t it any other way.
Also present on the disc are a pair of interviews, one with director/actor Lau, the other with actor Leung Kar-Yan. In both cases, these start out a general chats – they discuss how they got into martial arts and the film industry – before going on to speak at greater length about their experiences on The Odd Couple itself. And both interviews being of reasonable length (25 minutes and 21 minutes, respectively) we also get plenty of depth to their chat as well as anecdotes. (Note that both interviews are conducted in Cantonese and come with optional English subtitles.)
7 out of 10
7 out of 10
7 out of 10
7 out of 10
Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:02:17