I Love Maria/Roboforce: ”Even heroes get into trouble too.”

Year: 1988
Directed by Tsui Hark and David Chung
Produced by John Sham and Tsui Hark
Written by Tsui Hark and Yuen Gai-Chi
Cast: Tsui Hark, Sally Yeh, John Shum, Kin-Fun, Tony Leung, Lam Ching-Ying, Paul Chun Pui, and Ben Lam

Several unlikely individuals must step in to defend Hong Kong when an evil criminal organization uses robots to terrorize Hong Kong.

I Love Maria is one of the wildest rides that 1980s Hong Kong cinema has to offer. It’s a zany product that channels Western pop culture of the time. I Love Maria draws its influence from everything from Robocop to Metropolis.

Rather than trying to be a poor imitator of those works, I Love Maria strives to be a crazy blender of all these Western pop culture references and aesthetics to produce a product that is distinctly ”Hong Kong”. Of course, being so eclectic comes at a cost, so, I Love Maria sacrifices any semblance of a good plot. What’s here is hard to make sense of and it should be treated more as a live-action cartoon more than anything.

The experience itself is what counts here. I love Maria is heavy on special effects yet the low production values are hardly a detriment because what’s here is used creatively and has a charm of its own. The effects could have aged horribly but nothing here stands out too harshly and also, the skillful editing helps as well.

The ensemble cast is all over the place. A few of the characters ended up feeling a bit too half-baked like Tony Leung’s Chong Chi Keung. It’s awesome to see Tony Leung so early in his career but Keung is so awkwardly strung along that he feels tacked on. Keung could have been easily merged with Curly without losing much. Curly’s actor: John Sham has a habit of
playing an absent minded wacky scientists. Nowhere does this archetype feel more at home than here. I Love Maria is the rare film to have Tsui Hark in a leading role. Seeing Tsui Hark as an actor is a bit strange. It must be said, he isn’t too bad as an actor. Whiskey’s dissatisfaction with his former gang deserves to be better fleshed out. Whiskey still endearing for his every man quality.

Whiskey and Curly’s budding comradery is effective for its believability since surviving dangerous situations with someone does force you to bond. Sally Yeh makes a double performance as the vicious gangster Maria and the cyborg: Pioneer II. Though, Sally excels in each role,however, in her role as Pioneer II, she nails down the robotic gestures and her expressed eyes a convey a subtle humanity. In truth, while Pioneer II may be nothing more than a weaponized running gag machine, she does grow on you. She does spice up the slapstick which brings out about more inventive gags. The villains’ motivations should have been clarified more. The finale is so balls to the wall fun that you wish this motley crew became a team much earlier. At least, it ends on a note that perfectly for a sequel that will never be made.

I Love Maria is senseless fun that indulges in inventive gags and creative madness at the expense of a good plot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s