Carry On Pickpocket:”We will know the truth if we get killed”

Year: 1982
Directed by Sammo Hung
Produced by Frankie Chan and Guy Lai

Written by Barry Wong
Cast:Sammo Hung, Frankie Chan, Deanie Ip, Richard Ng, Peter Chan, Lau Hak-Suen ,James Tien, Yuen Biao, Wu Ma, Walter Tso Tat-Wah, Natalis Chan, and Dick Wei

A pickpocket falls for a policewoman which spells trouble for him and his gang of fellow pickpockets.

Sammo Hung indeed does carries on as a pickpocket in this 1982 action-comedy. The early 80s was a transitional period in Sammo Hung’s career when he moved towards a contemporary setting in his films. Whereas before period films were largely his mainstay, Carry On Pickpocket puts him in the bustling 80s. Sammo Hung join forces with Frankie Chan to play a duo of pickpockets that are the masters of sleight of hand. Since the two leads are talented martial artists, the onscreen dexterity that happens when pickpocketing is convincing. The pickpocketing itself is stylishly cool to see despite its obvious moral questionability.

They work under the supervision of an older master pickpocket. The gang attract a criminal gang that tells them to sell their IDs that they find during their pickpocketing. This inevitably creates a public outcry so draws the attention of the police. Richard Ng is a clumsy oaf of a detective that’s the principal cop that chases, the ”heroes” or this in case, ”anti heroes”. The sections involving Richard Ng’s character are far from absolutely necessary, but somehow Richard makes his antics entertaining through his natural knack for slapstick.

Sammo Hung compared to his younger brother surrogate, Jackie Chan has always more injected drama into his films. Although Jackie Chan has eventually done it, Sammo Hung has done it before earlier. Sammo’s films tend to be less lighthearted and more serious. Carry On Pickpocket has a fair bit of drama. Sammo Hung’s Rice Pot gets romantically involved with a cop that leads to complications of all sorts. Rice Pot is an anti-hero that steals from the innocent yet Sammo’s charm creates an effective hopeless romantic. The problems that arise because of the drama is surprisedly also effective.

There is an air of a well-layered intrigue that drives the final arc of the plot. A twist that is executed quite well because of its sheer simplicity. Also, a great representation of tired and old saying, ”there is no honor among thieves.” Though it sounds like an exaggeration, that twist elevates Carry On Pickpocket’s storytelling to something greater. Due to the twist, Carry On Pickpocket becomes like a bit of a parable on the risks of being a thief in the form of an action-comedy.

Carry On Pickpocket is, in a way, Sammo Hung’s onscreen debut into the contemporary world which was then, of course, the 80s. A dexterous entry that has a good handle on its story and delivers engaging bouts of fun.

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