A charming supernatural thriller/comedy starring Chow Yun Fat and Cherie Chung. SPOILERS Chow Yun Fat plays Lao K, a small time triad type who earns his living as a collection man for a loan shark. His cousin, Chin Hua (played by Deannie Yip), an aspiring "ghostbuster", pines after him, using her divination skills to chart her cousin's romantic future, hoping to see her name revealed. Lao K is oblivious to her infatuation, caught up with his collection activities and the romantic charms of May (Pauline Wong), a self involved maneater who treats him badly, and soon forsakes him for a richer, more successful man.
One day, while trying to collect a debt for his boss in the company of his constant companion, 6'3" (a fellow petty criminal who was deafened and forced to drink acid by the triad bosses while Lao K went to prison for a botched job, and whom Lao K has "adopted") a deaf mute, Lao K is captivated by an antique Chinese desk. Buying it and taking to the home he shares with his cousin (he's nine months arrears on the rent he owes her), he discovers a letter in a drawer that tells the sad story of a young woman, sick from birth, who posthumously was wed to an "ugly ghost" by her family. The young woman has not been reincarnated and has little hope of ever being, until she can find a man born on a yang day, in a yang month, in a yang year willing to give up 3 years of his mortal life to help her escape from her fearsome ghost-husband and win her a chance at reincarnation.
Lao K, the petty criminal with a heart of gold, and told by a physiogamist that he will live to 98, decides he can spare a few years to help the girl out. He performs the ritual she details in her letter, and then promptly forgets about the whole matter. He is walking on the waterfront when he spies a young woman in a boat. He greets her, she responds, but as he watches in horror, her craft sinks with her in it. Diving into the water he rescues her. Unbeknownst to him, this is the young ghost-woman of the letter from the desk. Escaped from the underworld, Wei Hsaio-Tieh (Cherie Chung), has come to search out her benefactor. Hsiao-Tieh enters and reenters his life over the course of the next few days, finally coming to stay with him after an argument with his unfaithful girlfriend May, results in Lao K stumbling home sick. Appearing to him in the elevator of his apartment building while he lies insensible in its cab, she brings him home, takes care of him and tidies his room while he lies unconscious. He awakens to her presence, recognizing her as the girl in the boat, but still unaware of her supernatural nature. His cousin returns, and she is not long fooled by their house guest, who is at first invisible to her, but is revealed by more magical incantation. A battle over the soul of Lao K ensues, over the course of the next couple of days, which eventually leads to Chin Hua bringing in the big guns, her ghostbuster master. Together they launch into a ritual designed to exorcise Hsiao-tieh and send her back to the afterlife. Lao K, in the meantime, has discovered that 6'3" has been kidnapped by a rival gang and that his life is in danger. When appealing to their loan shark boss (Paul Chin) results in no help to rescue him, Lao K goes it alone. Buying toy guns and jury rigging them to fire blanks, he launches a lone assault on the gang's lair. He is almost successful when his ruse is revealed and his life and that of 6'3" is put in further danger. Hsiao-tieh, in the middle of the exorcism, senses his danger and is able to escape to rescue the man she loves and his burly friend. The great expenditure of her supernatural powers to accomplish this results in a weakened condition and the danger of her being sucked back to the afterlife. Lao K, by now aware of her ghostly status, becomes desperate to find a way to keep the woman he has fallen in love with on earth. Further rituals ensue, which will cost Lao K ten more years of his lifespan, but which will allow Hsiao-tieh to spend 49 days on earth in his company. It is a sacrifice he is willing to make. Restored to full power, Hsiao-tieh is granted her 49 days with Lao K and the love between them grows and deepens. May, the man-eating girlfriend soon returns however, pregnant and abandoned by her new, more upwardly mobile boyfriend. She attempts to trick Lao K back into her clutches. He resists, until she threatens suicide, promising that if he does not come to save her, she will return as a vengeful ghost and take his life. May's plans go awry, resulting in a finale where all the supernatural stops are pulled out, as Lao K and Hsiao-tieh try to protect each other from the perils of the afterlife. A bargain is struck and the film winds down to a bittersweet ending. The always versatile Chow Yun Fat is endearingly roguish as the basically decent Lao K. Cherie Chung displays her wonderful range as an actress, effortlessly moving from broad comedy to affecting pathos as the ill-starred Hsiao-tieh. The supporting players, especially Deannie Yip as the long suffering cousin, are universally excellent. While Hong Kong supernatural comedies are an acquired taste, this film stands on its own, and carries appeal on several fronts, not the least of which is the incredible chemistry between its two leads.