DEVIL HUNTERS (aka ULTRA FORCE 2) (1989) review

Released just a few months after Killer Angels, Devil Hunters was also directed by Tony Liu and was in some places released as a sequel to that film (under the risible title Ultra Force). Of course, there are no narrative connections between the two films, as Devil Hunters follows a vicious gangster (Francis Ng) who will stop at nothing to find his boss’s stash of diamonds. But on his way are policemen (Alex Man and Sibelle Hu), as well as his boss’s daughter (Moon Lee) and former second-in-command (Michael Chan Wai Man), now gone good. It’s a slightly uninvolving plot, that valiantly tries to create surprises in a genre that rarely contained any, narratively speaking. But it ends up feeling muddled, despite Tony Liu’s usual above-average attention to characters and drama: Michael Chan is touching as a reformed gangster inevitably drawn back to violence, while Sibelle Hu and Alex Man have an interesting – if under-developped – tough love relationship.

But the film is marred by a truly ugly torture and rape scene which does nothing to advance the plot and goes on endlessly, an exploitative and deplorable footnote in an otherwise solid film. The action, by Liu’s regular collaborator Chui Fat, is expectedly excellent, with an emphasis on beautifully-lensed shootout, though the finale involves plentiful hand-to-hand combat, as Francis Ng (highly entertaining as a slimy, deranged mobster) and Ken Lo square off against Moon Lee, Sibelle Hu and Ray Lui in one of those empty houses in construction which abound the Girls with Guns subgenre. The finale ends with a jaw-dropping “jumping out of an exploding building” stunt that went wrong in reality, as Lee, Lui & Hu were rushed to the hospital, seriously injured after having been engulfed in flames. Of course they all recovered fine, which doesn’t make their fearless dedication to action filmmaking any less impressive.

Long story short: A solid Girls With Guns action film with above average characters and drama for its kind. Shame about one ugly exploitative scene. **1/2

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