A SERIOUS SHOCK! YES MADAM! (aka DEATH TRIANGLE) (1993) review

54d9a35fa9797Albert Lai’s A Serious Shock! Yes Madam! (henceforward A Serious Shock!, though what a stupid title) stars Cynthia Khan as Wan Chin, a cop who’s about to get married, unaware of the fact that her husband Wilson (Lawrence Ng) is cheating on her with her best friend and police partner May (Moon Lee). Wilson is nevertheless wracked with guilt, and decides to end things with May. Psychologically unstable, and unhinged with anger and grief, she shoots him dead in front of Wan Chin, and tries to have her framed for the murder with the help of a lovestruck colleague. Now on the run, a desperate Wan Chin is helped by Coco (Yukari Oshima), a car thief who lives with a band of misfits.

This is an unusual Girls with Guns film, more interested in drama – often of the soapy variety – than action: only a few brief fights are peppered throughout, the pick of the bunch being a gratuitous, non-sequitur skirmish where Khan and Lee battle Fung Hak On (also the film’s action director) as a man who thinks he’s possessed. Even the finale is particularly skimpy by the genre’s standards (and doesn’t provide much emotional payback after Moon Lee’s non-stop deviousness), and devoid of the expected thrilling stuntwork: there’s a lot of jumping from crates and some hanging from ropes, but editing replaces the usual single-take stunts. Plot holes abound (for example, Wan Chin goes on the run even before knowing if the police suspects her) and pacing is poor, basically a series of soap opera lulls infrequently broken by bouts of searing intensity: Moon Lee assault on Cynthia Khan and her husband is an agonizing scene, and later we witness a pregnant woman stab to death her husband and his mistress, when she catches them in flagrante delicto (that scene is the only one justifying the film’s CAT III rating).

In the end, the main (fatal) attraction here is Moon Lee playing impressively against type, Glenn Close from, yes, Fatal Attraction but with the nimble footwork of Michelle Yeoh. She’s a chilling villain, emotionally unhinged yet calculating, a broken heart with a twisted mind. It’s a rather unforgettable performance that deserved a better film. Also stretching is Yukari Oshima, who would normally have been assigned to the brutal and disturbed character, but here plays the comic relief (with a dark past, to be fair) with great ease. Sandwiched between the two, Cynthia Khan is less memorable, though her character is so ineffectual that one could says she’s also playing against type – still, it’s a bit jarring at times: she treats Moon Lee, who murdered her husband, like she would treat a friend who borrowed her eyeliner without permission. Eric Tsang cameos amusingly and aimlessly, while Waise Lee is omnipresent but largely useless to the plot. With an actual writer, this could have been something special.

Long Story Short: Despite an impressive Moon Lee playing chillingly against type and a few scenes of searing intensity, A Serious Shock! Yes Madam! is a a poorly-paced and awkwardly-plotted mess. **

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