A PUNCH TO REVENGE (1989) short review

APunchtoRevenge+1989-59-bIn Lee Chiu’s A Punch to Revenge (also known under the equally nonsensical but slightly less awkward title Dragon Angel), Eddy Ko plays Tsang, a crippled and unemployed man who’s so desperate for cash he lets his wife prostitute herself in their own home, and helps corrupt cop Man (Chan Ging) assemble a team of hungry Mainlanders to rob a jewelry store. But the heist goes awry, and the robbers are hunted by dogged cop Lee (Ben Lam). Caught in between is Fan (Yukari Oshima), a social worker assigned to help out Tsang, and who’s starting a relationship with Lee. Directed with understated flair by Lee Chiu and peppered with short, impactful fights, A Punch to Revenge also laudably takes time to flesh out its characters: apart from Ben Lam’s knight in shining white jacket and Chan Ging’s cackling dirty cop, most in the ensemble are unexpectedly three-dimensional characters, from the brutal resourceful Mainland thugs united by strong brotherhood and trying to carve out a better tomorrow for themselves (the wrong way of course), to Eddy Ko as a desperate coward clutching at straws of dignity, they almost justify the film’s slower central section, and make the strikingly brutal final fight – the police’s assault on a villa where the thugs are holing up – resonate more. And though both slightly lateral to the plot, and inconsistently defined (one moment she’s easily subdued, minutes later she’s wiping the floor with multiple adversaries), Yukari Oshima gives a fine performance; she excelled so much at playing brooding, smoldering fighting queens, that it’s easy to forget she could be just as believable in softer roles. Indeed, she didn’t even need fights to be a compelling presence. Too bad she never explored – or was never given the opportunity to explore – purely dramatic acting. **1/2

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