IRON ANGELS (aka ANGEL) (1987) short review

HK-Movie-Iron-Angels-1987

The first in a trilogy of Girls With Guns films (with only Moon Lee and Alex Fong being in all three films), Teresa Woo’s Iron Angels – which was actually directed by Ivan Lai, according to martial arts choreographer Tony Leung Siu Hung – follows a group of mercenaries (the titular ‘Angels’) composed of Saijo Hideki, Moon Lee and Elaine Lui and headed by a suave David Chiang, who team up with an Interpol agent (Alex Fong Chung Sun) to stop a vicious drug trafficker (Yukari Oshima) who is murdering police officials left and right. The film echoes Charlie’s Angels not only with its title and premise, but also with its cheesiness and general lack of tension. An inordinate amount of time is spent on flirting, pouting, and eye-gouging fashion statements. Still, when it comes to the action there’s a few outstanding moments, especially a final fight between Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima (who eats up the screen as the black widow villain) that is so brutal that it contrasts with the relatively tame proceedings up to then. Ingenuous Moon Lee and slinky Elaine Lui complement each other nicely, though one can tell the latter, in only her second film, was not yet the accomplished screen fighter she’d become in the following decade. **1/2

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STAR RUNNER (2003) review

  Bond (Vanness Wu) is a high-school student whose real passion is Muay Thai kickboxing, which he practices at a club headed by Lau (Gordon Liu). His ambition is to enter the prestigious Star Runner competition, and he devotes himself to that goal at the expense of his school work. Having to take Summer classes, he meets the young Korean teacher Mei Chiu (Kim Hyun-Joo), and soon enough they’re in love. But as his focus moves from training for the competition to romancing Mei Chiu, someone else is chosen by Lau to represent the club in the competition, and Bond is expelled for having resisted this decision. But not all is lost as Bill (Max Mok), a washed-out former martial arts champion, takes him under his wing and teaches him to incorporate elements from other martial arts into his muay Thai. Together they form a team and enter the Star Runner competition, with an eye on challenging Tank (Andy On), the reigning champion.

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WHAT PRICE SURVIVAL (1994) review

The one-armed sworsman is a fixture of Chinese cinema, from the original Shaw Brothers trilogy directed by Chang Cheh and starring first Wang Yu, then David Chiang, to countless crossovers (including Zatoichi vs. the One-armed Swordsman) and variants (for instance The One-armed Swordsmen or The One-armed Swordswoman). But by 1994, when Daniel Lee’s What Price Survival was released, it had all but disappeared, due in part to the fact it had been done to death, and in part to the fact that Wu Xia Pan’s and costumed epics in general weren’t that popular anymore during the eighties.

What Price Survival is Daniel Lee’s very first film and, as he wrote it, one of his most personal. Its setting is contemporary, but in a timeless way by which people still carry swords. Visually, as with any Daniel Lee film (save for the odious Black Mask), it is a treat : gorgeous snowy landscape captured by Lee’s DP of choice Tony Cheung, dozens of men in black long coats wielding swords, two lovers playfully fighting through lonely rays of light in an abandoned mansion… Narratively however, the struggle for coherence begins.

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