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

DREAMING THE REALITY (1991) review

img.phpSolid Hong Kong journeyman director Tony Liu united ‘Girls with Guns’ mainstays Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima and Sibelle Hu three times, in 1993 in the minor classic Angel Terminators II, the comedy The Big Deal in 1992, and before that, the rock solid actioner Dreaming the Reality. In it, Lee and Oshima play Silver Fox and Black Cat, two assassins trained to kill since childhood by ruthless mob boss Fok (Eddy Ko). Though Black Cat is unwavering in her missions, Silver Fox is starting to feel the weight of the deaths she’s caused on her conscience. One day on a mission gone wrong in Thailand, she loses her memory after taking a nasty fall while escaping the police. She wakes with no memory of who she is, and is helped by wry ex-cop Si Lan-Fa (Sibelle Hu) and her brother Rocky (Ben Lam), a boxer. But Black Cat is on her blood sister’s trail, tasked by Fok with bringing her back into the fold.

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BURNING AMBITION (1989) review

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Frankie Chan’s Burning Ambition transposes the plot of Kinji Kukasaku’s The Shogun’s Samurai (1978) to modern-day Hong Kong, with striking results. A Triad boss (Roy Chiao) is thinking about his succession: his elder son Wai (Michael Miu) is an irresponsible womanizer, and so he chooses his more level-headed and business-savvy younger son Hwa (Simon Yam). He’s killed the same evening in a drive-by shooting secretly organized by his brother Hsiong (Ko Chun Hsiung), who’s consumed by the titular burning ambition, and has made Wai his protégé. This triggers a fratricidal war as two camps are formed within the extended Triad family: on one side, the boss’s widow (a steely Seung Yee), the chosen heir Hwa and his trusted uncle Kau Chen (Eddy Ko); on the other side, Hsiong, his puppet Wai, his two loyal daughters Tao (Yukari Oshima) and Hong (Kara Hui), as well as his exiled son Chi-Shao (Frankie Chan), who comes back to Hong Kong to assist his father, not knowing, just like his sisters, what treacherous strings Hsiong has been pulling. It all escalates in a series of bloody acts of vengeance.

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THE AVENGING EAGLE (1978) review

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While he didn’t achieve the same status as fellow directors Chang Cheh, Yuan Chu or Liu Chia-Liang within the Shaw Brothers roster of talent, Sun Chung has nevertheless given the legendary Hong Kong film studio some of its most original and/or striking classics. From his trailblazing use of steadycam to film martial arts fights in The Kung Fu Instructor, to the unhinged weirdness of Human Lanterns, Sun left an unmistakable though unsung mark in the Shaw catalogue. The Avenging Eagle might just be his best achievement. It follows Chi Min-Sing (Ti Lung), who is part of a brotherhood of assassins known as the Eagles, all raised by and obeying to the cruel Yue Xi-Hong (Ku Feng), who sends them on missions to murder his enemies. When Chi is gravely wounded in one of these missions, he is taken in by a generous man, whose daughter he falls in love with. She urges him to not kill anymore and become a good man, but the pressure from Yue and the Eagles proves too strong : soon Chi is back in the murdering business, and he can’t stop the man who saved him and the woman he loves from being assassinated by his ‘brothers’. But after having committed the unthinkable by murdering a pregnant woman on his master’s order, Chi finally decides to run away from the Eagles and look for the murdered woman’s husband to atone for his crime. During his escape he meets a nameless man (Alexander Fu-Sheng), who decides to help him, seemingly out of the kindness of his heart. But it is soon discovered he has hidden motives, and unsuspected fighting abilities…

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