PRINCESS MADAM (1989) review

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As a director, erstwhile Chang Cheh assistant Godfrey Ho is known as a master of schlock, many of his films being facepalm-inducing patchworks of stock footage, recycled scenes from older films, gratuitous sex scenes and quite often, random ninja appearances. He’s like the dark flip-side of that other Chang Cheh assistant, John Woo. Yet, a film like Princess Madam is proof that Ho was more than capable of delivering a solid, coherent and at times even affecting actioner. Moon Lee and Sharon Yeung star as police officers Mona and Lisa (aheheh), assigned to the protection of a key witness in bringing mob boss Lung (Yueh Hua) to justice for murdering a cop. During a failed ambush on the witness and her police escort, Mona kills the lover of assassin Lily (Michiko Nishiwaki), who later retaliates by seducing, then kidnapping her husband. But matters are complicated further by the fact that Lisa’s adoptive father (Kenneth Tsang) was complicit in Lung’s crime, which poses an agonizing dilemma to her.

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THE OUTLAW BROTHERS (1990) short review

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James and Bond (Frankie Chan and Max Mok) are professional luxury car thieves who get caught between a mobster (Kong Do) who wants to exploit their gift, and a cop (Yukari Oshima) who’s bent on arresting them, with the help of her lovestruck underling (Michael Miu in a fun turn). Though the title suggests a focus on Frankie Chan (who also directs) and Max Mok’s characters, they are very often sidelined in favor of Yukari Oshima’s character and her cat and mouse flirting with Chan. The plot, or lack thereof, wanders aimlessly, springing the great Michiko Nishiwaki as a kind of black widow in the last 30 minutes, and breaking its lull of tame comedy with an impressive action finale in, wait for it, a warehouse. But The Outlaw Brothers is mostly a showcase for Oshima, who displays not only charisma and lightning moves, but also a lighter side that her often brutal roles at the time didn’t show, and the same goes for Nishiwaki, who doesn’t fight much but is gleefully flamboyant. Frankie Chan and Max Mok may be the outlaw brothers, but Yukari Oshima and Michiko Nishiwaki are the reason to watch The Outlaw Brothers. **1/2

THE AVENGING QUARTET (1992) short review

51DKD1ZDVKL There are few films in the genre of Hong Kong action films more misguided than Stanley Siu Wing’s The Avenging Quartet. Its plot, about a Mainland cop (Cynthia Khan) who comes to Hong Kong to look for her boyfriend (Waise Lee) with the help of a kind but ass-kicking Hong Konger (Moon Lee) and a overeager cop (Chin Kar Lok), only to find out he is involved in the theft of a priceless painting that he’s about to sell to Japanese gangsters (among whom Yukari Oshima and Michiko Nishiwaki), is neither better nor worse than the average screenplay in the Girls With Guns sub-genre. Its title is misleading because the four actresses never join forces, but misleading or over the top titles were commonplace at the time. No, the film’s hugely grating shortcomings are the following : it sets itself up as a tough action film, but is content to just noodle around for more than an hour, as Cynthia Khan and Moon Lee plays video-games, go shopping and look for Waise Lee ; it casts Yukari Oshima and Michiko Nishiwaki, two smouldering, statuesque and charismatic actresses, only to give them about 15 minutes of combined screen time ; and most jarringly, it suddenly breaks up its fairly light tone to feature an ugly rape and torture episode that is completely out of place. The final 10 minutes finally deliver on the film’s promise by having the four actresses fighting each other in a house on fire, and it’s a suitably intense and brutal finale, but it’s simply too little, too late. *1/2

ANGEL TERMINATORS (1992) short review

Angel_Terminators_dvdcover One of only two films directed by Wai Lit, most of the time a supporting actor in Category III films, Angel Terminators is representative of the more violent and dark variety of ‘Girls with Guns’ films. In a fairly simple plot (no surprise here), it follows the fight to the death between tough policewomen (Sharon Yeung, Kara Hui, Cheng Yuen Man), and a brutal mob boss (Kenneth Tsang) back from exile in Thailand and his henchmen (among whom Alan Chui, Dick Wei and Michiko Nishiwaki), with Carrie Ng as a woman with ties to both sides. Angel Terminators benefits from no-nonsense direction, well-staged – if hardly remarkable – action scenes, and a truly charismatic cast: Sharon Yeung has a steely presence that should have allowed her to do better than end her career in Godfrey Ho cheapies, Kenneth Tsang essays one of his classic scumbag roles, Michiko Nishiwaki is formidable as always, though her smouldering presence is underused, and Kara Hui, while absent for a long stretch, is always a joy to watch. It’s a tough, somber film that takes startlingly unpleasant detours (Carrie Ng’s character goes through an almost overwhelming amount of torment), and speeds violently towards an unforgiving ending, with a striking final shot. ***

IN THE LINE OF DUTY 3 (1987) review

In 1987, Michelle Yeoh having gone on an early retirement, a novice by the screen name of Cynthia Khan was brought in by the D & B film company to fill her shoes as the star of the In The Line Of Duty series. The first one, Yes Madam!, was directed by Corey Yuen and paired Yeoh with Cynthia Rothrock in a wildly uneven film that was more of a madcap comedy until the bone-crunching finale. The second one, Royal Warriors, was directed by David Chung and was a vast improvement, a blistering action movie in the best eighties’ Hong Kong cinema tradition. In The Line Of Duty 3 (also known sometimes with the subtitle Force of the Dragon), is directed by Brandy Yuen and Arthur Wong, the latter being better known as the ace director of photography of countless classic Hong Kong films.

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