Midnight Angel (Review)
Masked female crimefighters used to populate Cantonese cinema like the buffalo used to inhabit the Great Plains. Then all the buffalo got shot, and all the female crimefighters stopped being popular after the Shaw Brothers helped eclipse Cantonese cinema. But in the late 1980s, Cantonese cinema came roaring back and by the early 90s, there were lots of action films being pumped out. So it only makes sense that there would suddenly be a masked female crimefighter film in the middle of the action fest, as the buffalo have come back. Sure, this analogy is a stretch, but just go with it!
Like many Hong Kong films from the 1990s, Midnight Angel has a billion titles, including Justice Women, Wu ye tian shi, Ng ye tin si, and The Legend of Heroism.
Our copy is an exciting VHS dub, complete with extra darkness and soft images. So don’t complain about the quality, because I’ll just ignore those complaints as that’s how we roll at TarsTarkas.NET.
Grandpa Shek Kin is having his birthday, and his three adoptive granddaughters among the ones attending. Shek Kin’s old friend plays Tequila and dances, but Shek Kin puts on slow music instead – a cover of When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. Shek Kin’s three granddaughters are Ying, Jee, and Cherry. Ying is Yukari Oshima, and at the party becomes engaged to her boyfriend Tak. Granddaughter Yee is known as Rabbit and only came to the party because Old Friend bribed her – with a cotton flower.
Ying, her fiance Tak, and Cherry are all cops. They are looking for a dealer named Bull who is trying to team up with another bigwig to do a superdeal. Bull is busy double-crossing a blond Asian drug dealer right now, and the cops arrive during this double-crossing gun mess, and the film looks like a total 1990 HK action film with the older vehicles swarming into a quarry where all of this is going down. The faded dub VHS transfer of the film I am watching this on adds to the 1990s feel, which is probably good because this was made in 1990 right when all those films were becoming popular. Bull has escaped, but some of his men are killed and the blond dealer is in a running gunfight with the cops, who even have a helicopter.
Tak manages to jump from the helicopter into the car the blond guy is in…just in time for said car to explode as there was a time bomb inside of it….whoops! Tak no more and it’s funeral time!
The Police chief is Ng Man-Tat (!!), who puts Ying on clerical duty instead of letting her resign. Ying is stressin’, while youngest sister Rabbit is chafing under her lack of freedom and sneaking out at night. On the bus she sees a guy grope a woman and then insult her when she speaks up, later the groper is eating at the same restaurant Rabbit is at, yelling at his pregnant girlfriend because she can’t be a whore currently (due to the baby) and generally being a giant jerk. Then he kicks her in the stomach, blaming the baby for all his problems. Evil boyfriend takes her to the brothel and beats her more when she won’t go in. Ah, Hong Kong…
Suddenly a chick in a Mardi Gras mask on a skate board shows up to kick his butt. It is Rabbit, but she is going by the name Cotton Flower now (and she drops a cotton flower as her signature…all the heroes do that in Asia, just ask Black Rose) The jerk goes to report to the cops, but his wife turns him in for beating her instead. And she shows the cotton flower, which interests Inspector Chao. Inspector Chao tells everyone about how Cotton Flower was a Robin Hood thief 30 years ago and that he failed to arrest her, so he vows to arrest this Cotton Flower instead!
Rabbit goes to visit Old Friend and makes him teach her how to make cotton flowers. There is a short montage of her fighting crooks, stopping rapist, and saving a baby about to be hit by cars. Obviously, she should be locked up in jail.
The Commissioner is telling the cops his supervisors are saying to not follow the Bull case anymore. Even after a cop gets harpooned, dragged around by motorcycles, and then killed. Um, why? I think corruption is hinted at, but never explored. The cops decide it is best to ignore that rule and try to arrest Bull at a mahjong hall, but a robbery happens just as the cops are going to go in, causing Cherry to have to fight Bull’s goons all alone while everyone else is trapped downstairs by the robbers. Cherry is grabbed as a hostage and slated to be killed when Bull escapes, but Cotton Flower pops in and saves Cherry.
But the senior police still are more interested in Cotton Flower than Bull. Oh, Tak isn’t dead, he’s secretly still alive and reveals that to Ying. The cops start to suspect Ying of being Cotton flower because she has won so many fighting awards, so they need to get info from Cherry. There is also another cop named Donut. Is Donut a common cop nickname in HK? I seem to remember Donuts in other HK action films. Another cop is named Yau. Yau forces Donut to take out Ying, Rabbit, and Grandpa for dinner while Yau takes out Cherry. Donut not too happy abut this, and then he screws up and the family comes home while Yau has returned home with Cherry to sneak around the house looking for clues.
Yau manages to get caught on the balcony, and Donut tries to help, but soon the two are hiding out inside the house. Some wacky Frasier-style hijinks ensue, until the two guys are caught and have to explain themselves that they think Ying is Cotton Flower.
While out scouting Bull, Rabbit spies Tak working for a rival gang to Bull’s. Bull and a rival gang have drug deal going down, and Cotton Flower shows up with a flamethrower, grabs the drugs, but a guard she missed starts to fight her and beat her up, kicking her into a variety of items increasing in painfulness until it looks like she’s doomed.
That’s when the second chick in a mask and cape shows up.
This movie suddenly got better! Awesome. Which sister is this? Ying. She saves Rabbit, but as soon as they are at home Ying yells at her for her dangerous stunts. Then Ying starts to fight Rabbit to show her she can’t fight good enough to do what she is doing. Grandpa and Old Friend wander through, just thinking it is martial arts practice, even giving advice. Later they reveal they knew it wasn’t practice, and when Rabbit admits she’s Cotton Flower, they just laugh because Grandpa was the original Cotton Flower!
Chief Yau brings Inspector Chao to the house so he can smell Ying, that way he will know if she is Cotton Flower. I am not sure how that works, but okay. Maybe the police department wants to get sued for sexual harassment! At least we got screentime with Walter Tso and Shek Kin once again. Their investigation turns up little except more hijinks, that is, until Bull’s gang attacks the house, including shooting Shek Kin!
In the ensuing gun battle, Tak also gets killed by the gang after he came to warn that they were coming. Tak, stop dying every 40 minutes!! Grandpa is in the hospital and not dead, but Chief Yau is captured by Bull, who orders Cotton Flower to show up at a bridge in two hours or he dies.
So they will all show up…in masks. Three Cotton Flowers! The standoff turns into gunfight, Chief Yau is rescued by Cherry, and the gunfight quickly becomes a kung fu battle. We got Yukari and her legwork kicking butt while Bull goes after Rabbit. Bad guys are starting to get killed, soon Yukari and Cherry can help Rabbit fight Bull. Bull is then killed by falling metal rod.
The cops arrive just as it is over
Walter Tso fails to find Cotton Flower again. You failure!
Interesting hybrid of a film. It didn’t quite work as either of the types of films it was trying to be, but wasn’t just terrible and was good enough to be entertaining. Too bad much of it is very dark and the action is hard to see. I would have liked more focus on costumed daring do than gun cop action, but I’ll take what I can get from 1990s Hong Kong action cinema.
Rated 6/10 (flower, tiger, non-dead boyfriend, fellow cop, crazy evil blonde, random evil chick)