She Shoots Straight (Review)
She Shoots Straight
aka 皇家女將 aka Huang jia nu jiang aka Lethal Lady
Written by Yuen Gai-Chi and Barry Wong Ping-Yiu
Directed by Corey Yuen Kwai
An underloved classic, She Shoots Straight gives us a healthy dose of female fighting action that will satisfy even demanding Hong Kong Action Cinema junkies, as well as throwing in family drama and even a few funny scenes. Corey Yuen helms and shows off his action movie chops that have kept him producing cool cinema for decades.
Despite the awesome fights, She Shoots Straight failed to do well at the box office and has gone down in history as a failure. Despite the effort of many cult film fans and bloggers, it remains relatively obscure, lacking a lead who is one of the better known Girls with Guns actresses. It deserves a larger audience, the fight sequences are brutal and well choreographed, and several of the supporting actresses are legends of Hong Kong cinema. An English dub exists, but it is terrible, so avoid it like the plague.
Joyce Godenzi is a former Miss Hong Kong (1984), whose big break in the acting world was 1987’s Easter Condors, directed by her future husband Sammo Hung. Mixed Australian and Chinese, it is even mentioned in the film. Her Eurasian ancestry and accusations of being a homewrecker (Sammo Hung was married when they met) may have had a hand in her disappearing from the spotlight. This is one of several films Hung put together for her.
Agnes Aurelio is an American-born body building champion, and I’ve seen her claimed to be the daughter of former President of the Philippines (though I can’t figure out which one, so take that with a grain of salt!) She apparently makes a fleeting appearance in JFK(!!), which gives her a Kevin Bacon number of 1.
Tang Pik-Wan plays the Huang family matriarch. A classic Hong Kong actress with credits dating back to 1950, She Shoots Straight would be among her last work, passing away in 1991. Her credits largely consist of opera or comedic roles, and she had a long career on television serials as well.
With Carina Lau and Sandra Ng as sisters, the Huang family is well represented with legendary actresses and 1980s hairstyles. Rounding out the four sisters are Angile Leung and Sarah Lee (who is somehow Loletta Lee’s sister!), who are short on lines thanks to the already huge cast. Sammo Hung pops up as an adopted member of the Huang family who is also a cop. Yuen Wah is almost unrecognizable as the Vietnamese gang leader. His hair style and nerdy glasses hide the ruthless individual beneath who cares for nothing except his own family and revenge, innocents be damned.
The action sequences are solid, opening with Mina Kao showing her stuff saving a diplomat. There is a lot of leaping through windows and shooting while flying in the air. There is also a huge body count, with not only villains but many police and innocent people getting killed and maimed as the fights continue. The villains are presented as a force of pure destruction, the cops can only hope that they’ve brought enough men and ammo to slow them down and contain them. The final fight is classic, and the assault on the cargo ship is filled with some awesome moments of butt kicking. Ignoring the family drama, the action alone is enough to bump this up to classic territory.
It’s Inspector Huang Tsung-Pao’s wedding day, marrying fellow cop Inspector Mina Kao. But as Tsung-Pao is the only son from a family of police officers and has four sisters who are also cops and disapproving of his choice in wife, the wedding is not as happy an occasion as one should be. Mina Kao is ordered to report to duty the very next day by her boss, and doesn’t want to get pregnant until she reaches the rank of Superintendent.
The sisters are upset that Mina is putting her career first and will soon outrank her husband, and inventing charges that she’s seeking personal glory. Particularly upset is Chia-Ling, who has a hot-headed and stubborn personality on a good day. When Mina is put in charge of an investigation into a potential club robbery by Vietnamese gang members, Ling begins objecting until Tsung-Pao is also put in charge.
The Vietnamese gang is ruthless, their introduction sequence showing them buying the guns ends with them firing indiscriminately down an alley. Their attack on the club is done in total darkness with them wearing special infrared goggles (actually just normal goggles and a red filter lens over the camera!) Mina catches on to their trick, and the ensuing gunfight leaves a large number of gang members and cops dead as the gang flees. But the lead gangster’s brother’s death is the most devastating, the gang vowing revenge.
Using Ling’s anger at a suspension over blowing cover at the nightclub, the gang lures her (thinking she’s Mina) to a secret meeting for information that is really an ambush. Mina and Pao have followed, and manage to save Ling from the variety of Viet Cong traps set all around the park, but at the cost of Tsung-Pao’s life. The two women then have to go to matriarch Mrs. Huang’s birthday celebration, and decide to not divulge that her only son was murdered, leading to some awkward situations. The whole sequence is well presented and emotional, with things becoming absurd at points. But a news report reveals the truth, and soon the celebration becomes sorrow.
At the funeral, the Vietnamese bomb the casket and send Mina to the hospital, where it’s reveal she’s pregnant (her husband had punctured holes in the condom in a desperate attempt to alleviate the pressure of carrying on the family name), and they can’t use anesthetic or it will hurt the baby. So Mina must endure surgery au naturale, biting down in pain.
The dick superintendent takes the entire family off the case, and plans an raid to arrest the gang at 6 am. Once informed, the Huang family plans to raid the gang at 5 am. And once they’re all informed, the recovering Mina leaves at 4 am to attack the gang, but finds Ling already waiting in the car, armed with two huge machetes. The two have reached an understanding and head off.
The gang has also left at 4 am and are on a huge shipping boat, which Mina and Ling board and begin shooting and carving their way to the gang leaders. Some top notch fighting sequences here, though Mina shooting at the gang leader while he’s luckily saved by all sorts of random obstructions does get a bit repetitive. Finally, he’s apprehended on deck, and Mina is warned against gunning him down in cold blood by Sammo Hung.
But the cops on shore botch arresting the suspects, and the gang leader escapes along with his body builder sister, dragging the dick superintendent behind them. Despite all the cops, only Mina gets on a motorcycle and chases them down, and the fight between Mina and Agnes Aurelio is an awesome display of brutal action. One of my favorite woman on woman fights in Hong Kong Action Cinema. If you love this Hong Kong action stuff like I do, then put She Shoots Straight on your must see list today!
Rated 8/10 (Sarah Lee Lai-Yui, Angile Leung Wan-Yui, Golden Harvest, disguise, pain, a great hat, funeral flag, late father)
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