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.
Categories: Bad, Movie Reviews Tags: Agnes Aurelio, Amy Yip Ji-Mei, Angile Leung Wan-Yui, Barry Wong Ping-Yiu, Carina Lau Ka-Ling, Corey Yuen Kwai, Girls with Guns, Hong Kong, Joyce Godenzi, Lau Chi-Wing, martial arts, Sammo Hung, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Sarah Lee Lai-Yui, Tang Pik-Wan, Teddy Yip Wing-Cho, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Yuen Gai-Chi, Yuen Wah
Let the Bullets Fly
aka 讓子彈飛 aka Rang zidan fei
Written by Jiang Wen, Jue So-Chun, Shu Ping, Guo Jun-Li, and Wei Xiao
Directed by Jiang Wen
An Eastern Western set during the 1920s warring states period of China, where greed, exploitation, and violence were all too common. But it is dark times as those where heroes emerge, heroes that don’t fit the spandex-wearing definition of the word, but heroes that are real people who come in to solve big problems. Let the Bullets Fly sets the hero loose, with his own set of morals and convictions, and he pushes back against those who would stand in the way of his freedom.
Based on a book by Ma Shitu, Let the Bullets Fly features action, adventure, and revolutionary language. It is a minor power struggle against the backdrop of larger power struggles. We see how the struggles of life affect all levels, from important businessmen to government officials to the criminal underclass to the village peasants.
After a train robbery, Pocky Zhang’s band of “noble” bandits con their way into an unsuspecting town posing as the new appointed governor. But the town is controlled by a ruthless businessman who is used to running things his way as the townspeople suffer. Zhang isn’t about to take crap from anyone, setting into motion a war between to different types of criminals with two radically different philosophies.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
What you really need to know: Andy Lau gets into a kung fu fight with CGI deer.
Do you like yo-yos? Yo-yos go up and down, and so does Detective Dee. Some sequences in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame are awesome, but other parts of the film are embarrassing and make you wonder why people were lavishing praise upon it.
If you’ve read any book on Hong Kong cinema that came out in the 90’s (which is when most of the books started appearing in the US), then you remember every single one had chapters on Tsui Hark. Tsui Hark was one of the Hong Kong New Wave directors that shook the industry to the core, and helped modernize Hong Kong film. Many of his earlier films are classics, though he had a few misfires. But even as the industry changed, Tsui Hark has seemed incapable of making film that is watchable since the mid-90’s. Those Jean-Claude Van Damme films were terrible, the Zu Warriors redux was boredom, and Seven Swords is a film so long that no one has ever gotten to the end of it. Despite all the technological achievements, Tsui Hark just wasn’t making good films anymore, and no amount of technology can change that. While Detective Dee isn’t a great film, it is at least the most watchable Tsui film since Black Mask, and something you should eventually get around to watching. You know, when it’s raining outside or something.
With Tsui Hark in the director’s chair, we are at least assured the film will look good, and it does. The cinematography is top notch. Elaborate CGI effects are needed to create ancient Chinese cities, palaces, giant Buddha statues, and underground meeting places – some are more believable than others, but you always know you are looking at a bunch of 1’s and 0’s in picture form. We do give props to action director Sammo Hung, as the actions sequences are the best parts of the film.
The stylized elements Tsui loves sometimes help the film, and sometimes hurt. As the opening scrawl is stylized to appear and disappear in wisps of smoke (which is nice), but a problem is the crawl is Star Warsian in length. In fact, the long text openings of Reefer Madness and Alone in the Dark are brought to mind. We are forced to read like half a sentence at a time, and have to wait for each piece one by one. It is what I like to call “annoying”.