Posts tagged "Women who kick butt"

Ms. 45 (Review)

Ms. 45

aka Angel of Vengeance
Ms. 45
1981
Written by Nicholas St. John (as N.G. St. John)
Directed by Abel Ferrara

Ms. 45
Ms. 45 is a genre classic, a required viewing exploitation film, and among the best rape and revenge movies ever made. Zoë Lund (then Zoë Tamerlis) is haunting as the mute Thana, whose life as a seamstress at a fashion house is shattered when she’s attacked by rapists twice on the same day. The second attack ends with Thana striking a blow atop the assailant’s head, killing him. At first horrified at what she’s done, Thana attempts to cover up his death, and takes the gun he leaves behind. Soon, her paranoia as she disposes of pieces of his dismembered corpse causes her to kill again.

Thana transforms from silent victim to silent avatar of death, walking the streets at night to become a target of attackers so she can eliminate them. As no one likes scummy rapists, Thana’s actions cause the audience to cheer for her, the excitement of seeing bad people punished mixes with the thrill of someone fighting back against her oppressors.
Ms. 45
It soon becomes apparent that Thana’s search for vengeance has moved beyond rapists. She starts stalking a guy who is just making out with his girlfriend in the street. The target have moved from bad men to men in general, and by the end of the film she’s shooting every man she sees, indiscriminate of whether he is an awful person or not. The targets even go beyond human males, her landlady’s dog Phil (played by a dog named Bogey, which is too cool of a name not to mention) is aware that some sort of delicious rotting meat is in her apartment, and Thana attempts to eliminate him by taking him for a walk in heavy traffic. The audience sympathy begins to drain away like a leaky balloon. But Zoë Lund is just too charming, you can’t turn against her entirely even if she’s aiming a gun at your face. Thana’s rise and fall becomes another tale of power corrupting, her power of life and death corrupting her into a force that lashes out indiscriminately and becomes as bad as the people who turned her onto that path.

As fun as gunning down the guilty in the streets goes, who really should be the judge, jury, and executioner? Many of the men Thana shoots are not the nicest of guys, but haven’t committed capital crimes. They may treat their wives/girlfriends like crap, complain, and talk rowdy stuff, but is that worth death? Thana sees the worst in men, and many of the depictions of men in the movie are men who are only seen at their worst. How much of the view of how the male characters act is clouded by her perspective? It’s an extra layer of haze that may be present over the entire film, or may not exist at all. After all, as a man, I know how sick and twisted many men are.
Ms. 45
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 26, 2015 at 9:05 pm

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Iron Swallow (Review)

Iron Swallow

aka 鐵燕 aka Tie Yan aka Shaolin Iron Eagle
Iron Swallow
1978
Story by Chu Yu
Directed by Cheung Pooi-Shing (as Chang Pay-Cherng)

Iron Swallow
Revenge is a dish best served cold. That’s what some Klingon guy told me, anyway. Iron Swallow is basically a kung fu version of I Know What You Did Last Summer, except it’s a decade later and the children of the slain are the ones having revenge. Revenge is the topic of discussion, because it’s the topic everyone is talking about.

The elders did a horrible crime they refuse to talk about to anyone or even each other. It quickly becomes obvious that it involves rape, murder, and bribes to cover up their deeds. Many of them spent years worrying about the crimes, some throwing themselves into philanthropy out of guilt. None of the characters will call the authorities when attacked, because they don’t want to drag up their sordid histories. This leaves their younger relatives confused and frustrated, knowing something bad is happening and seeing their parents unwilling to do anything about it.

The revenge plot is so much the sole focus that there isn’t some of the usual kung fu tropes. No one seeks out a great master, there is no training montage. There isn’t a gallant knight hanging out in disguise to set things right. It is just pure revenge. The purity of the focus of Iron Swallow is welcome, sometimes films try to do too much and end up accomplishing nothing, while Iron Swallow does what it is supposed to do and does it well.

The problem with all these lovely dubbed kung fu features is it is impossible to get anyone’s name correct, so please excuse me if the character names I use don’t sound exactly like the ones you hear when you watch the film. There is rarely consensus on just how the characters’ names are said by the dubbers, changing depending on who is speaking or what accent the ex-pat in Hong Kong/Taiwan who is doing the part has. Occasionally, the dubbers pronounce the same name differently in two concurrent sentences. Thus, all references to Chia Ling’s character will just be Iron Swallow.
Iron Swallow

Iron Swallow (Chia Ling) – Iron Swallow is the daughter of a murdered man, out to avenge his death by maiming those responsible for his death and the subsequent coverup. She arrives in town with her Aunt, who is also a victim of the incident that started everything. Iron Swallow has focused her entire life on getting revenge. She leaves trademark iron swallow darts with red tassels, which the enemy later uses to frame her. Iron Swallow’s actual name might be Chin Yeh.
Ko Fang (Ting Wa-Chung) – A kung fu student being raised by his single father, who is marked as a target by Iron Swallow. Ko Fang soon learns that all he thought was true was a lie, and that he’s more involved in the revenge drama than he knows. He is best friends with Tu Lung, who is like a brother to him.
Tu Lung (Don Wong Tao) – Son of Chu Hsaio Tien and best friend of Ko Fang. Tu Lung is the idyllic youth who soon learns that things weren’t as clear cut as he thought they would be when he was learning about the world. He’s soon dragged into the confrontations due to familiar and friendly connections, torn between the two sides and his reluctance to join in the violence.
Wu (Wong Wing-Sang) – A Fortune Teller who is really a skilled kung fu assassin hired by Mr. Chu to kill everyone connected to the case before it comes back on him.
Chu Hsiao Tien (Yee Yuen) – Kung Fu Master and local bigwig responsible for a horrible crime and the resulting cover up, which dooms everyone a decade later when it comes time for revenge. Even then, he refuses to take responsibility and tries to kill his way out of it.
Mo Tu Ping (Hung Kin-Wing) – A Mystery Man who keeps popping up to aid Iron Swallow for reasons unknown. It is eventually revealed his father was Mo Shing Yee, Iron Swallow’s father’s best friend, and died alongside him in the original incident. Now the son continues his family’s legacy.

Iron Swallow
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

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Hapkido (Review)

Hapkido

aka 合氣道 aka He qi dao aka Hap Ki Do aka Lady Kung Fu
Hapkido 合氣道
1972
Written by Yan Ho
Directed by Feng Huang

Hapkido 合氣道
When you need villains for your martial arts movie, the Japanese are very handy. Not only did the Japanese actually do a bunch of bad stuff that seems only cartoon supervillains would do, but depicting them doing so helps stir up nationalistic feelings and potentially increases your box office bang. Thus martial arts schools are the setting for rebellion against Japanese occupiers in Hapkido, and Angela Mao Ying is more than capable of beating the snot out of all sorts of Japanese jerks.

Hapkido is one of Angela Mao’s earliest films for Golden Harvest. You can still see legacies of the Shaw Brothers influence, from the Golden Harvest logo having a strangely familiar shape to the film being advertised in “Dyaliscope”, whatever the heck that is!
Hapkido 合氣道
We start out in 1934 Japanese-occupied Seoul, where three Chinese students are studying Hapkido before harassment by Japanese occupiers cause them need to return to China, but that also means they can open a Hapkido school in China. Just as Japan now controls Korea, Japanese influence in China is not something to be ignored, their impending invasion of the whole country means their people act arrogant and criminally. The watchword for Hapkido is “forbearance”, which works fine except when the Japanese are assaulting innocent people and Sammo Hung’s character has a wicked temper. Then it gets put on the wayside while people get punched.
Hapkido 合氣道

Yu Ying (Angela Mao Ying) – Hapkido student who just wants to set up a school and teach everyone Hapkido, except the Japanese have other ideas. So it’s time to kick those ideas out of their heads and also kick many other parts of their bodies to get them to go away!
Fan Wei (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Hot-headed Hapkido student who constantly gets into fights and causes trouble for his friends. But he also just happens to be around whenever the Japanese are doing something evil, so he also has very bad luck.
Kao Chung (Carter Wong Ka-Tat) – Hapkido student who tries to calm down all the trouble happening only to get a brutal beatdown to emphasize how the Japanese school is beyond reason.

Hapkido 合氣道
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - September 8, 2014 at 7:11 am

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The Heroic Trio (Review)

The Heroic Trio

aka 東方三俠 aka Dong Fang San Xia
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
1993
Written by Sandy Shaw Lai-King
Directed by Johnnie To Kei-Fung

The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
Next up in Tars reviews classic examples of global cinema that he should have damn well reviewed years ago is The Heroic Trio. Instead of again explaining how this was one of the first couple of Hong Kong films I saw and how it cemented me into a lifelong fan of Hong Kong Action Cinema, I’ll just remind you with this sentence that dismisses the topic while reaffirming it.

Make no mistake, The Heroic Trio is an awesome and classic piece of Hong Kong cinema from the last golden age. Johnnie To directing before he became a film festival darling. The ever-amazing Anita Mui being the most glamorous and moral super hero imaginable. Maggie Cheung as the rebel outsider hero who never looks before she leaps, and whose antics cause worse problems than the ones she tries to solve. Michelle Yeoh as the conflicted hero forced to serve evil. Anthony Wong in a surprisingly restrained performance as an unhinged psychopath.
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
The Heroic Trio both riffs on and celebrates the glamor of cinema. Characters can often be found posed while events are going down, an off screen fan conveniently nearby to make their hair flow in the wind. They go so far as to have Thief Catcher bring along fashion clothes for the women to wear after the job is done so they’ll look extra spectacular, and shots of the women all doing their model walk as Cantopop sings us out. The obvious Western influences are the Batman films from Burton, but there is a heavy Terminator vibe going on as well. For a more inward look, the vast amount of girls with guns films helped position female-driven action films as a good idea, and some of the set design look straight out of Zu: Warriors from Magic Mountain. At one point a character uses a flying guillotine! The mixmash of films and ideas is one of the factors that makes Hong Kong film so great for the fans. Director Johnnie To lets the mood build not just with the actresses and their poses and expressions, but with a heavy use of Cantopop on the soundtrack, with Anita Mui showing why she was a legendary singing star at every note.

Johnnie To isn’t one to shy away from political metaphors, and The Heroic Trio is no exception. As 1997 and the turnover to China loomed in the minds of every Hong Kong citizen, it naturally became reflected in film. One reason why “Evil Master” seeks out male children is that one will be destined to become the new Emperor of China, under Evil Master’s control. Thus a return to Chinese rule would be a return to the olden days of Emperors, throwing out democratic rule. Mainland China is hardly a beacon of democracy, but the parallel is there. The fear is torn down by empowered women with fashion sense, who preserve the free way of life.
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
One of the problems with great looking HD releases of films is it makes the wires way more apparent than the second generation VHS tapes I first saw the films on. The Heroic Trio had some shots that you could see the wires on even then, but now things are far more obvious in giving away the magic. Still, someone going through and CGing out all the wires would lose some of the charm, so it’s time to learn to live with such things.

In short, The Heroic Trio is a fun action filled adventure that borrows the best elements of decades of Hong Kong and American cinema to create a new classic.
The Heroic Trio 東方三俠

Tung, The Wonder Woman (Anita Mui Yim-Fong) – The glamorous Wonder Woman is also Tung, the unassuming housewife of Inspector Lau. Remarkably capable, Wonder Woman is the gold standard of awesome in the super heroine world of Hong Kong. Armed with dart blades and a ribbon sword.
Ching, The Invisible Woman (Michelle Yeoh) – Ching was childhood friends with Tung when both were being trained by a good master, but Ching left, only to fall in with Evil Master (and was known as San during that time). Despite literally working for evil, Ching isn’t a bad person, and eventually flips sides. Is invisible due to an invisibility cloak designed by her boyfriend, who is slowly dying as he works on the cloak.
Chat, The Thief Catcher (Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk) – A motorcycle-driving, shotgun brandishing heroine who is not afraid to break out her boomerang knife on anyone. Bounty hunter who is trying to break into being a super hero for hire. Thief Catcher’s haphazard methods result in a lot of dangerous situations, with occasional tragic consequences. That Wonder Woman is so perfect at the super-heroine job just drives Thief Catcher batty. Was childhood friends with Ching when both were taught by Evil Master, but Chat fled after a few years.
Inspector Lau (Damian Lau Chung-Yan) – Loving husband of Tung, and top cop who works with Wonder Woman. And, yes, he’s not so stupid he doesn’t figure out who his wife really is.
Kau (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) – Kau uses a flying guillotine when sent to kill wonder woman Anthony Wong was the go to guy for creepy in the 90s, and here he’s a slightly sanitized version of one of his gross characters from his many turns as Category III horror villains.
Evil Master (Yen Shi-Kwan) – When you are named Evil Master, you don’t really have a lot of choices in life on what to do for a living. Is looking for a new emperor for China, who he will control and thus rule China.

The Heroic Trio 東方三俠
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - June 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

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Kick Ass Girls (Review)

Kick Ass Girls

aka 爆3俏嬌娃
Kick Ass Girls
2013
Written and directed by Vincci Cheuk/GC Goo-Bi
Kick Ass Girls Chrissie Chau
Chrissie Chau and other hot girls wearing gym outfits and beating the crap out of each other sounds like a winning idea that of course the Hong Kong government handed over a wad of cash. But Kick Ass Girls somehow managed to be a disjointed mess that somehow misses the entire idea of “girl power” in a film about female empowerment (through violence!) Still, it’s not nearly as terrible as Angel Warriors, but it won’t be on anyone’s must see list.

Kick Ass Girls has a female writer/director, which is the reason I bothered to watch it. This is the first full length film directed by Vincci Cheuk/GC Goo Bi (she previously directed a segment in 2001’s Heroes in Love), and she also appears in front of the camera as a goth assistant who secretly works for the evil boss that traps our heroines. Her goth character Amy’s silent stares are a sharp contrast to the three main girls and their bubbly personalities, which are full of energy even when they are arguing with each other (and thus doing overly dramatic sighs!)
Kick Ass Girls
We know none of the girls are going to die thanks to an interview framing device, which immediately destroys all suspense. They even go so far as to jump back to the framing right as the “to the death” fights begin, just to reassure you that the ladies won’t die. The fights in the middle of the film are a series of bouts where we essentially watch our heroines get pummeled by some tough girls. The fights aren’t even that bad, though if you pay attention you can detect how they edited to compensate for the lack of fighting skills among the stars.

One of the deals with Kick Ass Girls is the ladies using their sexuality to get money from men. The gym is set up to lure in paying customers, who then go for “achievements” like there is a video game, eventually earning the right to have fights with the female trainers, and probably do a lot of groping during said fight. Miu does more than just groping to a few of the clients, but her promiscuity isn’t treated as a bad thing, just a useful part of her personality set. In the most WTF part of Kick Ass Girls, Boo somehow still has her purse after they’ve been kidnapped and beaten in their first fight, and it has three complete S&M outfits inside the ladies can use to seduce their guards to escape (though the guard seems enraged instead of seduced, so who knows what is going on!) I can’t come up with a reason why they have the leather outfits (beyond giving an excuse to film the girls in leather outfits) unless 50 Shades of Grey is also popular in Hong Kong.
Kick Ass Girls

Boo (Chrissie Chau Sau-Na) – Boo runs a gym called Kick Ass Girl (note the singular), she took over the gym from her parents, and used to run it with her childhood friend TT (as Kick Ass Girls), until there was a falling out, largely due to TT dating Boo’s ex-boyfriend. Is barely making rent and desperate to bring in more clients, hence she finds inspiration in Miu…
Miu (DaDa Lo Chung-Chi) – Tricked by a gym instructor in both love and into a gym membership, Miu is full of rage. Her picking a fight with Boo leads to a job offer (helped by her flirty personality and loose morals) that’s soon packing in the adoring clients.
TT (Hidy Yu Xiao-Tong) – Shunned by Boo due to her dating Boo’s ex-boyfriend, the friends haven’t spoken in years until Miu throws a birthday party and invites TT over.

Kick Ass Girls
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

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Big Bad Sis

Big Bad Sis

aka 沙膽英 aka Sa daam ying

1976
Written by Sze-To On
Directed by Sun Chung

Big Bad Sis
Shaw Brothers gives us a tale of bad girl factory workers! It is an interesting spin on the delinquent schoolgirl approach, having the girls just out of school and holding down jobs, but still being delinquent. Big Bad Sis is an interesting hybrid, because it’s an action film with clear influences from the Japanese Sukeban/Pinky violence flicks, but it’s also a Hong Kong Triad film and manages to throw in some left wing pro-labor and pro-women’s rights issues. With just enough exploitation to satisfy those who need that as well. Big Bad Sis may be a stew made from many random ingredients, but they work together to give an entertaining flick.
Big Bad Sis
Big Bad Sis shows that sometimes you gotta fight. Whether it is for your job or to protect innocent people in the bathroom or because of crazy triad gambling den drama or because your boss is a piece of garbage or all of those reasons combined into a gigantic reason. A bid bad reason, which is why you need your sisters!

Fung Ying (Chen Ping) – Ah Ying is the tough as nails former gangster turned factory worker who defends the innocent and becomes friends with her fellow oppressed factory workers, even forming her own sort of gang. But her past begins to catch up with her.
Sai Chu (Siu Yam-Yam) – An orphan raised in the system, and then released where she starts biking around nude and stabbing people. Becomes Ah Ying’s biggest fan and a tough chick in her own right.
Chan Fong (Chong Lee) – A young girl with naughty stepfather who runs away from home to get away from his wandering hands. Her looks make her a target of everyone with awing hands, but her new gang affiliation allows her to be able to stand up and fight back.
Big Brother Dai Gi-Luk (Wang Hsieh) – Gang leader who used to employ/date Ah Ying, and is bitter about her leaving. Sends his goons to harass her.
Brother Shing (Chen Kuan-Tai) – Old friend of Ah Ying who defends her from Big Brother’s men.
Wai (Wong Chung) – One of Big Brother’s gang, but a friend of Ah Ying. He won’t renounce his boss despite his feelings for her.

Big Bad Sis
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - April 24, 2013 at 6:12 am

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