China Heat (Review)

China Heat

aka 中華警花 aka Zhong Hua Jing Hua aka 霸王花之中華警花
China Heat
Written by William Cheung Kei, Goo Siu-Yin, and Naam Fung
Directed by William Cheung Kei and Yang Yang

China Heat

I stop watching The Office after Steve Carell leaves and suddenly Dwight Schrute is a mob boss!

China Heat gives us Girls with Guns, lots of people getting shot, kung fu battles, and an big injection of 80s-90s American cop movie, complete with the cop who doesn’t play by the rules. There are a lot of Western actors in this movie, but they don’t really ruin the movie, the ones depicted as smart let the women take the lead, while the ones depicted as dumb try to get in their way or are working for the other side. It all results in a weird hybrid movie, but also gives China Heat a nice, unique flavor that doesn’t get in the way of the action enjoyment.
China Heat

This takes private jet to a whole new level!

Madam Wu (Sibelle Hu Hui-Chung) is a tough as nails leader of an anti-drug task force that not only engages in major firefights across Asia, but she pilots a fighter jet between countries (!!!) Someone got permission to shoot on an airbase in Asia and took full advantage of the situation! Her squad is massive, which is good because so are the resources available to the drug cartels and smugglers they are chasing. Madam Wu’s biggest assistants are Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey. They are after a squad of drug smugglers lead by Henry Hung, Henry has the amazing powers to be able to escape from gigantic shootouts as the only person from his side left alive. He uses one of those escapes to go to America, where the local mob bosses praise him and give him a special mob ring right before the police arrest him.

Madam Wu sends Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey to go escort him for extradition, and the American police Chief assigns the cop who doesn’t play by the rules named Michael to help guard the prisoner. We all know Henry is going to escape, lots of people are going to get shot, Madam Wu is going to have to arrive to help sort things out, and Michael is going to get thrown off the case. The joy isn’t in the story, but in the action sequences. There are large shootouts, long fight sequences in an airliner, warehouses, construction zones, and a giant shipping crane over the water. The villains even stoop to sending a squad of guys in dresses to attack the women in the ladies restroom! China Heat is not afraid to have obvious dummies with exploding heads used in some of the fight scenes, and I salute them for it.

China Heat

When you’re lucky this movie was shot while McDonald’s still served the McJordan Special!

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She Shoots Straight (Review)

She Shoots Straight

aka 皇家女將 aka Huang jia nu jiang aka Lethal Lady
She Shoot Straight
Written by Yuen Gai-Chi and Barry Wong Ping-Yiu
Directed by Corey Yuen Kwai

She Shoot Straight
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.
She Shoot Straight
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.
She Shoot Straight
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.
She Shoot Straight

Inspector Mina Kao (Joyce Godenzi) – Decorated police inspector headed for a high ranking position. Also a new bride of a husband feeling pressure not only to carry on the family line, but because she’ll soon outrank him. A tough cop who gets results.
Huang Chia-Ling (Carina Lau Ka-Ling) – Hot-headed sister-in-law of Mina, doesn’t like her one bit. Her anger issues endangers a mission, then help lead her into a trap that she’s saved from at the cost of her brother. Forms a bond with Mina after that event.
Mrs. Huang (Tang Pik-Wan) – Matriarch of the Huang family, was the wife of a cop and saw her four daughters and one son become cops.
Inspector Huang Tsung-Pao (Tony Leung Ka-Fai) – The only son of a three-generation police family. You might as well call him Inspector Dead Meat, because he’s way too nice to survive. And that’s not just an opinion, it happens.
Huang Chia-Ju (Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu) – While a more minor character, Sandra Ng is a welcome sight as another of Tsung-Pao’s sisters who is involved in a few of the action scenes.
Yuen Hua (Yuen Wah) – Vietnamese refugee who is a veteran of guerrilla warfare, came to Hong Kong to cause trouble and rob for money. Life is cheap to Yuen Hua, except that of his family. Leaves a bloody trail at all of his crime spots.
Yuen Ying (Agnes Aurelio) – Sister of Yuen Hua and a huge body builder and fighter. Just as ruthless as her brother, and more perceptive about the police. Has a big fight scene with Mina Kao.

She Shoot Straight
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Angel Force

Angel Force

aka 天使特警 aka Tian shi te jing

Written by Johnny Lee Gwing-Gaai
Directed by Hua Shan

Angel Force
Angel Force gives us what we want, tons and tons of action. Sure, there’s a plot in there, a half-baked rescue mission in the jungle that for some reason is done by cops, and some corrupt cops angle, but mostly it is just tons and tons of action. Shooting, kicking, knifing, punching, ridiculous stunts…Hong Kong action at its finest. These are the types of videos guys like me seeked out like crack at rental stores because nothing like this was coming out of US studios. Angel Force just brings back so many memories of renting anything I could from the woefully undersupplied Foreign section of the local video stores, at least until I got to a town with an awesome video store, and then the rise of cheap DVDs.
Angel Force
One thing about Angel Force is the film randomly leaves the Hong Kong cop setting for the middle of the film to do a jungle commando rescue mission, a la the beginning of Predator. This sets Angel Force enough different from the competition without it becoming one of several jungle commando pictures that were also out at the time. I do love all these girls with guns flicks, the danger is with most having similar plots and featuring the same core of actresses, without ridiculous stunts the films will begin to blur. So anything that helps a picture stand out is good in my book.
Angel Force

May (Moon Lee Choi-Fung) – Cop who is sent to the jungle to take down a terorist general and rescue hostages, because you want cops doing that, not the army. Even though she brings army guys. Moon Lee can also be seen in Angels, Fatal Termination, and Tomb Raiders/Avenging Quartet
Peter Lung and Helen Lung (Wilson Lam Jun-Yin and ???) – Peter is a hardworking cop who keeps getting called back to work and thus having no time for vacations, which upsets his wife Helen. Peter gets shot halfway through the movie and misses out on the jungle battle. Their son is Yaya, who gets giant ninja turtle toy and quizzes everyone on what “make love” is.
Benny (Hugo Ng Doi-Yung) – Crazy guy brought in on the commando team because he’s awesome at commando stuff. But he’s also a jerk and likes to rape women, so up yours, Benny!

Angel Force
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Bandolier Babes – Indian C-Grade Cinema

This article is from the year 2000, but has lots of cool information so I am reproducing it here. It goes into an overview of the C-grade cinema films that were a cash cow in the country at the time, mostly focusing on the Women getting revenge genre. Besides showing how those films make a profit, it gives us some actresses and films to keep an eye out for. Indian low budget cinema is a genre barely covered in Western media and all but ignored in Indian media as well.

Durgesh Nandini
Satnam Kaur

Lady Dacoit
Geeta Mera Naam
Daku Maharani
Daku Dilruba
Phool Bani Phoolan
Sultana Mera Naam

Bandolier Babes

Clad in black leather and brandishing guns, these buxom heroines with rudimentary acting skills are hamming their way to box-office profits

By Sandeep Unnithan

The writhing heroine is in the process of “losing her honour” to the troika of the lala, thakur and thanedaar. Macho hero Dharmendra wades in throwing punches and snorting his trademark “kuttey kameenay”. But he’s too late to prevent the humiliated woman from becoming a vengeance-seeking dacoit.

No 1970s Bollywood retro or an MTV promo this. In the less demanding depths of C-moviedom, the dacoit saga is going through a renaissance. With one difference: the protagonist is a woman. So there’s Lady Dacoit, Geeta Mera Naam, Basanti, Thakurain, Champakali or Daku Maharani. Acting skills aren’t required; it’s enough that they impart some credulity to action sequences and can ride horses. One other thing: an ample bosom is a must, if one goes by the cleavage on the garish posters. “A Hunterwali,” sums up producer Vimal Jain. Established actresses like Satnam Kaur command between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 per day. Freshers are paid a measly Rs 500 a day and are required to pass a screen test. In any case, they “only want a chance to appear before the camera”, offers Jain.

“I’ll do whatever role is offered to me. It’s better than sitting at home,” sighs Kaur, a stocky 30-something virago of Daku Dilruba and Zohrabai. She has spent very little time at home in the past few months and is C-filmdom’s No. 1 with over a dozen films on the floor. As for her repertoire, listen to her sister Rajni, who says, “Satnam is away shooting for a dacoit film. I don’t know which, they’re all the same.”

Says Jain, a handicraft-exporter-turned-producer of Phool Bani Phoolan, Sultana Mera Naam and Daku Maharani: “We cater to the front-benchers who want action and can’t digest love stories.” Trade analyst Taran Adarsh feels the action here is of a slightly different sort: “This female dacoit theme is only a pretext for introducing the element of sex-the mandatory Phoolan Devi-esque rape that justifies the actress turning into a dacoit.”

Such films offer ample scope for inserting soft porn clips that are shot separately and spliced with the film-one reason why Adarsh says they should be banned. The films also have raunchy mujras to get the hoi-polloi on their feet. “I know the stories are the same, but it makes for cheap entertainment,” confesses Lallan Yadav, a rickshaw driver queuing up for a first day, first show outside the grandiosely named Dreamland theatre in Mumbai.

The C-grade dacoit cloudburst began with the release of the innocuously-titled Munnibai earlier this year. Made by producer-director Kanti Shah for Rs 30 lakh, it sold for Rs 10 lakh a territory, ran to full houses even in Mumbai and went on to do a business of nearly Rs 1 crore all over the country. Hundreds of small-time producers rushed in, lemming like, to capitalise on the trend. “Markets are created and the little niches left behind are filled by these films,” shrugs Sholay maker Ramesh Sippy.

‘It’s Instant Justice’: These films, made for Rs 10-30 lakh, make good for distributors who cannot afford a Shah Rukh Khan or a Salman Khan. “Today you either take a high-risk gamble with a Rs 15-crore Subhash Ghai film or a low-risk gamble with a Rs 15-lakh dacoit film,” says Raza Murad. “The middle category has been wiped out by television.” Along with Shakti Kapoor, Joginder and Mohan Joshi, Murad is the perpetual baddie battling good guy Dharmendra in these films. Murad, who effortlessly plays evil thakur, corrupt police officer and dacoit, says he shoots for most films in just a single day. “It’s instant justice,” he laughs. “In the morning I do the dastardly deeds required of my character and in the evening I am punished for them.”

Passing off for the Chambal and cliched film-towns like Rampur and Sitapur are the sweaty studios of Mumbai-Chandivali, Essel and Filmcity-where these films are shot with rapid-fire regularity. Hastily dubbed and edited with stock action footage, bomb blasts, thundering hooves and advertised by garish posters, the films are auctioned off for Rs 5 lakh to 10 lakh in the five film territories to earn its makers a profit of a few lakh.

But if there’s money in these quickies, the depressed equestrian market isn’t getting a slice of it. “They’re fast,” says an exasperated Jitu Verma, whose firm has fuelled much of Bollywood’s post-Sholay horse and dacoit craze. “They use our cheapest horses and finish all the sequences in a day. We don’t make much money.”

But pace is, indeed, the essence of these films. “We believe in quantity not quality,” explains director S.R. Pratap who cans eight to nine scenes a day. In his latest Daku Kali Bhawani, a host of motorists and bystanders can be seen onscreen, gawking at the scene ostensibly set in the ravines of north India. “There is no time for details,” says the director who started out as a clapper boy in Chor Machaye Shor in 1973.

Amid all this is Dharmendra, the man who has by all accounts toppled Ooty-based Mithun Chakraborty as the king of C films. The 65-year-old star, practically out of work in big-time Bollywood, is now cashing in on his crowd-pulling potential in the northern theatre circuit. Reportedly signed on for over 20 films, Dharmendra commands Rs 1 lakh per day for a nine-hour shift. He perhaps is the greatest fan of these spaghetti easterns.

Durgesh Nandini in Champakali

Durgesh Nandini in Champakali

Tomb Raiders (Review)

Tomb Raiders

aka Ba hai hong ying aka Avenging Quartet

Cynthia Khan (Cynthia Luster) as Lisa
Yukari Oshima as Shoko
Moon Lee as Moon Lee
Michiko Nishiwaki as The Sister-in-law

This is called Tomb Raiders, despite the complete lack of tombs, lack of raiding, and lack of Lara Croft or Angelina Jolie. Any of those things would have helped this movie. In fact, Tomb Raiders is just a title repackage, as this was released under the name Avenging Quartet before, though that name is also misleading, as the women are not on the same side, and only two of them can be counted as avenging anything. At least they didn’t go with another Charlie’s Angels ripoff title, like many other movies some of these girls starred in.

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Naked Weapon (Review)

Naked Weapon

aka Chek law dak gung

Maggie Q as Charlene Ching
Anya Wu as Katherine
Almen Wong Pui-Ha as Madam M
Daniel Wu as Jack Chen

As a big fan of Naked Killer and similar fare, I was initially thrilled when it was announced that they would be remaking it, and that Wong Jing would be involved. Then it was announced it would instead be a “Naked Killer“-type movie, and I began to get a little worried. This formula is hard to do wrong, though, and Jing has been doing it for decades. OR so I thought. Instead, what could have easily been a great movie instead became a shining example of everything WRONG with Hong Kong cinema these days and explains why they are being surpassed by Korea and other places. Some of the many many problems will be addressed when they come up and others at the end.

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