Beautiful Blood on Your Lip
Successors to GWG


“I will do it by myself”
(Aya Nakamura, “Wild Criminal”)

What emerges from this eclectic blend of HK action dramas from various sub-genres, Japanese yakuza films, and Korean commentaries on anger, retaliation and escape from personal injustice is a common element of the importance of autonomous action.  Whatever their motives, in order to realize their goals the female protagonists of these films must step outside the constraints of current convention and the law.  Not one of these female characters finds satisfaction or solutions within conventional relationship prescriptions for partners or authority.  This invites identification of a subtext involving the ideology of power, gender and relationships.

Narrative currents of atypical attraction, retaliation and alienation are discernible in the three groups of female action dramas brought together for this review, and they perhaps resonate with larger themes in the three respective entertainment cultures.  Such topics were not identified in advance or used to screen potential titles, but simply emerge from repeated viewings.  Each collection of films, it seems, might be regarded as relatively oppositional – albeit oblique – statements about cultural norms of relationships (HK), obligation (Japan) and emancipation (Korea) – respectively.
Thirty years ago, “Yuki” (“Lady Snowblood”) was enjoined, “Forget joy, forget sorrow, forget love, and forget hate . . . except for vengeance.”  To this we might now add the supplementary caveat, “And then walk away.”  The films selected for review exultantly loosen conventional bonds, then chart the sometimes-startling course of individuals suddenly unbound.
We may, perhaps, describe these films as offering the Western viewer opportunities for subversive, oppositional readings.  These include parodies of conventional representation by a self-consciously “trashy” style that questions gender roles, blatantly appropriates the cinematic “gaze” and hijacks familiar action conventions.  These tactics detach the usual cinematic signifiers of gender role from their ideological context through physical skill and power.  In addition to providing multiple opportunities to resist ideological constraint, these Asian action films also raise possibilities of different constructions of identification and desire in radical departure from traditional assumptions or stereotypes.
Some might question whether such low-genre films could ever offer valid commentary on issues of power and gender – except as object lessons.  But this ignores the real and compelling differences between superficially similar narratives.  Although “Two Cops 3,” “Nude Fear” and “H” are all police procedurals, their ultimate messages and ideological import differ quite widely.  When a film text is viewed primarily as a vehicle for the delivery of messages that either affirm or challenge dominant, prevailing norms, it becomes necessary to look beyond the surface construction of genre and more closely at the contingencies that resolve the narrative – especially at the source of agency and ultimate beneficiary.  In all the films reviewed here, these are traceable to the female protagonists themselves – whose actions are at the core of these narratives.