“Angel Enforcers” (1989)
(Grandwell Film Production; Dir. Ho Chi-mou)
An elite undercover police squad led by “Zhou”
(Sharon Yeung) crosses paths with a money counterfeiting operation headed
by a memorably cross-dressed Ha Chi-chun. Slapping a riding crop,
she bullies everyone in contact with her while running a nightclub as a
The film’s focus narrows when one of Ha’s contract
operatives, played by Philip Ko, is killed by the police squad. His
loyal partner (Dick Wei) swears vengeance, defying Ha’s orders to let the
matter drop. After kidnapping one of the female police officers as
bait to lure Zhou, his action brings down the entire operation in a final
fight with guns, feet and other objects.
Other than Ha’s excellent but brief part and
some Heroic Bloodshed elements, there is little to distinguish this from
many other martial arts vengeance titles. But Yeung is always worth
watching, and delivers her outstanding martial proficiency with enthusiasm.
The action choreography is also well up to standard.
“Killer Angels” (1989)
(Jia’s Motion Picture Co. H.K.; Dir. Lu Chin-ku)
“Yau Li” (Moon Lee) is sent to work undercover
in a nightclub while investigating slave trafficking controlled by its
owner “Chu” (Leung Kar-yan). His bodyguard “Michael” (Gordon Lau)
watches her sing and becomes infatuated. His attitude to Yau Li understandably
enrages his girl friend (Nadeki Fujimi) who also happens to be the boss’s
daughter. Both Lee’s nightclub costume and Fujimi’s leather-clad
“bad girl” outfit are noteworthy.
Fujimi has an entertaining martial arts confrontation
with Lee, as well as serving as the villain of the piece – riding a motorcycle
and leading the gang in pursuit of an informer who is sheltered by Yau
Li’s partners. An additional plot twist involves his past role in
the death of the child of one of Yau Li’s partners. Needless to say,
he is not a welcome guest at the safe house.
Although Fujimi’s character succeeds in springing
a trap for Yau Li, she is again betrayed by Michael. The climax features
an extended, dramatic GWG shootout in which Yau Li and her two female partners
assault the gang compound armed with automatic weapons. This sequence
helps define the genre – an exaggerated battle against a numerically overwhelming
enemy. As the bad guys go down in spectacular style, Lau’s infatuated
bodyguard makes one more sacrifice for Yau Li.
Sentimental, implausible, yet utterly compelling,
this film is one of the genre’s best. Although Lau is less than convincing
as a romantic figure, Lee is quite simply excellent. In all her action
roles she could be counted on to deliver a solid, enthusiastic performance.
Here she takes relatively lean material and yet creates an impression of
apparent gravity. This may also be the only action film in which
“Princess Madam” (1989)
(Grandwell Film Production; Dir. Godfrey Ho
Perhaps the only “cut and paste” title to merit
serious consideration, “Princess Madam” is essentially two distinct films
joined back to back. The first, and most interesting thread, is a
vengeance plot in which Michiko Nishiwaki, playing a femme fatale dressed,
appropriately enough, in black, who seeks to exact revenge on Moon Lee’s
police officer by seducing her husband. There are a number of striking
moments – Nishiwaki in a lovemaking scene, extracting a bullet from a woman’s
breast, throwing darts at a picture of Moon Lee, biting to leave marks,
Lee waiting disconsolately with a spoiling meal. Flushed with hollow
triumph, Nishiwaki’s character “Lily” has Lee strung up while she drunkenly
torments her husband – tipsy and slightly unsteady, but still lethal.
Sharon Yeung, playing Lee’s police partner, arrives
in time to save the situation, then takes a leading role in the second
half of the film. Here, she has a rare opportunity to forge a screen
relationship, but ultimately goes outside the law to confront gang members
in a Heroic Bloodshed finale. Mark Houghton is encountered along
the way. Yeung’s martial arts skills are impressive, and she is able
to act in a role offering greater dramatic range that she was typically
afforded. It’s essentially two movies for the price of one.
“Thunder Cops II” (1989)
(Golden Flare Films Co.; Dir. Jeff Lau Chun-wai)
A film of occasionally surreal violence, “Thunder
Cops II” delivers with a grim intensity and sophistication that distinguishes
it as possibly the best police drama of this genre. Sandra Ng – who
is far better known for her comic roles – portrays a policewoman who is
transformed from rube to a violently abusive undercover detective by the
murder of her police officer father (Eddie Ko). The Mandarin title
(“Hoodlum Police Woman”) seems more descriptive than the English.
Although the film adheres to some police drama conventions, it defies others
in spectacular fashion. In her single-minded quest for vengeance,
Ng’s character “Fong Ngoinam” lurches out of control – visiting brutality,
cynical manipulation and sentimentality in equal measure on the hapless
addicts whom she controls as informants. As she is grubbing for a
lead on her father’s killer she is unaware that her supervisor (played
to the hilt by Jeff Lau) is out to frame her in retaliation for her father’s
earlier testimony against him to ICAC.
In this film everyone betrays everyone else.
People die along the way – including completely unrelated bystanders –
or are beaten bloody. Wounded people fall and lie twitching.
Her own partner, disgusted by Fong’s beating of a female drug addict (Ann
Bridgewater), attempts to restrain her – only to have Fong turn on her
too. In flagrant defiance of orders Fong crashes a stakeout in pursuit
of “Feitsat” (Shing Fui-on) who can lead her to her quarry. When
she’s arrested it’s Fong’s turn to be beaten and framed. The cynical
view of police procedure and violence is breathtaking. When Fong
escapes with the help of a colleague, she becomes essentially a criminal.
Uniformly superior and occasionally superb cinematography
captures the special essence of HK action cinema at its best. After
Sui Yien (Stephen Chiau Sing-chi) is unexpectedly shot during questioning
by a criminal gang also searching for his brother Feitstat, the camera
follows a facial close-up as he falls backward in slow motion – registering
the shock and confusion of wounding. Rotating 180 degrees, the camera
tracks his dazed lateral eye movements. From the floor we see Fong
enter from one direction in slow motion, white topcoat flaring as she aims
two automatic pistols into the room. Framed by slow motion sparks
from a damaged neon fixture, she fires. The camera tracks an ejected
shell case. Still in slow motion, Sui glances the other way, glimpsing
a dead or dying man staring at him underneath the sofa. Like the
fearful curiosity of a child the camera rises, still in slow motion, peeping
over the edge of the furniture to briefly record bodies twisting and falling.
As Fong scoops the wounded Sui from the floor, they sway back and forth
– a parody dance. Fong carries Sui over her shoulder. Once
again, the camera follows him full-face as the pair retreat. Helpless,
his face registers alarm over what is developing off camera. As Fong
turns, the camera position follows Sui. Now he cannot see at all,
until Fong turns around once again. His final view in the scene is
a glimpse of more mayhem. This entire scene, shot in continuous slow
motion with “heroic” lighting from below as well as superior effects, choreography
and score, should give the viewer gooseflesh. A similarly effective
slow motion action sequence on a flight of steps appears directly inspired
by de Palma’s “The Untouchables” and may have itself served as a model
for the wedding sequence in “Queen’s High.”
The acting, direction and technical aspects of
this film all stand out. There is symmetry and balance as well as
unexpected elements in the plot. None of the characters is especially
sympathetic, and Ng’s portrayal of Fong is literally as the least of quite
extreme evils. Her performance is superb and she is afforded ample
screen time to develop the role. Despite its abundance, the violence
is neither gratuitous nor poorly staged. Superior makeup effects
and acting convey considerable suffering. The language is similarly
brutal. Be prepared.