Groups and Collectives:  Uniforms

“With a soldier’s hat and uniform, I look so great.” (“Velvet Gloves”)

Some action films emphasize collective roles, frequently defined by uniforms.  Several HK women’s prison films fit this mold.  Recent titles (“Women’s Prison,” 1988; “The First Time Is The Last Time,” 1989; “Women’s Internment Camp 93,” 1993) feature some accomplished cast members (Pat Ha, Carrie Ng, Ha Chi-chun) and proficient individual acting performances.  However much these films attempt to portray dignity in the face of injustice, the prison context is both controlling and dehumanizing.  Largely stripped of their individual identities, the female protagonists are depicted in ways that may be degrading or invasive.  There is action, but it is frequently in the form of chaotic violence between inmates.  Ha Chi-chun and her partners do at least escape from a Mainland prison wearing stolen guard uniforms (“Women’s Internment Camp 93”).  One film, “Never Say Regret” (1990), also features an extended Mainland prison sequence, but is definitely an actioner in which Yukari Oshima and Kara Hui are sprung amidst violent combat.

Sibelle Hu (Bury Me High) and Bo Bo Fung (Women's Prison)
Superficially, paramilitary themed films might seem to represent a polar opposite.  Yet in many ways, the role of uniform both in military and prison contexts is to submerge individuality into a collective and promote conformity.  Paramilitary themes in action films include a number starring Yukari Oshima (“Final Run,” 1989; “Mission of Justice,” 1992; “The Golden Nightmare,” 1998), Moon Lee (“Devil Hunters,” “Killer Angels,” “Angel Force”), Jade Leung (“Velvet Gloves”, “Enemy Shadow”).  Unlike Ha Chi-chun’s strikingly turned-out super-soldier “Jensy” in “Final Run,” the primary function of paramilitary combat clothing is to focus attention on the action – not the person.  So, while it is evident that when Lee, Oshima or Leung are turned out in combat clothing they will fight – it may be less clear why they fight.  Some possible pretexts involve political allegiance (e.g., Joyce Godenzi and Ha Chi-chun as guerilla fighters in supporting roles in “Eastern Condors,” 1987), family loyalty or simply commercial interest (e.g., Sibelle Hu as a military officer and Moon Lee as a foreign business tycoon in “Bury Me High”).

Ha Chi-chun and Yukari Oshima (Final Run) and Moon Lee (Mission of Justice)