1985 - 1988

“My Lucky Stars” (1985)

(Golden Harvest, Dir. Samo Hung)

The most memorable images are those at the beginning and end of a sequence.  In “God of Gamblers” (1989) Michiko would appear in a stunning cameo at the beginning.  In “My Lucky Stars” she is equally remembered for her dramatic appearance at the end.  A close viewing also reveals a brief cameo at the beginning as well, in a non-speaking appearance at the fairground as the apparent wife of a tourist – actually the gang leader.

In this film Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao play HK cops on assignment in Japan.  After Yuen Biao’s character “Ricky” is kidnapped by a ninja gang at the amusement park, “Muscles” (Jackie Chan) goes undercover.  His friend “Kidstuff” (Samo Hung) is a petty criminal who recruits his orphanage buddies to form a secret team to assist Muscles.
After long bouts of buddy film repartee, goofy comedy and insultingly sexist overtures to their policewoman escort “Miss Woo” (played by a young Sibelle Hu), the group visits the Scarecrow Club – the hideout of the Japanese gang.  There, posing as having escaped with $100 million from an HK jewel robbery, they are able to track down the gang to an underground lair located beneath the amusement park fun house.
In one of the movie’s better sequences Jackie Chan confronts a series of ghoulish characters, some of whom are animated, some real.  However, the best fight involves an early cameo appearance by Dick Wei who looks extremely powerful and energetic against Jackie Chan.  Most of the other fights are played for gags.  Of course the bad guys lose.  But in this film they’re so much more appealing.
The enduring images of the film are Michiko’s narrowed eyes and magnificent physique.  On first viewing it’s actually a shock when she poses – so great is the contrast with her kimono-clad persona.  Her glowering and flamboyance contrast with the rich beauty of her kimonos.  Aloof yet vigilant, mysterious yet calculating, Michiko produces a fine cameo performance filled with symbolism.

Favorite line (Sibelle Hu):  “She’s tough.”

A2, B2, C3.5, D2, E2.5, F2 (14).  Fight Scenes

“Young Lady Detectives:  Heart Beat!” (1987)

(Nikkatsu Studios, Tokyo, Dir. Naosuke Kurosawa)

Japanese “pink” films resemble HK Cat. III erotic productions, or Western soft-core pornography.  However, unlike most of the latter, this title also has a plot and fair production values.  Michiko plays “Misao Matsuda,” a graduate student at – of all places – Seijun Women’s Christian University.  She opens a detective agency as a sham professional occupation to avoid pressure to return home to live with her family.  But, contrary to her expectations, she is approached by a real client who claims that his daughter “Maki Ohkawa,” the college Campus Queen, has disappeared.

Misao and her roommate “Harumi Shioda” (Yuko Mizushima) track Maki to a middle-aged playboy nick-named “Koide.”  Harumi, who, it turns out, has actually been working as a prostitute under Misao’s nose – and not as a tutor – promptly falls for Koide.  In the course of her investigation Misao is sexually assaulted by Maki’s ex-boyfriend, and poses as a sex worker in a brothel.  When Harumi is blackmailed with compromising photographs, Misao offers to pose in her place.  But instead of snaring the blackmailer, she encounters an investigative journalist.
They trail Maki to a club called the “Disco Volante.”  The club owner, “Ioka,” is none other than Misao’s client.  Misao had unwittingly led him to both Maki and Koide.  She is recaptured by Ioka and Koide is killed.  Both Misao and Harumi are captured.  All three women are then forcibly injected with drugs, and then made the objects of a sex show with mild S&M overtones.  This manages to be both degrading and erotic.  They are rescued by the investigating journalist, and defeat the gang in a lackluster fight.  At the close, he and Misao become lovers.
Despite a plot at least as solid as many Asian actioners, this film is unmistakably an erotic potboiler.  There is a lot of nudity and quite graphic sexual activity, within the usual “pink” prohibition on display of genitalia.  How Michiko’s starring role in this sex vehicle is viewed may depend on the viewer’s reaction to erotica.  More is not necessarily better.  Additionally, Michiko’s character appears unusually naïve and conventional, and she seems to have yet to achieve martial arts proficiency.

Favorite line (journalist to Misao):  “Let’s go.  I’ve seen enough of your nakedness.”

A4, B1, C2, D2.5, E1, F2.5  (13)

“In The Line of Duty III” (1988)

(D&B Films Co. Ltd., Dir. Brandy Yuen, Arthur Wong)

The jewel in Michiko’s crown, ITLOD III might have been one of the absolute best GWG films had it been cast with a different lead.  This production represented a deliberate attempt to introduce the former dancer Yeung Lai-Ching as a worthy replacement for Michelle Yeoh’s popular policewoman who had starred in previous titles of the series.  Her screen name –  inspired by a composite of Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Khan  – was, of course, Cynthia Khan.  Although ITLOD III is undeniably well crafted and entertaining, it seems to fall short of the previous mark.

The central problem appears to be that although Yeung Lai-Ching/Cynthia Khan projects an attractively statuesque screen presence and adequate athleticism, she just looks too pleasant and lacks the requisite viciousness the part ultimately demands.  Although Khan’s sudden transformation from rookie beat cop to skirt-tearing street combatant who takes down a fleeing criminal and defiant parking violator is engaging, she occasionally looks on the verge of cracking a smile.  Her capacity to confront a Japanese gang that includes Michiko and her terrorist lover “Nakamura” (Stuart Ong) – not to mention the incredible physical power of taekwondo expert Dick Wei (“Kikamura”) – seems unlimited and effortless, hence unconvincing.
Another problem is stereotyping of the Japanese.  On the one side there is a “Nakamura” and a “Kikamura,” not to mention a “Yamamoto,” together with Michiko performing under her own name as a Japanese Red Army terrorist.  At one point there is the line “If I’m not mistaken, you’re Nishiwaki Michiko.”  Later, Yeung’s HK police supervisor observes “That bitch is mad, we must get hold of her.”  On the other side, the only mildly sympathetic Japanese character is a policeman “Hiroshi Futioka” bent on revenge for his murdered colleague.  But he is so carelessly trigger-happy that he must be physically restrained.
The movie’s real power is nevertheless provided by the cast of Japanese villains whose criminal desperation swirls around Yeung and her HK police colleagues – almost submerging them.  Michiko and her partner Nakamura stage a machine-gun toting raid on a Tokyo jewelry show staged by the designer Yamamoto.  Although this is to raise money for weapons, Michiko still dreams of making off with the loot and buying a yacht!  During the raid she fiercely locks lips with a security guard while gutting him with a commando knife.  Another is shot point-blank in the head.  During their escape Futioka’s partner is killed.

The terrorist couple makes their way to HK, fending off a heist by Chinese smugglers.  After killing them, they embrace passionately as Michiko detonates a demolition charge.  Sexuality and violence are repeatedly paired in this manner.  Nakamura slaps Michiko before they have sex.  She cuts both their arms to forge a blood bond.  Later Kikamura, another member of the terrorist cell, is clearly infatuated with Michiko and swears his loyalty in blood.

The uncut version of the film is definitely superior, possessing a raw violent edge as well as a relatively graphic sexual scene.  Poised between fascination and disgust the viewer is treated to the spectacle of Michiko’s realization of Nakamura’s terminal illness in the midst of their sexual encounter.  At what should be his moment of maximum virility, his hair is falling out in clumps.  Later, his death under the wheels of Yeung’s pursuing car, as well as Kikamura’s death by being drilled through the head, are quite graphic.

When Nakamura and Michiko discover they have been double-crossed and that the jewels are fakes, they plow recklessly through anyone standing in their path to seek vengeance.  Futioka displays equal ruthlessness, and these forces collide in a number of intense, well-choreographed shootouts and martial arts sequences.  The devious Yamamoto is tracked down and executed, his bodyguards deserting him at the last moment.  Watch for a brief cameo by Robin Shou.

Following an intense fight between Futioka and Nakamura – wielding a marlinspike at a boatyard – Nakamura is wounded and captured.  After being briefly rescued, he dies during a car chase.  Michiko, now unhinged, swears vengeance against Yeung, her superior and Futioka.  She delivers bombs to the police station and hospital, killing Yeung’s uncle.  After an excellent build-up, the final confrontation between Yeung and Michiko unfortunately lacks drama.  Michiko is confined to futile swinging of large tools, while Yeung can seemingly defeat both her and Dick Wei single-handed.  Michiko’s final ploy as a suicide bomber also fails.
Despite its drawbacks and unsatisfactory ending, solid performances by all the cast yield many satisfying scenes and moments, with a high action quotient.  In the uncut version, ITLOD III is definitely one of the superior GWG films.

Favorite line (HK cop):  “Those Japs are making a mess.”

A3, B3, C4, D4, E3.5, F4 (21.5).  Highly Recommended