Transformation:  From Girl Friend to Final Girl

“but I find that girl a bit strange” (“Rock on Fire”)

Nadeki’s most prominent part was also essentially a transitional one.  In “Crystal Hunt” and the two films that preceded it (“Killer Angels,” 1989 and “Mission of Condor,” 1990), Nadeki’s character has a semblance of a screen relationship – with Donnie Yen, Gordon Lau and Ken Lo, respectively.  Whether betrayed (“Killer Angels”), doomed (“Mission of Condor”) or in the past (“Crystal Hunt”), the presence of implied romantic attachment affirms both the character’s capacity for warmth as well as that she has been desired by others.  During the first half of “Crystal Hunt” Nadeki’s character “Winnie” is presented as softly approachable.  Her stereotypically feminine appearance and manner is transformed once she’s directly threatened, and by the end of the film Winnie has metamorphosed into the dour, combative, androgynous figure that would define Nadeki’s screen presence in her later films.  Relationship interest would not feature at all in Nadeki’s subsequent seven roles.  In several, the possibility would be brusquely dismissed.

Nadeki’s physical appearance would evolve in parallel.  The youthful figure with fringe and flowing hair in “Killer Angels” tempered the harshness of her leather costume with a frilly blouse.  In “Mission of Condor” Nadeki is glimpsed in heels and an elegant, tight black cocktail dress.  She even fights in a similarly skin-tight mini-dress in “Crystal Hunt.”  This look would not return.  By the second half of “Crystal Hunt,” and in all her subsequent films (other than the period costuming of “Satyr Monks”), Nadeki’s attire favored denim, short leather jackets, safari or combat clothing, and boots.
Nadeki’s rather striking yet unresponsive appearance complemented this look – irrespective of whether she was playing the hero or villain.  Perhaps the emerging conventions for female action roles dictated this.  But it also seems evident that such a consciously hardened persona was predominantly associated with the Japanese female performers, and occasionally with the other martial artists active in the industry.  The genre conventions of GWG films were arguably defined in part by the presence of Japanese performers who could embody and project both menace and the outer control of emotion.  In particular, the martial artist’s “look” involving intense, prolonged eye contact prior to combat is both a convention of Japanese “high” martial arts ritual and is faithfully rendered in Japanese martial arts cinema.  The Japanese female martial arts performers who co-starred in so many HK GWG films brought these attributes to their parts and to the genre.  It may be remarked in passing that comparably detached poise has been primarily exhibited by Chinese performers when playing the role of assassin – perhaps suggesting that characters seen as coldly remote yet powerful may be associated with the most threatening roles.