“Rock on Fire” (1994)

(dir. Lung Sang)

“Rock on Fire” can be viewed as a Cat. III reprise of the superb “In the Line of Duty III” (1988).  The Japanese Red Army terrorist duo are, this time, played by Ken Lo and Mikie Ng.  However, in keeping with the general tone of the rest of “Rock on Fire,” Mikie Ng’s depraved nymphomaniac character “Chinoko Yamakuchi” (“Icy”) takes alarming risks to sexually control, assault, then kill her partners – including a weapons dealer, a detective, and a corrupt politician.  The knowledge of these goings-on has Ken Lo’s character “Ronchiro Yamakuchi” (“Tsubero”) screaming in frustration.  Blatantly deviant sexual assaults are on display throughout the film, heightening a sense of the transgressive attached to the participation of martial artists such as Nadeki, Ken Lo and Billy Chow.

“Inspector Cindy” (Nadeki) leads a police investigation assigned to break an illegal arms sales operation.  Icy and Tsubero, the JRA terrorist duo, become inadvertently involved as their arms deal goes bad.  Tsubero is coerced by “Yiang Chien” (Stuart Ong) – the ultimate target of Cindy’s investigation – to attempt a hit on her.  After she kills him, Icy returns to avenge him with the aid of Yiang Chien’s adoring erstwhile bodyguard (Billy Chow).  The narrative generally follows “ITLOD III.”  Differences in action, plot and character are numerous, but there is comparable tension between the erotically charged, sensual yet lethal female Japanese villain (Icy) and the straight-laced, businesslike police officer (Cindy).  The casting or characterization as Japanese in these juxtaposed roles in both films should be noted.  However, unlike Cynthia Khan’s pleasant, cheerful “Madam Yeung” in “ITLOD III,” Nadeki’s deadpan Inspector Cindy seems remarkably masculine in clothing and manner.  What facial expression she does allow veers between frustrated and frankly pissed-off.  This is all quite fetishized – to the extent that a classic nightmare sequence of male-gendered impotence seems in keeping with the abundant phallic imagery of guns, dominance, sexualized violence, and penetrating weaponry.
The action alternates between these elements in an occasionally startling exposition of exploitation.  Not surprisingly, at least two versions – one more heavily edited – have been released.  Nadeki has adequate screen time to develop her cold and rather unappealing character and has two excellent martial arts sequences.  In the first she is cut and bloody, but demolishes Icy.  By the time she finally faces Billy Chow, Nadeki is an abject figure – sweaty, filthy and bloody, with bedraggled hair and torn clothing.  The imagery is powerful, her delivery equally intense.
In short, “Rock on Fire” is an egregious Cat. III excursion that is distinguished by gendered violence and graphic symbolism that is virtually elevated from subtext to main text.  As such, it perhaps represents the ultimate expression of play on the conventions of gender role symbolism in HK female action films.

A 3, B 4, C 4, D 3, E 3.5, F 3  (20.5)  Recommended (Note Cat. III rating)

“Satyr Monks” (1994)

(Elite Films International Co. Ltd., Dir. Ping Shek)

“Satyr Monks” is a costumed, “historical” Cat. III production in which the flimsy plot and brief action sequences serve mainly to connect the extended and gratuitous sexual scenes.  The plot is essentially summarized by one of Nadeki’s few lines, caustically addressed to the central male character:  “You occupy a temple and rape women.”  This corrupt monk is attempting to enhance his powers by experiencing sex with 108 women – essentially via abduction and assault.  His assault on a troupe of female acrobats involves “Wienie,” the daughter of a certain “Master Tsu” whose “Double Kick” technique is then ranged against the evil monk’s “Steel Palm.”

Nadeki appears as the mysterious “Lady Hung” in a minor supporting role.  Strikingly attired in flowing red silk, she first appears in a wirework scene in which she confronts the monk and his followers.  At the film’s climax she engages him in 1:1 combat that is fortunately not compromised by wires.  This fight is of interest for Nadeki’s brief sword work, and eventual killing of the villain by choking him with a leg lock.  The symbolism of choking – particularly of a sexual assailant – should be noted.  Although Nadeki may be glimpsed using a knife in “Mission of Condor,” her brief appearance in this film is her sole screen display of sword and grappling techniques.

A 2, B 2, C 2, D 1, E 2, F 0  (9)