Angel of Vengeance
This Yukari Oshima vehicle gets off to a great
start, but then veers off the road into some very unseemly and truly brutal
scenes. It’s unfortunate because the action scenes with Yukari are quite
good – but another plot thread goes from light comic moments to really
distasteful scenes that had my stomach churning. It feels as if a manic-depressive
was directing this film.
The film begins in fine revenge fashion when
a vicious gang leader kills a father right in front of his two little girls.
One of the girls bends down over her father, but instead of crying looks
up with a gaze of pure hatred. You just know that little girl is going
to grow up as Yukari Oshima – and sure enough she does!
But when Yukari is all grown up she isn’t really
looking for revenge at all. Instead she is looking for her missing sister
who she suspects the killer of her father has kidnapped. She barges into
his house and has a wonderful and acrobatic fight with his men – then escapes,
but gets badly wounded.
The movie then jumps into another plot thread
when it follows a young woman – Betty - who is doing her dissertation on
women in brothels. It turns out her mother is a small brothel owner and
Betty keeps disguising herself as a man so that she can sneak into the
brothel and interview the girls. This is all fairly comical, but then the
film takes a nasty turn when she discovers that many girls are being kidnapped
and sold into service. Some scenes of these girls being raped or brutalized
are shown and you wonder if you have suddenly taken a wrong turn and walked
into one of those exploitation films such as Escape from Brothel.
Though this story thread does intertwine on occasion
with the story of Yukari looking for her sister, most of the film follows
Betty’s story and only cuts back to Yukari from time to time. Fortunately,
nearly every time it does cut back to Yukari she is involved in a fight.
At her side is also Alex Fong and the two of them do eventually take on
the killer of her father and some of the action is fairly decent. Yukari
has a few of her patented flying kicks and on two occasions she does this
other nifty move. She is picked up by a much larger opponent and thrown
backwards – but while she is flying backwards she unleashes a powerful
kick to their midsection.
There just isn’t enough of Yukari (is there ever?)
and the other story becomes a real nightmare that has an exploitation element
that was not at all pleasant or intriguing or consistent with most of the
film. Still Yukari has a couple lengthy fight scenes and looks very good.