1994 - 1999

“Deadly Target” aka “Fatal Target” (1994)

(Filmswell International, Dir. Philip Ko)

Cynthia Lee (Yukari) and Ana (Yeung Pan-Pan) are HK cops on vacation in the Philippines.  While visiting Cynthia’s cousin Ben Hung, they learn that he is actually involved in arms smuggling and are assigned to the case, teamed with a local detective Eddy.  Unfortunately, the potential of this story is undermined by Eddy’s Rambo-like infallibility - he is seemingly invulnerable to bullets and explosions - as well as transvestite “humor,” sentimental concerns with Eddy’s tragic family history, and an eventual romantic interest with Cynthia.  Although there is a lot of action, it’s mainly formulaic.  Yukari and Pan-Pan are proficient and display some remarkable moves.  But their talent is submerged in the larger context.  Instead of enjoying their natural skill, the final fight is spoiled by excessive wire work.  Philip Ko plays an arms buyer.  It’s interesting to note that there seems to be little screen chemistry between Yukari and Pan-Pan.  Perhaps they’re too similar.

A 2.5, B 3, C 2.5, D 1.5, E 3, F 1  (13.5).

“His Way, Her Way, Their Ways!” (1994)

(Lotus Cinevision)

This movie may represent a career low point for Yukari and several other talented cast members, some of whom co-starred in “The Direct Line.”  The plot is similar, involving a police team from Mainland China conducting an investigation in HK.  This time the crime involves abducted women.  In addition to large helpings of goofy humor and heavy handed satire about the three Chinas, there are about half a dozen relatively explicit pornographic scenes involving hapless young women that have little to do with the main story.  They are in particularly bad taste, and detract from the movie’s few genuinely comic moments.  Yukari does have some action scenes, but they are mediocre and relatively brief.  She eventually rescues the captive women.  However, the highlight must be when Yukari briefly appears in her undergarment (a camisole) and uses an electric toothbrush.  Amazingly, right next to it on her bathroom counter is a vibrator.  One of her Mainland guests mistakes this for an electric toothbrush!

A 2, B 1, C 1, D 1, E 1, F 0  (6).

“Once Upon A Time In Manila” (1994)

(Harvest Films International/M-Zet Films, Dir. Tony Reyes)

Police Lieutenant Cynthia Wang (Yukari) is an HK police detective investigating the murder of a man who possessed documents incriminating a gang.  His Philippino maid flees with the papers to her homeland.  Wang then travels to the Philippines and links up with the maid’s son, who is a Philippino police officer.  Sub-plot diversions involve goofy Philippino police antics, and a romance.  Yukari has some brief but good fight scenes, and performs in English.  She appears trim and athletic.  The plot involves a predictable confrontation.  Generally, this is a formulaic Philippino actioner.

A 2, B 2, C 2, D 1, E 1, F 1  (9).

“Pintsik” (1994)

(Viva Films, Dir. Jun Aristorenas)

When her father is kidnapped and held for ransom in the Philippines, Yukari arrives and is assisted by a group of bumbling petty thieves assigned to aid her by an NBI officer in this Philippino Tagalog/English action comedy.  They are lured to a morgue where the gang members - pretending to be corpses - attack them.  Yukari easily defeats eight attackers.  After locating the gang’s remote hideout they rescue the hostage.  Following a car chase they sleep in the jungle where a giant snake slithers over them.  Yukari faints.  They are captured by the pursuing gang and held in an ice plant.  After being released by a neighborhood child there is a final fight with the gang.  Against the generally formulaic action, Yukari’s experience and skill stand head and shoulders above the others, but this means she has to pull her punches.

A 2.5, B 2, C 1.5, D 1, E 1, F 1  (9).

“1/3 Lover” (1995)

(Ocean Shores)

Yukari plays Lin, the unattractive, pigtail-adorned, bespectacled, prudish housekeeper to Mona whose cousin arrives as a house guest.  Mona’ older husband is confined to bed.  She torments him as well as engaging in various affairs in an attempt to hasten his death.  Mona also shoots a man who is hired by the violent and corrupt detective who had been her previous partner, and who now seeks to extort money from her sick husband.  Mona’s husband dies of a heart attack while finding her engaged in an affair.  Her cousin betrays her to the police, resulting in a confrontation in which both her boyfriend and her ex-lover are killed.

Yukari’s bizarre role in this soft-core pornography is only slightly enlivened by her prim attire and manner, and habit of apparently spying on various members of the household engaged in sexual activity (apparently, everyone except her).  She displays various facial expressions of curiosity or disgust, and on occasion rescues female staff from sexual assaults by Mona’s lecherous (albeit debilitated) husband.  Favorite line (Yukari):  “I’m very pretty, I’m very pretty . . . “ (while hopping like a rabbit).

A 1, B 0, C 0, D 2, E 1, F 0  (4).

“Drugs Fighters” (1995)

(New Treasurer Films, Co., Dir. Yiu Tin Hung)

Yuen Wah once again appears as the head of a criminal syndicate who arrives in Hangzhou to organize drug smuggling operations.  In the relatively complex plot, a Hangzhou police officer is sent to Shenzhen to investigate the drug activities of Brother San.  During a police raid San hijacks a taxi in which Yukari’s character Yi Chian (a police officer on vacation) and her boyfriend Li Fan are riding.  The duo subdue San in a fight in a building stairwell.  Yi Chian subsequently rides on the same train as San when he is transported.  Wearing a crimson sweatsuit she helps fight off a rescue attempt that is one of two gratuitously bloody shootouts.  Yukari’s athleticism and convincing combat pistol work are impressive.  San is killed, but Brother Pang Fei swears revenge.  When Yi Chian and Li Fan join an anti-drugs task force, he lures them into a trap.  He is also killed, and his wife, Wu Chun Han, who has been overseeing the use of an ornament factory as a cover for drug exporting, kidnaps and murders Li Fan.  After Feng Shiu is wounded, it is up to Yi Chian (Yukari) to finish off the gang.

The final fight is a classic factory shootout between the police and Lin’s gang, and features an extended fight sequence between Yuen Wah and Yukari that ranks among her absolute best.  During this movie Yukari performs a  back flip, and a split kick across her torso to the opposite shoulder!  The action sequences are well directed and extremely violent.  The plot contains enough twists and turns in the cycle of revenge to be quite entertaining.  Overall, this Taiwanese movie is a quietly superior entry in the genre.  As an additional bonus Yukari looks absolutely stunning in Chinese police uniform on the laser disc and VCD versions of this film - but unfortunately does not appear like this in the movie itself!

A 2.5, B 4, C 2, D 3, E 4, F 3  (18.5).  Highly Recommended

“Emergency Call ‘95” (1995)

Yukari reportedly has a “special guest” cameo appearance as a radio reporter in this story of a Japanese doctor’s romantic involvement while working in the Philippines.  Not reviewed

“Power Connection” (1995)

(Dir. Philip Ko)

Ray is a Rambo-like Manila cop who travels to HK on assignment.  There he also searches for his girl friend Lina.  He finds her addicted to drugs.  In a separate thread Heung Lan (Yukari), his ex-partner, is an undercover HK cop investigating weapons smuggling.  She provokes the smugglers by intercepting several shipments in HK.  The head of the gang then returns to the Philippines.  The film is intercut with action scenes from “Lethal Panther/Deadly China Dolls” and “Story of the Gun.”  Yukari does have several good, although brief fight scenes.  After the drug smuggler kills Lina, Ray swears vengeance.   The action then shifts back to the Philippines.  Unfortunately, since Ray never misses a shot, the overall dramatic effect is minimal.  Yukari’s final fight scene is as intense and as good as any of her best movies.  However, it is a nugget in the dross, hopelessly intercut with ridiculous confrontations between the other actors.  Even though Yukari plays her fight scene in deadly earnest, all the effort is wasted by poor editing.  Rather than raising the rest of the movie, her performance is dragged down.

A 2.5, B 3, C 2, D 1, E 1.5, F 1  (11).

“Guardian Angel” (1996)

(Filmswell International, Dir. Godfrey Ho)

Rosa, Candy and Lisa are police officers trained to assassinate drug smugglers in this cheaply made montage of nondescript action scenes, soft core pornography, plus some footage from “Hard To Kill” as well as what appear to be some scenes from “Fatal Chase.”  Yukari has only the briefest of fight scenes - barely worthy of the name - plus some comic interaction with the Philippino police.  The girlfriend of one of the officers (Rosa) is almost killed in a revenge shooting.  She is saved, but an implanted brain chip places her under the control of her ruthless boss Chan.  Rosa is sent to Taiwan, and several soft-core scenes follow - alternating with killings of a series of drug traffickers.  Dick Wei appears in a brief cameo as one of the villains.  Yukari does not reappear after the first part of the film.  Understandably, the story is disjointed.  Favorite line (Yukari, English dub):  “Don’t talk as if I don’t exist.”

A 1.5, B 1, C 0, D 0, E 2, F 0  (4.5).

“Challenge” (1997)

(Distr. Worldtrade Entertainment Ltd.)

This film represents a missed opportunity.  It begins with an interesting premise.  Yukari plays Bing-Bing, an experienced contract killer known as “The Rose” who has taken her younger student and protege as a lover.  Instead of exploring the territory of “Naked Killer,” a sentimental sub-plot instead focuses on Bing-Bing’s male partner who is known as “The Devil.”  He uses the large sums of money from his hits to care for his crippled mother and senile father, as well as seeking to repay the kindness and affection of Wendy - a young woman who helped the family through extreme poverty, and who now loves him.

It seems this family (and the movie) could really use a social worker like Fan Yu Ling from “A Punch To Revenge” to straighten things out!  We are never told why Bing-Bing loves her younger student, who has a great physique and is an excellent martial artist but is otherwise wooden and remote.  For a killer, Bing-Bing is also an unusually soft and feminine character.  It all simply doesn’t fit well together, and during the love scenes Yukari appears to act in the same way one might show affection to a relative or a pet - cheerful, but not particularly passionate.  She should really stay away from this.

The main plot involves Sazaki Giro, a Japanese businessman who seeks revenge on his two Hong Kong business associates Kay Chen and Brian Kao.  Fifteen years previously they had murdered his father and stolen his money.  Chen and Kao, in turn, are rivals in the clothing business, and have hired The Devil and The Rose, respectively to assassinate their respective rivals’ fabric suppliers.  A series of hits ensue, and Sazaki’s men also make an unsuccessful attempt to kill the contract killers as part of his scheme for revenge.  Because of their code of “honor” The Devil and The Rose only perform contracted killings and spare several of their attackers as well as rescuing Sazaki himself from ritual suicide.  When Kao issues a formal “challenge” to his rival Chen, each of the contract killers suspects they will have to face their lover in a fight to the death.

The first half of the film is quite entertaining, with several well executed one-to-one fight sequences.  Yukari appears in quite good form, although perhaps not taking as much physical punishment as usual.  Connoisseurs of Yukari’s more vicious moments may savor one of her hits - a shocking, point-blank abdominal multiple shooting of a man while passing on the sidewalk.  There’s also some fairly good combat pistol scenes in a parking garage.  However, the film precipitously plunges in the second half, losing its way in The Devil’s assignments and various sentimental musings.  The assassins do indeed square off in the final fight, but Yukari is doubled by a male martial artist (wearing a hood) for the entire sequence.  This unique occurrence suggests something happened to her.  It completely robs the ending of any drama.  There’s a formulaic shoot-out between the gangs in which most of the bad guys die.  This has been done so often before, and so much better.  Both Bing-Bing and The Devil escape, but are crippled for life.  The final scene shows them working as short-order cooks, Bing-Bing as an amputee.  This is apparently a mixture of just desserts and true love.  Favorite line (Yukari):  “Watch out rose has spines.”

 A 2, B 2, C 2, D 2, E 2.5, F 2  (12.5).

“Super Cops” (1997)

(Dir. Yip Hing Fai)

A brother and sister travel to Zhuhai in Mainland China to search for employment with an uncle.  They experience a number of mishaps and conflicts.  In a separate plot thread Yukari plays a Tokyo Interpol agent sent to assist the local police, led by Cynthia Yang (Khan) and Waise Lee, arrest a drug smuggler (Billy Chow).  Much of the movie is filler time spent on antics associated with the uncle and his restaurant, or on the activities of the smugglers.  Nevertheless, Yukari plays her small role with considerable restraint and subtlety.  Since she only speaks a few words during the entire movie, she acts more with facial expression and body language.  The gang members eventually pick a fight with the restauranteur.  For the most part the action is implausible, lacking any dramatic tension.  It is not clear how Yukari and Cynthia Khan were invited to the drug smuggler’s birthday celebration.  The final fight sequence (at the birthday party) is somewhat better than the rest of the movie.  Yukari remains impressively athletic and eventually triumphs, although Khan’s role peters out.  Yukari’s still worth watching, even if the rest of the movie is not.

A 1.5, B 3, C 1, D 1, E 1.5, F 0.5  (8.5).

“Tapang Sa Tapang” (1997)

(Star Cinema, Dir. Francis Posadas)

Director Francis Posadas tries hard, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.  Mr. Nakamoto is the Japanese owner of a Philippino toy company.  He is informed that his business is being used as a cover for arms smuggling.  On arrival in the Philippines he is murdered, and his daughter Jane (Yukari) arrives to attend the funeral and take over the company.  Her character speaks in a mixture of English and Tagalog.  A Philippino detective uncovers the smuggling operation, but Jane initially does not believe him until she examines the books.  An attempt to kidnap her fails, and a contract killing is then ordered on her and the detective.  They are betrayed by a corrupt police officer and must fight the gang directly.

Better than average action sequences, location filming, and good acting by Yukari are offset by an unnecessary romantic thread.  Judging by the number of times she blinked, it wasn’t easy for Yukari to kiss her male lead.  However, Yukari does have adequate screen time and good fight sequences.  Her final fight, although brief, is well up to her standards, with several impressive kicks.  Earlier she performs a kip-up (remember, this is as recent as 1997), and there’s even a short underwater scene!  This movie provides ample confirmation of her enduring good form and high physical condition.  Also, this is the only movie demonstration of Yukari using the Philippino fighting stick.  It’s worth watching for this alone.  Incidentally, the “plain Jane” remark (Yukari, in English - “I don’t go for formality.  Just call me Jane.  Just plain Jane”) is unlikely to be accidental, since the term “plain Jane” has been used elsewhere in the Filmswell English dub of “Angel’s Mission.”

A 3, B 3, C 2, D 3, E 2, F2  (15).  Recommended

“Tiger Angels” (1997)

(Hop Chung Film Co.)

This movie appears to be shot back-to-back with “Super Cops.”  Here, Yukari and Cynthia Khan are a pair of bodyguards retained by a department store manager to protect his father from kidnapping.  There is a mildly entertaining sub-plot about a computer salesman who acts as a double for the store manager - with positive effects on his marriage, colleagues and business.  As with many Taiwanese films, this movie is tolerable if viewed as a gentle, low budget parody - albeit with one gratuitous soft-core porn scene.  At times Yukari acts in a rather exaggerated manner, lacking her usual finesse.  Her fight scenes  are also quite variable.  While some sequences are energetic, she seems somewhat heavier and slower than in earlier movies.  Cynthia Khan doesn’t have much to do in this film, and there isn’t much by way of plot.  The gang kidnaps the father.  Yukari rescues him.  Favorite line (Yukari):  “These people are stupid, shit.”

A 2.5, B 2, C 2, D 1.5, E 1, F 2  (11).

“Vengeance Is Mine” (1997)

(Dream Movie Entertainment Ltd./S-K Hop Chung Film Co.)

Angel Lee (Yukari) is a just-married Asian-American whose honeymoon in HK is cut short by a home invasion by five masked men.  What starts as a robbery of her and her wealthy husband quickly escalates to his murder and her rape.  Despite the HK movie industry’s history of lewdness, this assault is depicted as a sad and hateful crime.  Once again, one is struck by Yukari’s striking ability to drain sexuality out of such a scene.  With her husband dead, the way is clear for one of Yukari’s most magnificent performances.  Brimming with bitterness and hatred, she sweats, bleeds and thrusts her suffering in the viewer’s face.  This is the kind of movie in which one of the assailants is shot, point blank, in the head.  His blood spatters over Yukari’s face.  She doesn’t flinch.  In other scenes she conjures up hate stares of visceral, chilling intensity.

Although Angel Lee initially cooperates with the police investigation, years eventually go by with no success.  Wrecked and bitter, she maintains a vigil at her deceased husband’s residence.  In the meantime, the five assailants have progressively turned their criminal gains into a succession of increasingly prominent front businesses.  They act as producers for a series of violent pornographic movies, to star Angel Lee’s sister-in-law.  When her sister-in-law comes to HK to begin filming, Angel discovers the connection.  The television news and a private detective supply additional details and identities.

During a publicity shoot by her starlet sister-in-law, the most inappropriately named Angel undergoes a virtual breakdown.  Raggedly attired in black, sweating profusely, her hair plastered, bleeding from one nostril, and makeup smeared blotchily, Yukari looks ghastly.  The contrast between her sweaty wretchedness and the bright white outfit and seductive posturing of her porn star sister-in-law couldn’t be more pointed.  Nor could the focus of Yukari’s contempt and disgust.

After taking her sister-in-law into a physical embrace, Angel seduces her into her agenda - first as bait then as a killer.  As Angel becomes - in effect - a serial killer, she reconstructs her life.  As the bodies pile up her shabbiness is increasingly displaced by stylish grooming and an increasingly exultant manner.  Various sadistic elements attend the killing of her former assailants.  When her first target puts her in a headlock, jack-knifed against his lower torso, she bites him, like an animal, then stabs him in the groin with a fork.  When another of her prey resists she calms him down a bit by shooting him.  Then he’s tied to an industrial band-saw table.  He’s only temporarily saved by his friends.  Eleven die in this shootout, including one gut-shot by Angel at point-blank range.  After the surviving gang members kidnap Angel’s sister-in-law the police mistakenly allow Angel some time alone with the fourth target - to rough him up a little.  This turns into a brutal fight, ended by her stabbing him with a kitchen knife, twisted hard.  By the time she shows up for the final fight, Angel’s reconstructed character is clad in black leather, with riding breeches and boots, bursting with hostile arrogance.  This is the Yukari of old!     This dark, violent film explores cynicism and despair.  Yukari’s character even rejects martial arts as empty and futile.  It doesn’t matter how low the budget is.  As this movie demonstrates, all Yukari needs is someone to hate and good close-ups on her eyes.  Favorite line (Yukari):  “I’ll kill you all.”

A 4, B 3, C 4, D 3, E 2.5, F 3  (19.5).  Highly Recommended

“Gold Rush” (1998)

(Eastern Asia Holdings, Ltd., Dir. Yiu Tin Hung)

Yukari plays Lin Wai, an HK police sergeant assigned to assist three Mainland detectives investigating a theft of gold.  Not only is the tired plot lifted wholesale from “The Direct Line,” but so are most of the action scenes!  Even scenes of Lin Wai undercover are actually from “A Serious Shock! Yes Madam!”  Not surprisingly, the director of this film worked earlier as an editor.  Although Yukari appears in most scenes in the second half of the movie, her action actually filmed for this production is minimal, consisting of one or two punches and kicks, and briefly using a pole.  This is far from the standard she herself previously set.  Physically she appears thin and somewhat lined, but still interesting to watch.  Unfortunately she now looks too old to convincingly revisit the Coco character.  Like all cut-and-past productions, the results are awful.

A 2.5, B 1, C 2, D 0, E 1, F 0  (6.5).

“Golden Nightmare, The ” (1998)

(New Treasurer Film Co.)

Shiochi, son of the Japanese war criminal Okawa, goes in search of stolen Chinese antiquities his father buried in the Philippines during World War II.  Annie Wu plays Wang Chin, a Mainland Chinese police officer who heads a mission to the Philippines to recover the treasure and arrest Okawa.  This mission is assisted by a map and local Philippino police.  The team includes Max Mok, who plays Li, a Chinese professor of antiquities (and martial artist!), with Yukari as his assistant Jean Chung.  Chin and Okawa’s rival forces have a series of face-offs in the jungle, culminating in destruction of Okawa’s group and recovery of the treasure.  The Japanese are definitely vilified in the plot that includes a flashback to a prisoner massacre.  A good cast, crisp editing and above-average production values enhance this action movie.  Pace and plot development are competent, and fight scenes are well executed.  The climax includes a series of one-to-one fights between familiar HK and Philippino action stars - looking older but still impressive.  Yukari appears pale, drawn and tired.  Her character is depicted with a sprained ankle, but performs her two fight scenes without doubling.

A 2.5, B 3, C 1, D 4, E 3, F 3  (16.5).  Recommended

“Leopard Hunting” (1998)

(New Treasurer Film, Co.)

Jade Leung and five other female Interpol agents from HK, the Philippines, Japan and the Mainland form a special unit to combat the Fang Group, a criminal enterprise headed by Yuen Wah’s character.  The Fang family’s attempt to raise cash to save their failing business empire involves them with a drug cartel, and three major crimes:  a bank robbery in Japan, freeing a criminal in the Philippines, and recovering evidence in China.  The investigation leads to the Mainland, where a series of showdowns result in the killing or capture of the gang.  Yukari joins in the action later, playing an undercover Japanese detective Chisomu on a private mission to avenge the murder of her husband, a Fukuoka police captain killed in the aftermath of the bank robbery.

Highlights of this fairly routine actioner include Yukari’s flashbacks to her life in Japan, and her principal fight scene on a moving bus - after she has been kidnapped by the gang.  Her experience and stunt training continues to show.  Unfortunately the movie’s main fight scenes are marred by group movement choreography.  Favorite line (Yukari):  “Our characters are the same, we’re cool outside.”

A 2, B 3, C 2.5, D 2, E 2, F 2.5  (14).  Recommended

“To Kiss Is Fatal” (1998)

(Dream Movie Entertainment, Ltd., Dir. Wong Chun Yeung, aka Benny Wong)

Chen Xiong is a handsome, wealthy young man who wins a martial arts competition.  When he returns with his girlfriend to his deceased father’s villa on an island, a strange series of mishaps unfolds.  First, his pets are killed, then two of the servants.  A third servant is seriously injured while trying to summon help.  When the police arrive, the bodies have disappeared.  It turns out that Xiong’s friends, who have come to visit him, are actually behind this attempt to scare and intimidate him.  Wearing black robes to disguise their identity, they attack him and kidnap his girlfriend.  Director Wong Chun Yeung as usual expolores darker emotions and motives.  The conspirators are variously motivated by greed, envy or simply poverty in their attempt to extort a valuable collection of jewels from Xiong.

An additional twist is provided by Yukari’s character Yi Hua who is flatly rebuffed by Xiong after asking him for a date.  She’s the most ambivalent of the group, and saves Xiong’s life when the gang eventually attempts to kill him.  After Xiong escapes, moral distinctions are further blurred by his descent into a campaign of vengeance.  His former friends increasingly resemble victims as he kills or maims them in a series of one-on-one martial arts duels.  Although he spares Yi Hua, he chokes her and cuts her neck with wild bamboo.  The others ignore her warnings and fatally over-estimate their ability to outwit Xiong.

Although relatively light on action and having a distinctly “Western” cinematic feel, this film is an interesting example of Mainland morality.  Crime, force and individualism don’t pay.  Yukari’s character has three brief fights - one with Xiong, one in a competition using a spear, and one in which she demolishes two young punks who harass her in a karaoke lounge.  Her character is depicted as rejected, love-sick and ridiculed.  She even performs a karaoke love song while several of the audience make fun of her.  It’s an uncomfortable role, and there’s no happy ending.  This is one of several recent roles involving rejection or isolation.  While it seems that Yukari’s casting has definitely shifted in this direction, the significance of this is unclear.

A 2, B 2, C 2, D 2.5, E 2.5, F 2.5  (13.5).  Recommended

“Digital Warriors” (1999)

Not reviewed

“Double Sin” aka “Shed No Tears” (1999)

(Dream Movie Entertainment Ltd./New Treasurer Film Co.)

Zhao Yuan Zhi is an HK insurance investigator who falls foul of the law during a visit to Shenzhen.  Thrown in jail by the Gong-an, he is surprised to learn that the local Chief of the People’s Police is a woman (Yukari).  He asks “How can a girl be Chief Officer.”  Viewers accustomed to the paranoia about 1997 in HK movies and the anticipated negative impact of Chinese rule may be interested by this Mainland perspective on the negative impact of Hong Kong capitalism, corruption and bourgeois values.  Zhao finds he has to park his human rights at the door.  Confession and repentance are expected, or he can languish in jail.  To his alarm, he is sent back to Shenzhen by his insurance company.

The boss of his insurance company is actually involved in a conspiracy with Yang Ding Tian, a wealthy HK businessman, to stage the robbery of a large diamond and present a fraudulent insurance claim.  Fan Zi Hua is the robber who pulls off the feat, only to be quickly identified and hunted by Zhao, Yang and the Gong-an.  When Fan is killed, Zhao is framed for the murder.  He is again arrested.  This time Yukari uses him as bait to catch Yang, who in the meantime is double-crossed by his own scheming wife.  In the end, The People (in the form of Yukari) triumph.  The principal bad guys are killed, and Yang’s wife and her business partner are arrested.  Doubtless, death sentences await.

Yukari appears rather rumpled and middle aged.  Even though she only has two brief fight scenes, she can still throw a nice combination kick and strong elbow strike.  After all these years she probably now has to protect her hands, so doesn’t punch as much (she carefully tapes her knuckles before fighting in the recent “Leopard Hunting,” for example).  Even though Gong-an doesn’t appear very efficient, Yukari is very direct with the rather drab, white-shirted young men in her department.  There’s not a trace of sexism or comedy in this movie.  With her cutting looks and deadpan style Yukari is perfectly suited to the part of a dedicated, ordinary, yet potentially lethal civil servant.  Favorite line (Yukari):  “You will die.  Are you afraid?”

A 3, B 2, C 2.5, D 2, C 2.5, F 2.5  (14.5).  Recommended

“It Takes A Thief” (1999)

(Dream Movie Entertainment, Ltd.)

After recent cameo fight appearances, a rumored injury, and avoidance of punching, it’s good to see Yukari back in top form, fighting at full throttle.  The plot is essentially a re-make of “Midnight Angel/The Justice Women.”  Yukari plays HK Police Inspector Shum Ling.  When a shootout goes wrong, one of her men, Ye Jin, is injured.  He’s engaged to her sister, Tong, and Shum Ling must break the news of his death to Tong while she’s planning her wedding.  She blames Ling for Jin’s death, and angrily rejects her.  When Ling’s investigation fails to yield progress, Tong goes undercover as a masked vigilante.  In the meantime, Ye Jin has actually faked his own death to go undercover to infiltrate Hong Bao’s gang.  He achieves this by proving his worth in several fights and passing a series of loyalty tests.  When both Ling’s police work and Tong’s vigilante methods begin to close in on the gang, Bao retaliates by ordering them killed.  During an intense fight at their apartment the sisters’ elderly father is killed.  Ling shoots to death Yong, one of the gang members, at point blank range.  Jin is discovered, and is used as bait by Bao.

During an extended final fight sequence reminiscent of the best of the GWG genre, Ling and Tong take on the entire gang in a lumber yard.  Yukari looks great, older and a shade slower, but just as energetic.  How many other middle-aged women are out there trading punches and tumbling in the mud?  She performs numerous impressive kicks and is back to punching - very hard.  Of technical interest are a number of disarm moves when she confronts opponents armed with swords or pistols.  In this film, Yukari’s the one to watch, and has plenty of screen time and character development.  She not only fights particularly well, but is also back to plain black casual attire.  Her character is mocked and ridiculed because she’s older yet romantically uninvolved.  She doesn’t seem to care.  In addition to combat, she takes an emotional pounding from Tong, her sister.  Overall, this film represents a welcome return to the forms and themes that make Yukari wonderful to watch.

A 3, B 3.5, C 3.5, D 2.5, E 3, F 3  (18.5).  Highly Recommended