SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT (aka LETHAL LADY) (1990) review

Joyce Godenzi, a former Miss Hong Kong of Sino-Australian descent, had a short career as a lead actress, before marrying Sammo Hung Kam-Bo in 1995 and retiring from the film industry. The few films she made as a lead actress were often associated with the successful Girls with Guns sub-genre of action cinema, which in the late eighties and early nineties had people like Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Khan or Kara Hui as its most famous faces. Her best-known film remains Corey Yuen’s She Shoots Straight, in which she plays a career-oriented policewoman who marries Tsung-Pao (Tony Leung Ka Fai), the only son in the Huang family. She has to face the resentment of her husband’s four sisters, (all of them cops under her command, which makes things more complicated) who do not approve, among other things, of her unwillingness to have a baby just yet. The elder sister Ling (Carina Lau) is also defiant of Mina’s authority on the force, and enraged that her own mother and brother are siding with Mina in every argument. At the same time, they have to put their differences aside to stop a gang of Viet-namese criminals (headed by the great Yuen Wah) on a crime spree through Hong Kong. Sammo Hung Kam-Bo endearingly crops up from time to time, surely to show his future wife some support (he’s also a producer on this film).

She Shoots Straight has two things in abundance : blistering action and cheesy drama. The former is unsurprising : after all the director here is Corey Yuen, who had already given the Girls with Guns movement two of its best known films (Yes, Madam ! and Righting Wrongs). He was (and still is) matchless at staging brutal action scenes with a preposterous edge to them. Preposterousness is very present in the film, like when the Viet-namese criminals kill one of the main characters by luring him to a public garden and trapping him with a series of wooden contraptions that would be right at home in Predator. But most of the time the action does stay rather grounded and serious, and benefits from the leggy steeliness of Joyce Godenzi, who throws herself in the action with a measure of fearlessness that may not reach Michelle Yeoh levels, but is still admirable as many shots of dangerous stunts are noticeably performed by her. Her final fight against Filipino bodybuilder Agnes Aurelio is a cringingly brutal showdown that is still seen as a classic of the genre. Carina Lau is also impressively game for a lot of crunching action, like in the big finale where she dishes out punishment with twin machetes, which is a sight to behold.

Too bad then, that sandwiched between these vintage Hong Kong action scenes, are cringe-inducing, tear-jerking passages. When one of the main characters is brutally killed off, why does it have to be on his birthday, with the only two members of his family that are aware of his death having to hide their anguish not to spoil the anniversary party that is going on without the man of the hour ? It’s one of several cheesy scenes that uselessly amp up the pathos (it’s possible that there is more crying and whining in this film than fighting), and along with some bad comic relief from David Lau as a tactless commissioner, it makes She Shoots Straight an often frustrating experience.

Long Story Short : Blistering action undercut by overdone drama and tasteless comic relief. **1/2

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