In this third installment of Teresa Woo’s seminal Girls with Guns franchise, only Moon Lee, Alex Fong and Kharina Sa return from the previous film (with only the former two having starred in all three films) as the titular ‘Angels’, an elite task force that rids the world of assassins, dictators and terrorists. This time, Moon has to infiltrate a terrorist organization bent on starting a war between Thailand and Vietnam. She succeeds but has to leave her tracking device behind, so that Alex & Kharina, assisted by Thai agent Kwai (Ralph Chen) and a bony gweilo nicknamed Computer, are left running across Bangkok trying to locate her. It isn’t much of a plot, but that was never what the Iron Angels films were about. They were obviously about action, and in this respect this final film is easily the best of the bunch. The former two installments had stunning action, but lopsided structures by which they noodled around for an hour before exploding into non-stop action.
Iron Angels 3 is not only better-paced, with a steady though never numbing stream of action sequences handled by action director Stanley Tong (who’s also, by some accounts, the actual director), but its finale is even more over-the-top than its immediate predecessor’s glorious jungle mayhem: here, Alex and Kwai mow down dozens of motorcycle-riding assassins while flying around on machine gun-mounted jetpacks. And this is really Alex Fong’s film: he struts with charismatic ease throughout, and gets a superb, protracted Muay Thai fight against none other than the late, great Panna Rittikrai (of Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong fame), and later against Saskia Van Rijswijk, a Muay Thai world champion.
Moon Lee is strangely sidelined, being absent from the entire finale before reappearing in the epilogue, trying on hats and giggling. Still, she gets to shine in two gobsmacking ‘one against many’ fights that she has said are her proudest action moments on screen. And rightly so: she’s blinding as she lays waste to countless machete or fan-dab sword-wielding opponents with her bare hands or a nunchaku. Kharina Sa, after her striking introduction at the end of the previous installment, is left to stare at computer screens, and it’s a shame Elaine Lui didn’t return, as her chemistry with Moon Lee was one of the chief pleasures in the first two films. But those are minor quibbles.
Long Story Short: The best film in the Iron Angels franchise: pacy, hard-hitting and blissfully cheesy, with Moon Lee and Alex Fong at their fighting best. ***1/2