ANGEL OF VENGEANCE (1993) short review

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Liu Sung Pai’s Angel of Vengeance is two films rolled into one: a revenge thriller where Yukari Oshima looks for her sister with the help of Alex Fong and Alexander Lo Rei, only to find she’s been sold to a brothel by a mob boss played by an unhinged Chung Fat; and a rapesploitation drama in which a student writing a thesis on “love and lust” decides to research life in a brothel (operated by her mother) by dressing up (unconvincingly, of course) as a man. The two subplots are connected by the fact that Yukari’s sister has been sold to the same brothel that the student is trying to infiltrate. Unfortunately, the revenge subplot, which opens the film with two excellent fights where the Japanese action queen fights off a dozen henchmen, and closes it with a ridiculous but entertaining action finale where Chung Fat and his formidable blind henchwoman (played by Tu Kei Hua) start flying and moving at the speed of light and Alex Fong pulls a bow and arrow out of nowhere (in what has been, so far, a grounded and realistic film) only gets a third of the film’s runtime, with the rest spent on the implausible and exploitative ‘brothel research’ subplot. And there it’s a series of gratuitous rape scenes, scored sometimes with jaunty music, other times with melodramatic music, and other times yet with horror music. What an ugly little film. *

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IRON ANGELS 3 (aka ANGEL 3) (1989) review

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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.

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PARIS HOLIDAY (2015) review

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A film for people who think there’s nothing more romantic than cycling in front of the Eiffel Tower, James Yuen’s Paris Holiday (which briefly shot not 100 meters from where yours truly lives) stars Louis Koo as Chun-Kit, a late professional bloomer who arrives in Paris to manage a wine label for a wealthy Hong Kong businessman (Anthony Chan). There, fellow expatriate Michael (Alex Fong) sets him up in a flat share with Xiao-Min (Amber Kuo) an art students who’s still a human wreck from being dumped by the man she thought was her soulmate. In order not too have her feel threatened by a man’s presence, Michael asks Chun-Kit to pretend he’s gay. The cohabitation gets off to a disastrous start, as Chun-Kit has to deal with Xiao-Min’s erratic hygiene and behavior; but after nearly leaving, he decides to stay and help her get back on her feet. A tall order, but he’s just rebounded from a painful break-up himself, and the two soon find themselves in a strange place between love and friendship.

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INSANITY (2014) review

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David Lee’s second film after the little-seen teen horror thriller Yes, I Can See Dead People, Insanity is produced and co-written by Derek Yee, and tells of Fan (Lau Ching Wan), who became a neurotic shell of a man following the death of his child, and frequently lets out his anger and grief on his wife Wai Ling (Michelle Ye), forbidding her to go out and suspecting her at every turn. Until one night, in a fit of jealous rage, he accidentally kills her by pushing her out of a window. He’s declared insane in court and committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he’s placed under the care of Dr. Chow (Huang Xiaoming) a young and promising doctor who is fast rising to the top of his field, though he’s neglecting his girlfriend Bo Yi (Fiona Sit) in the process. Three years later, Chow vouches for Fan’s release against the advice of his colleague Dr. Lui (Alex Fong), declaring him cured. Life on the outside proves difficult for the former madman, as his former mother-in-law (Paw Hee Ching) keeps harassing him and guilt remains vivid. One night, while attempting to commit suicide, he accidentally kills a homeless junkie. But Dr. Chow, who’s close to becoming hospital director, is determined to safeguard his reputation : if word got out that the patient he vouched for actually killed someone else after being released, the consequences for his career would be dire. And so he covers up the junkie’s death, and things start going from bad to worse.

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IRON ANGELS 2 (aka ANGELS 2) (1988) short review

Angel-II-1988 The very first directorial effort of Stanley Tong, who went on to become one of Jackie Chan’s directors of choice with films like Police Story 3 : Supercop and Rumble in the BronxIron Angels 2 sees the the return of the titular “angels”, elite mercenaries played by Moon Lee, Elaine Lui and Alex Fong, with the notable absence of David Chiang who played their boss in the first film but with the notable addition of Kharina Sa, a strikingly stunning panther of a woman with no backstory and little dialogue. This time they’re vacationing in Malaysia, where they meet Alex’s lifelong friend Peter, who’s become a wealthy businessman. But just as Elaine starts to fall for him, the Angels realize that he’s actually a wannabe-dictator with a small army of his own, and that they have to stop him. Similar to the first film, Iron Angels 2 features surprisingly little action for much of its runtime, a fact that is disappointing considering this is a film so crudely plotted that the villain’s evil ambitions are revealed with a scene of him watching archive footage of Hitler. But again like the first film, it all ends with almost half an hour of intense action, in this case a relentless Rambo-inspired jungle-set action scene, with Alex Fong carrying out a one-man ambush on dozens of soldiers, Moon Lee taking on Yuen Tak (who also choreographs the action) in a furious fight, and Elaine Lui gunning down henchmen while hanging from a zip line. It’s a superbly bombastic and exciting piece of action directing and fearless stuntwork (witness Moon Lee’s un-doubled narrow escape from an exploding watchtower, the lady has guts), a reward to the audience for sticking through one hour of fairly uninvolving drama. **1/2

ONCE A GANGSTER (2010) review

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When triad boss Kerosene (Alex Fong) decides to retire due to crippling debts, he names Roast Pork (Jordan Chan) his successor, but the latter doesn’t want the job : though a fearless henchman, his true calling is as a chef and restaurant owner alongside his wife (Michelle Ye) and kids. Another contender is Swallow (Eking Cheng) who just got out of jail after a 20-year sentence for killing a snitch to cover his comrades, and who’s being actively championed by his drug addict mother (Candice Yu). But Swallow doesn’t want the job either : while in prison he’s become passionate about economics and plans to earn a master’s degree. The final contender is Scissors (Conroy Chan), a triad goon so incompetent that he’s the only one not to realize that his right-hand man Chen (Wilfred Lau) is blatantly an equally incompetent undercover cop. Reluctant contenders and overeager challengers are now set on a collision course.

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IRON ANGELS (aka ANGEL) (1987) short review

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The first in a trilogy of Girls With Guns films (with only Moon Lee and Alex Fong being in all three films), Teresa Woo’s Iron Angels – which was actually directed by Ivan Lai, according to martial arts choreographer Tony Leung Siu Hung – follows a group of mercenaries (the titular ‘Angels’) composed of Saijo Hideki, Moon Lee and Elaine Lui and headed by a suave David Chiang, who team up with an Interpol agent (Alex Fong Chung Sun) to stop a vicious drug trafficker (Yukari Oshima) who is murdering police officials left and right. The film echoes Charlie’s Angels not only with its title and premise, but also with its cheesiness and general lack of tension. An inordinate amount of time is spent on flirting, pouting, and eye-gouging fashion statements. Still, when it comes to the action there’s a few outstanding moments, especially a final fight between Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima (who eats up the screen as the black widow villain) that is so brutal that it contrasts with the relatively tame proceedings up to then. Ingenuous Moon Lee and slinky Elaine Lui complement each other nicely, though one can tell the latter, in only her second film, was not yet the accomplished screen fighter she’d become in the following decade. **1/2

KUNG FU JUNGLE (aka KUNG FU KILLER) (2014) review

Kungfu Jungle Official Poster Ever since his excellent turn in Peter Chan’s superb Wu Xia in 2011, martial arts spearhead Donnie Yen’s career had been a bit underwhelming, with films either overdosing on special effects (The Monkey King), lacking in any kind of script to tie the amazing fight scenes together (Special ID), getting lost in juvenile comedy (The Iceman 3D) or worse, casting him as a romantic leading man named ‘Cool Sir’ (Together). Kung Fu Jungle, as I’m happy to report, is a definite step up in quality. Donnie is Hahou Mo, a martial arts master who is first seen surrendering himself to the police after killing another master (a barely glimpsed Bey Logan). Three years later he’s peacefully nearing the end of his sentence but a TV report of the murder of a Kung Fu master sends him in a frenzy to contract the inspector in charge of the investigation (Charlie Yeung). He understands the motives of the killer, a demented fighter (Wang Baoqiang) who overcame a leg defect and is challenging all the greatest masters, to the death. But when Hahou Mo is allowed to get out of prison and assist the inspector, it becomes obvious that he has a hidden agenda, part of which involves his girlfriend (Michelle Bai Bing).

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MOB SISTER (2005) review

After getting his big break in the Hong Kong film industry with the over-indulgent and gaudy Jiang Hu (aka Triad Underworld), director Wong Ching-Po came back to the world of the Triads with Mob Sister, and once again gathered a who’s who of Hong Kong gangster films, from acting gods and Johnnie To regulars Simon Yam and Anthony Wong Chau Sang to Derek Yee’s go-to actors Alex Fong and Liu Kai-Chi, as well as the omnipresent Eric Tsang, and a representative of the Yuen clan in the person of Yuen Wah. Add to that fresh faces like Annie Liu, up and coming mainland actor (at the time, now he’s well-established) Ye Liu and actress Karena Lam, and you get one of the most intriguing and exciting casts in a while. Annie Liu is Phoebe, the adopted daughter of a kind-hearted mob boss (Eric Tsang), who lives a sheltered life surrounded by her father, her three protective uncles (Yam, Wong, and Fong), and her bodyguard (Ye Liu). But when her father is killed, she is called on to replace him as triad boss. The idea of an innocent teenage girl catapulted into the shoes of a mob boss is pure comedy material, but Wong Ching-Po choses – wisely – to not settle on a particular tone, instead oscillating between whimsical, bittersweet and tragic, and peppering his film with animated sequences that illustrate the “mob sister”‘s feelings.

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