DEVIL HUNTERS (aka ULTRA FORCE 2) (1989) review

Released just a few months after Killer Angels, Devil Hunters was also directed by Tony Liu and was in some places released as a sequel to that film (under the risible title Ultra Force). Of course, there are no narrative connections between the two films, as Devil Hunters follows a vicious gangster (Francis Ng) who will stop at nothing to find his boss’s stash of diamonds. But on his way are policemen (Alex Man and Sibelle Hu), as well as his boss’s daughter (Moon Lee) and former second-in-command (Michael Chan Wai Man), now gone good. It’s a slightly uninvolving plot, that valiantly tries to create surprises in a genre that rarely contained any, narratively speaking. But it ends up feeling muddled, despite Tony Liu’s usual above-average attention to characters and drama: Michael Chan is touching as a reformed gangster inevitably drawn back to violence, while Sibelle Hu and Alex Man have an interesting – if under-developped – tough love relationship.





Cha Chuen Yee’s Journey of the Doomed opens on the image of a setting sun, and ends in the complete destruction of desolate period sets. Fitting bookends to what is actually the last martial arts film produced by the Shaw Brothers Studio before it switched completely to TV production. Movie bootlegging and overwhelming competition from rival studio Golden Harvest had led to diminishing returns in the beginning of the eighties, and the legendary studio, after producing close to a thousand feature films,was cutting its losses and would not return to the big screen before 2009. These facts do not lend Journey of the Doomed any crepuscular dimension however, as it is more akin to the kind of cake your parents would make to empty the fridge before going on holidays. The plot is an unappealing combination of convoluted and unfocused : it follows Shui Erh (Fu Yin Yu), a young woman who leads a simple life as a maid in a whorehouse, unaware that she’s actually the love child of the current emperor. The only one who knows that fact is her guardian (Tam Wai-Mei), and at the behest of her lover, she reveals the truth to the crown prince (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who despatches a trio of warriors (Candice Yu, Max Mok and Goo Goon Chung) with the mission to bring Shui Erh to the Imperial Palace. But the prince’s brother hears of this through one of the warriors’ lover (Alex Man) and sends his own henchmen (well, henchwomen : Kara Hui and Margaret Lee) to kill the soon-to-be princess. This leads to the massacre of the entire whorehouse, from which Shui Erh narrowly escapes with the help of a fisherman (Tung Wei). On the run from two separate teams of warriors, the fisherman and the illegitimate princess fall in love.