Lily Under the Gun - a.k.a. Lily Under the Muzzle

Reviewed by YTSL

There are some movies that seem very specifically made for a particular part of the world and clearly reflect the times in which they were made.  This is surely the case with this 1982 Taiwanese crime-drama, whose makers evidently do not think that those who watch and love the likes of "Chariots of Fire" and have certain images conjured upon hearing such as Don MacLean's "American Pie" would get a hold of it!  Otherwise, they would undoubtedly understand that there is incredible incongruity for such people in:  Having the main theme of the very British film about Olympic athletes used as mood(-setting) music for scenes which do seem seriously intended to be romantic, tender and filled with pathos; and hearing "American Pie" while watching a Chinese beauty besting her brother at (a game akin to) pool...!

LILY UNDER THE GUN really has many things -- beyond its moviemakers' choice of music -- going against it.  Its fight scenes look like a combination of old-style "chop-socky" and bad and short American B movie or television action.  Then there's one of my particular pet peeves:  The "good" guy's ability to so accurately shoot "baddies" as to, more often than not, easily finish them off with a single bullet to the heart.  I also didn't appreciate watching what looked to be a very real battle between two pit bulls.  And it truly did not help this non-Chinese reading viewer as well as non-Cantonese listener that the English subtitles were often so cropped from the bottom and sides as to be virtually non-existent for much of the film.

What makes the movie worth viewing -- and sought after, at least by yours truly! -- though is the presence of Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia in it.  It's not just that the woman looks -- as ever -- amazingly good but also that her considerable acting ability can so often lift a film (lest it be thought that I am the lone loon in believing this, I'll cite the words of a professional movie critic, John Powers, about the 1986 Hong Kong production whose English title is "Lady in Black":  "Sam Chung's thriller is held together by the charisma of the beautiful, somber Brigitte Lin, who gives the plot's inanity a gravity it doesn't deserve.  A classic star turn by one of the world's greatest screen actresses" (In Fredric Dannen and Barry Long's "Hong Kong Babylon", 1997:385)).

In LILY UNDER THE GUN, the ever-watchable Ms. Lin plays the elder sister of a man who is mistakenly convicted -- and is in danger of being executed -- for killing a woman who he had been fooling around with as well as was involved in other ways.  Determined to absolve her brother, the professional dress-maker -- who fortunately is a black belt in what looks like judo(!) as well as a mean pool player (the film features contextualizing scenes of Brigitte the Great sparring with and directing "the glare" at -- several men as well as one in which she shoots pool balls almost a la Asia the Invincible at a bad guy!) -- enlists the help of a lawyer.  Unfortunately, he -- who, of course(!), falls under her captivating spell -- is more involved in the crime than she knows.  Consequently, she and he find themselves garnering the attention of people who want to do them harm...

For the record:  Brigitte Lin made some seventy films in her native Taiwan before she moved to Hong Kong (and, IMHO, thankfully much greater things).  LILY UNDER THE GUN is (at least -- I have recently realized that I was raised by my mother on a diet of Lin Ching-Hsia movies, many of which I cannot individually recall) the fifth of her Taiwanese efforts that I have seen, and it is by no means the worst!  Factors in this one's favor include its having a plot that is quite eventful and features some reasonably logical twists and turns, plus (seemingly) more than its usual share of characters (notably a capable female friend of Brigitte's character called "Black Girl"!).  Although I would not recommend this film to everyone, it actually is not unenjoyable to watch if you are a fan of the now sadly retired actress and in a sufficiently tolerant or silly mood!

My rating for the film:  5.5.