Martial Angels


Girls with Guns are back. Well, make that Girls with guns, lipstick and a lovely pedicure are back! OK – so this isn’t Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima and Michiko Nishawaki, but anytime you have seven very attractive females blowing away guys with a curled indifferent lip and a shot to the head  - my attention is totally occupied. Why I am not quite sure – it would likely take years of analysis to figure it out – but this sort of thing gives me much more pleasure than it probably should. The girls with guns genre has been in a coma for years now and though I doubt this film will resuscitate it, any sign of life gives me hope.
Hsu Chi
The problem of course in putting on a female action film these days is that there are really no more female action actresses. From the days of Cheng Pei Pei through those of Moon Lee, Hong Kong cinema has always had a steady supply of athletically gifted women to put on the screen, but no more. These seven angels are clearly not the next wave of action heroines. Their inclusion in this film has a lot more to do with their curves than their moves. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing, but you need to frame your approach to this film accordingly – this is more a high gloss fashion video than a down and dirty crime/action film. Director Clarence Fok brings a bit of his vaunted visual style to the film, but leaves the darkness and perversity of Her Name is Cat, Naked Killer and Cheap Killers far behind (with one bizarre exception). This is more like the Girl Scouts grow up, grow breasts and decide to stop selling cookies and become thieves.
Speaking of Her Name is Cat – it is too bad that Fok did not use his actress from that film for this one. Almen Wong could have given this film a much needed injection of toughness and maturity. As anyone who has wandered onto this site should know (and much to the horror of my friends), I can happily watch Hsu Chi paint her nails as long as the camera focuses on her bee-sting quivering lips getting ready for take-off. But trying to present her as an action character, as directors have been trying to do recently, just rings false. She gives it all she has – but she has no martial arts training, speaks in a squeaky though endearing voice and just isn’t all that graceful. And she just looks too young to be out there killing hardened professional ruffians with a flick of a finger and the elan of a game show hostess.
Julian Cheung, Hsu Chi and Kelly Lam
As we all know, orphanages are a breeding ground for criminals and out of one such training facility come seven young women with a bent for crime and minimalist dialogue. They are hi-tech thieves (can’t anyone just break in a window and steal anymore?)  and so Hsu Chi (Cat) walks into a high class disco and her high tech glasses relay back to Sandra Ng (Monkey) images of the jewelry being worn and the computer instantly calculates how much it is worth. I have met some women of course who can do this even faster with one glance at a man and his shoes – but they are thieves of a different sort. Hsu Chi sees Julian Cheung at the disco and his hip appearance immediately tips her off that he is a professional thief as well and of course they go for the same target and fall in love. It happens every day.
Rosemary Vandenbrouck and Amanda Strong
Jump forward a few years – their affair has ended – Hsu Chi is broken up like a pug's face after 10 rounds – and worse - she is now a secretary. What happened to all that money Hsu Chi? She must have invested it in the same stocks I did. She soon gets a video from some Russian mafia types who show Julian being tortured and held captive. Unless Hsu Chi steals some high security computer file/gizmo/whatcamacallit, she will receive bits and pieces of him. Most women would be thrilled to have a smug ex-boyfriend mailed back to them in installments, but instead Hsu Chi gathers the old gang together again and goes to work.
Besides Sandra, these consist of Kelly Lam (Octopus), Teresa Mak (Goldfish), Amanda Strong (Spider), Rachel Ngan and Rosemary Vandenbrouck (a HK super model and who must be a head taller than all the others). They all put their pouty lips together and come up with a plan that involves trying to seduce Wong Jing, freeing a horny psycho bomb maker (Terrance Yin) from jail and killing lots of bad guys. Of course nothing goes quite as planned.

As one expects in a film of this kind, the characterizations are as thin as watered down gruel and the acting has the resonance of a tin drum, but everyone looks pretty happy to be working and the chemistry between them is certainly no worse than if you picked up any seven beautiful women at random on the streets of Hong Kong and put them into a room. Considering that Hsu Chi gets all the good close-ups I am surprised they weren’t spitting in her direction.

Teresa Mak and Rachel Ngan
All this being true (or my opinion I should say), I must confess to actually enjoying this film to a mild degree. It goes down easy like a lemon Popsicle on a warm summer day and at least compared to some of the other faux action films of late – For Bad Boys Only and Skyline Cruisers – it made sense and the action scenes were easy to follow. The one scene in which the Angels rescue Julian and lessen the gweilo population in Hong Kong considerably was well planned out and allowed the viewer to understand the flow of the action. And Sandra does a nice little Leon move – ala swinging upside down from the ceiling and taking out a few very surprised baddies. We don’t get to see Sandra kill nearly often enough in the movies.
Hsu Chi and Sandra Ng
And did I mention that the actresses are very attractive?  Seriously  - would anyone watch this film with much more expectations than that? Does anyone that puts on a film called Martial Angels starring Hsu Chi and three models expect breathtaking action or an incisive look at female empowerment in the modern age. I hope not because you won’t be finding it here. Instead take off your critical blinders and relax with a film that is as light as the last serious thought in Hsu Chi’s head.

My rating for this film: 6.0



DVD Information:

Distributed by Deltamac

The transfer is fine - Hsu Chi's lips positively glisten.

Letterboxed

Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks.

9 Chapters

The subtitles are Chinese or English or none (accessed through the remote as opposed to the menu which is in Chinese).

The package comes with two discs. One is the film, the other is a promotion for Deltamac. This latter one contains 6 trailers - one for this film and then ones for: Conman in Tokyo, Healing Hands, The Enemy, Thou Shalt Not Comment and Wishfil Milenio. And get this - they also have three trailers for Dolby Digital and two for DTS Surround Sound!