Monday, 12 November 2007

She Shoots Straight

Directed by: Cory Yuen
Screenplay: Barry Wong and Cory Yuen
Starring: Joyce Godenzi, Carina Lau and Sammo Hung
She Shoots Straight is a fine example of the fighting femme fatale genre that was popular in Hong Kong cinema during the mid eighties to early nineties. Produced by Sammo Hung and directed by action ace, Cory Yuen, SSS is a tough and tense action flick that shows the ladies are just as good at dishing out the pain as the guys are.
Mina (Godenzi) marries into a police family and endures much resentment from her four sister-in-laws at her marriage to their brother and her half breed status. Professional to a T, Mina wants to concentrate on work rather than starting a family: much to her husband’s chagrin. It’s just as well, as bad guy, Yuen Wah (Dragons Forever) escapes from prison, robs a nightclub and fatally wounds Mina’s new husband. Upset and out for revenge, Mina and her sisters-in-law put their differences aside and set out to bring Wah and his gang down.
The first 45-50 minutes of this film are absolutely blistering. Full on action is balanced well with character and emotional set up, with only a smidgen of typical Hong Kong comedy creeping in. The tone is set from the get go, as the tough female police officers thwart a kidnapping attempt in glorious over the top, ultra violent fashion. The pace rarely lets up from then on; with Yen Wah’s Vietnamese bad guy causing destruction and mayhem wherever he goes (even mowing down innocent bystanders at the local bird market). The set pieces really shine, showcasing the crisp, clear and clever choreography and stunt work Yuen, Hung and co perfected so well in the 80s and 90s. The raid on a nightclub shot with infrared vision is a breathtaking sequence of intensity and action as the good guys and bad guys try to eliminate one another in the dark. And then there is the final 20 minutes that the flick is (semi) famous for. Intricate action is delivered within the pipe infested bowels of a ship, all principals managing to pull off impressive moves within tight confines. The claustrophobic feel of the interior adds to the intensity of the action all leading up to the showcase brawl between Godenzi and bodybuilder, Agnes Aurelio (License to Steal). The two women go toe-to-toe in a feriocious battle that features some truly painful looking moves and combinations.

Godenzi (Eastern Condors) really carries the film managing to show off her impressive fighting skills with a very humane performance. While the cast around her tend to overact, Godenzi brings warmth to her character ably conveying the emotional turmoil her character is suffering. The real life wife of Sammo Hung (who only has a small cameo here and one very brief scuffle) she also has the moves in the action department and can kick, shoot and jump from car to car with aplomb. Carina Lau (Project A 2) also gives a committed performance as Godenzi’s hostile sister-in-law/partner, while Yuen Wah is thoroughly ruthless as the villain. Despite his appearance resembling a nerdy bookworm, he oozes evil in every scene. The only downside is that he never gets to cut loose in the action scenes, something he is very capable of doing. All the action is based more around gunplay and stunt work (all deftly handled) than martial arts, so those looking for a kung fu fest may be left a little cold.
Yuen has crafted a dark, often brutal action thriller that mercifully forgoes much of the comedy hi-jinks synonymous with these types of films. However, he can’t stop the melodrama slipping into the stratosphere. Around the 50 minute mark (after loads of action) the pace slackens a little as the family of cops attempt to deal with the loss of a loved one and a troublesome police chief. Histrionics are on full display as much of the cast shout, cry and scream, and then some, in several scenes that are dragged on for just too long. This break in the action and tone doesn’t ruin the film (and the pace is picked up again for the final 20 minutes) but it does prevent the film from becoming a modern Hong Kong classic. I guess the lack of over the top comedy had to be made up in someway, unfortunately with lots of screaming and much of the female cast coming across as spoilt brats. Still, this does not spoil She Shoots Straight, which is certainly a great action flick and one that, for at least two thirds of its running time, manages to keep a dark and often bleak tone running throughout.

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