Angel

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“Is for girls with guns, what Night of the Living Dead is for zombies.”

This and Yes, Madam were basically the Genesis and Exodus of the genre as we know it. Sure, there had been action heroines before, but never with quite the heft of their male counterparts. Madam showed they could kick ass with the best of them; Angel took this, and added about a billion bullets to the mix. Sure, it’s rough around the edges, with scenes that appear randomly inserted and characters so shallow they resemble a puddle. But its influence was massive, and if you can watch the final battle without wincing, as Lee and Oshima kick the utter crap out of each other, you’re made of tougher stuff than I [It’s the December 2011 video of the month].

The plot sees the ‘Angels’ – a mercenary, extra-governmental group – called in to take on a drug-smuggling cartel which is killing off cops following success against their heroin operation. It’s led by the amazingly evil Madame Yeoung (Oshima, turned up to 11), who is planning something to recoup the lost income; what that is, is up to the Angels to find out. Of particular interest, the Angels include Moon and Elaine (Lee and Lui), the former sober, the latter flighty and apparently incompetent; they and their much less-interesting male counterparts have to uncover Yeoung’s plan, rescue captured colleagues from her HQ, in a blaze of gunfire, and then go to the factory that’s at the heart of the villainess’s operations, for the final battle.

Like Living Dead, it’s certainly something which has been done a good deal better since, with the non-action elements clunky to the point of occasionally cringe-inducing, especially during a first half that does take some time to get going – though spontaneously combusts whenever Oshima is on-screen. However, once it does, this is packed with meaty goodness, and a take no prisoners approach from both sides that makes for an all-out war. There’s some confusion over the directors: the DVD box gives it as Teresa Woo, the IMDB lists Woo and Leung, but I’ve gone with the names listed on the actual movie credits. Whoever it was, certainly had a great handle on the action, and time has not dulled that aspect of the film whatsoever.

Dir: Raymond Leung, Leung Siu Hung, Ivan Lai
Star: Moon Lee, Hideki Saijo, Elaine Lui, Yukari Oshima
a.k.a. Iron Angels

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