“Tears are not enough.”
A truly crappy plot here, used to link fight scenes that range from the boring – that would be the actual kickboxing, which greatly outstays its welcome – to the impressive. Li Feng (Lee) is visiting her kickboxer brother in Hong Kong, when he is killed by a cheating opponent, after refusing to take a dive on the orders of Mr Wong (Lung). The death also throws into jeopardy the family training gym/healthcare establishemnt [a crossover at which no-one blinks an eye], which was already financially shaky. To both get revenge, and earn enough money to stabilize things, Li goes to Wong, and demands an underground rematch against his fighter. When that happens, but leaves her opponent permanently paralyzed, Mrs. Wong (Yukari Oshima), who is the victim’s brother, as well as the promoter’s wife, demands a winner-take-all match to the death. And she kidnaps Li’s semi-boyfriend (Lam) to make sure Li turns up for the contest.
This 1992 Hong Kong film has the same jarring shifts in tone present in many of that time and place. Given the sombre nature of the core situation, there really shouldn’t be any room for slapstick humor – yet there are at least two comic relief characters too many here, and I found myself cringing in just about every one of their scenes. The early action is more than a bit ropey too: while it may be ‘authentic’ kick-boxing, it’s pretty dull to watch, and it’s only when the film moves outside the ring that things become interesting, especially when Lee gets going. She has one great street-fight against a group of thugs, another in a restaurant when she’s proving her worth to Wong as an opponent, and of course, the all too brief duel which pits her – literally, since they’re in a pit – against Oshima. All three are a great combination of inventiveness and hard-nosed action, also showcasing Lee’s great flexibility [there’s also an eye-popping training scene, where her character casually does what is best described as the vertical splits].
However, to appreciate these sequences, you are going to have to sit through story-telling of the most cliched sort, plus acting from her supporting cast that would be rejected as lacking in subtlety by Adam Sandler. Particularly irritating is the finale which has three fight scenes going on at once, cross-cutting between them to the detriment of all three, then robs Li of being able to take her thoroughly-deserved revenge personally, before ending so abruptly, I was left wondering if the final ten pages of script had fallen into a shredder, and the makers decided just to do without them. All these other aspect are significantly sub-optimal, and ten good minutes of action do not sufficiently outweigh them. Especially not when those ten minutes are embedded below, saving you an hour and twenty. You’re welcome!
Dir: Da Wei Shen
Star: Moon Lee, Wilson Lam, Mark Cheng, Lung Fong