“Because Lady Moderate Breeze wouldn’t sell as many copies.”
I’m not saying this is a bad film. But when I watch one called Lady Whirlwind (though here is as good a place as any to acknowledge the wonderfully tacky alternate title featured on the poster at the right), I expect a good deal more lady whirlwinding. The focus is instead on Ling Shi-Hao (Chang), beaten and left for dead after trying to leave a gang. Wisely, he decides to continue with his death, hiding out in the country for three years with girlfriend Hsuang Hsuang (We). This anonymity is shattered by the arrival of Tien Li-Chun (Mao), who wants a word with Ling, along with ripping the beating heart out of his chest. For it turns out, he was a bit of a bastard who jilted Tien’s sister, leading to her suicide. Hence, when he thanks Tien for saving him, she replies, “I just didn’t want somebody else to kill you.”
Ling admits he deserves his fate, but asks for a stay of execution, so he can first take revenge on his former colleagues (who include Sammo Hung in an early role). Tien is clearly pretty laid-back about the whole vengeance thing, since she’s nowhere to be seen during the lengthy training montage that follows, after Ling helps a Korean herbalist, bitten by a snake, and is taught the deadly Tai Chi Palm style. Will that help him beat the bad guys? And will Tien then stop lurking off-screen and goddamn do something?
There’s certainly no shortage of action, though in comparison to some other Mao films I’ve seen recently, the fight scenes doesn’t seem as smoothly choreographed and frankly, get a bit boring – it also suffers too much from the “we’ll attack you one at a time, while everyone else circles about aimlessly” trope, common to many movies of the time. Indeed, I must admit, there was one of Ling’s battles in the middle where I actually fell asleep: never a good sign where a martial-arts films is concerned. The frequent use of musical cues definitely not composed for the film is also rather distracting: one, in particular, will be particularly familiar if you’ve watched James Bond movies, but other sources say the pillaging also includes the works of Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann. Hey, if you’re going to steal, do it from the best, I suppose.
Mao does have some good fight scenes, particularly going one-on-many with a copious line of henchmen. But you wonder why she’s so apparently disinterested in her revenge, particularly at the end, which is entirely ludicrous, and all but negates everything that happened over the previous 80 minutes. Not one of her best, with not enough going on beyond her usual graceful performance, to merit your attention.
Dir: Huang Feng
Star: Chang Yi, Angela Mao, Pai Ying, June Wu
a.k.a. Deep Thrust