The Stunt Woman (Ah Kam)

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“Because stunt women have feelings too.”

stuntwomanThe end credits of this show, in a style familiar from Jackie Chan movies, the “stunts gone wrong” montage. Except here, it’s Michelle Yeoh suffering a serious back injury after a bad landing following a jump from a bridge. What’s particularly galling is that the stunt was entirely pointless, in terms of the movie, and also filmed so badly, they could easily have used someone much more experienced in that kind of thing. This is likely what happens when you have a director who apparently has no aptitude for, or interest in, action cinema. Instead, Hui’s filmography is full of earnest social cinema such as Summer Snow, “about a middle-aged woman trying to cope with everyday family problems and an Alzheimer-inflicted father-in-law,” according to Wikipedia.

On a similar basis, I guess this is about a middle-aged stunt woman, Ah Kam (Yeoh), trying to cope with everyday cinematic problems, and an alcohol-inflicted father-figure (Hung). What we learn, is that the life of an stunt person involves as much sitting around and drinking as it does actual, ah, stunting. We also find out, apparently, that you can go from walking-on to the set, to becoming the de facto director in about two days. Actually, snark aside, this is the most interesting section of the film, with a no-holds barred depiction of the crappy conditions under which action scenes are created in Hong Kong cinema, with a brutal mix of time constraints, Triad hassles and a near-complete disregard for personal safety. You won’t do this stunt? Kiss employment goodbye, because there’s always someone else who will. If nothing else, you will come away from this with an enhanced regard for the people who put their bodies on the line for your entertainment.

However, odds are that’s all you’ll get, for the longer this goes on, the further this meanders off track, in to a series of unsatisfying threads which are equally underdeveloped and unsatisfying. Ah Kam falls for a man and follows him to China, only to find life as a bar manager not what she expected, so she gives up and goes back to movie work. The Triad troubles escalate until they lead to the death of a major character, but this doesn’t go anywhere much either. Even when she has to rescue a young boy, kidnapped for what’s basically a prank on a mob boss, there’s little or no resolution, the movie ending in such an abrupt fashion, it feels like Hui ran out of film-stock. While it’s nice to see Yeoh given a chance to exercise her dramatic talents more, and she acquits herself well, the results are singularly disappointing, and unfortunately, are also definitely not worth the injury she sustained.

Dir: Ann Hui
Star: Michelle Yeoh, Sammo Hung, Ken Lo, Hoi Mang

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