Saturday, March 10, 2007

10 more "kick ass" women movies

AKA Swordsman III
(Hong Kong, 1993)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
(Taiwan-Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2000)

Due to matters beyond control, it's been a frustrating few days. Those who have checked my blog over regularly will have learnt of my recent technical difficulties. Then *sob* there's been the little matter of Arsenal having put Gooners -- as well as themselves -- eleven days of cup woe.

Consequently, I've had to resort to implementing a few tried and true methods to banish the blues away. And as it so happens, two of these involve watching movies; more specifically, particular types of movies.

The first of these are the kind of films which invariably get me reflecting on the fact that my life really isn't so bad at all as well as most definitely is better than many less fortunate others. As for the second, let's just say that they involve a lot of ass-kicking, and all the more better when the perpetrators are of the female gender! ;)

This time around, I managed -- wonder of wonders! -- to restrain myself and not watch my all-time favorite Peking Opera Blues for the nth time though. Instead, I checked out yet another Hong Kong movie that: would be worthy indeed of inclusion to alejna of Collecting Tokens' on-going kick-ass women project; and has directly inspired this second list of ten "kick ass" women movies from myself (to supplement that which I had fun writing up back in early January):-

1) When Taekwondo Strikes (Hong Kong, 1973) -- The film that I watched last night, previously only available as a terribly English dubbed version but now available with its original Mandarin language track courtesy of a Joy Sales VCD. Although its male protagonist is a Korean nationalist and taekwondo expert, the star of the show is a female Chinese hapkido practitioner essayed by the amazing Angela Mao and the movie also can boast of having another feisty femme in Anne Winson (who plays the taekwondo master's sole Caucasian as well as female disciple).

2) Yes Madam! (Hong Kong, 1985) -- This pioneering "Girls with Guns" effort is yet another film that makes a lie out of the oft-tendered suggestion that white people only are assigned villainous roles in Hong Kong movies! Also, as with When Taekwondo Strikes, you get not just one but two fighting females in a single cinematic offering. And what formidable femmes they are too; coming as they do in the form of real-life martial arts expert Cynthia Rothrock and a former ballerina and beauty queen turned action heroine by the name of Michelle Yeoh... ;b

3) Angel (Hong Kong, 1987) -- Directed and scripted by a female (Teresa Woo), this gritty "Girls with Guns" actioner may have taken some cues from the original Charlie's Angels. However, it substantially ups the feminist ante by having a male along with a pair of female "angels" (the latter two of whom are played by fan favorite Moon Lee and Elaine Lui) and its chief villain being a sadistic woman who's impressively essayed by Yukari Oshima.

4) Angel Terminators (Hong Kong, 1990) -- This little known work is the grimmest and most intense Hong Kong "Girls with Guns" movie I've ever seen. And by quite a long chalk too. So approach with caution but approach you really should if you are a true fan of "kick ass" women movies. And upon doing so, you'll be rewarded with jaw-dropping action performances by the incomparable Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Michiko Nishiwaki and, especially, the seriously scary Sharon Yeung Pan Pan (though Carrie Ng-philes should be warned that her character gets defiled in terrible ways in this intimidatingly no-holds-barred film).

5) Swordsman III: The East is Red (Hong Kong, 1993) -- In the wake of Swordsman II being the big box office hit that it was, there came this loose -- and much more flamboyant -- sequel to that which saw Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia cementing her status as a film goddess by bringing the character of Asia the Invincible to glorious life. This time around, she shares the screen -- and such as her sewing needle-fu abilities! -- with Joey Wong. And it's a wonder that male hearts don't burst or bust at the often incredible sight of these two women in action in this hyper-imaginative, over-the-top offering!

6) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan-Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2000) -- That which might well be the best loved Chinese language film in the West, even if not its native East, rocketed female co-stars Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh to global prominence. However, for many long time wuxia film fans, it's the woman who played the misguided governess -- former Shaw Brothers movie starlet Cheng Pei Pei -- who can lay better claim to having kicked more movie villain butt than her fellow CTHD cast members (be they male or female)!

7) Shiri (South Korea, 1999) -- Released in Asia before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this politics-tinged female assassin tale rode the coat-tails of Ang Lee's 2000 film into American theatres. Sadly, that which successfully tugged at my heart-strings wasn't even close to being a box office hit in the U.S.A. However, its female star, Kim Yun-Jin, has since gone on to be a familiar face to many Americans by way of being a regular on the TV series, Lost.

8) My Wife is a Gangster (South Korea, 2001) -- This romantic comedy which actually is as action-packed as it is guffaw-inducing is one of those Asian movies which has spawned a sequel and, also, is due to be remade by Hollywood. However, I'd recommend that you forget about both the sequel and expecting the remake to be better than this original effort which has a winning performance by Shin Eun-Kyung as the tough gangster who becomes a wife to please her dying elder sister but without being prepared to take on any of the traditional characteristics of a married woman.

9) The Returner (Japan, 2002) -- This sci-fi blockbuster may be short of originality but it's still long on reasons for being able to enjoy a viewing of it. For one thing, it's got a spunky heroine played by sweet-faced Anne Suzuki. Fans of kick ass women also will get a kick out of the older woman played by Kirin Kiki who supplies weapons as well as assignments to hitmen (and, presumably, -women) and also is not above wreaking some damage herself. Furthermore for the ladies, the very cool-looking plus -acting Takeshi Kaneshiro who's the film's lead actor makes for very nice eye-candy indeed! ;)

10) Suriyothai (Thailand, 2001) -- A lengthy historical epic rather than an actual actioner this may be. However, I reckon that any film that's got a heroine who dresses as a man and rides into battle against her nation's enemy on a mighty elephant deserves to have a place on a "kick ass" women movies list. And this is precisely what Prince Chatrichalem Yukol (AKA Tan Mui)'s film about the legendary Queen Suriyothai -- and its truncated by Francis Ford Coppola version, The Legend of Suriyothai -- does possess along with the kind of treatment of its regal subject that shows that she is a venerated figure indeed in her native land.


Anonymous said...

hi ytsl:
Just dropping a comment and, hey, I'm the first (and only?).

Of your list, have only seen Crouching, Shiri, Gangster and Returner. Would be cool to see more films featuring women working as a team as opposed to lone women (Shiri, Gangster, Returner) or women as adversaries (Crouching).


YTSL said...

Hi GurlonFilm --

Yes indeedy re yours being the first comments on this thread! :)

"Would be cool to see more films featuring women working as a team..."

I hear you. And to that end, I'd suggest that you especially check out WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES, YES MADAM!, ANGEL and ANGEL TERMINATORS -- with the caveat that in the latter two, you also get women against women themes into the mix as well -- from this list.

Also, if you haven't already noticed already, here's letting you know that my previous "kick ass" women movies list also has a few "women working together" works on it. (Three words: PEKING OPERA BLUES. Another three words: THE HEROIC TRIO! ;b)

Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting this great list! Once again, you've included quite a few movies that I haven't yet encountered, and would love to track down. I'm particularly intrigued by the offerings from South Korea, Japan and Thailand, as well as some of the earlier Hong Kong ones. Ah, if only I had more time to watch movies these days...

Anonymous said...

You have missed one of the best in "So Close" starring Hsu Chi, Vicki Zhao Wei and Karen Mok. Stupendous action.

YTSL said...

Hi alejna --

"Once again, you've included quite a few movies that I haven't yet encountered, and would love to track down."

That's the idea... ;)

More seriously though, here's advance warning that WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES and ANGEL are currently unavailable on DVD, ANGEL TERMINATORS doesn't appear to be available with English subtitles and that an English subbed version of the original SURIYOTHAI can only be found on Thai VCD (This is what can happen when Hollywood buys the international rights to an Asian film...).

But those films are very much worth tracking down in whatever form. And even if you think not, there still are six other worthy films on the list to check out.

Hi "anonymous" --

Actually, I haven't missed SO CLOSE. Rather, it already appeared on my original "kick ass" women movies list back on January 5th! ;b

Anonymous said...

Fatal Termination is listed at Buyoyo! At last!!!

YTSL said...

Hi Mikael --

*And* with English subs too! Woo hoo -- have it on my list of DVDs to buy the next time I'm in Hong Kong... ;b

Anonymous said...

East Is Red is of course excellent! And utterly nuts. Have to admit that I´ve never thought of neither Returner nor Shiri as Kickasswomenmovies. But they are good! Still hoping for a dvd of When Taekwondo Strikes...How about Nocturnal Demon? Moon Lee is inredibly cute and quite violent in that on. I LOVE the rollerskate fight!!!!

YTSL said...

Hi again Mikael --

"East Is Red is of course excellent! And utterly nuts."

Totally agree with both your statements there! :b

"How about Nocturnal Demon?"

Uh, you've got me there. I.e., it's one of those Hong Kong movies I've still not yet gotten to checking out! ;(

Madara said...

Tai Seng Video released a whole package of female-lead HK action films about ten years ago. The best one was KILLER ANGELS (1989) with Moon Lee. It's got great kung fu stars in it--Gordon Liu, Leung Kar Yan--yet they only use guns while Moon and her partners do all the kung fu.
Cynthia Khan was in one of them--I think it was MADAM CITY HUNTER. She's great in three of the IN THE LINE OF DUTY films (nos. 3, 4, 5), while Michelle Yeoh is in the first two in that series (one of which is on your list under the title YES MADAM and the other of which is better known as ROYAL WARRIORS).

YTSL said...

Hi leo86 --

"Tai Seng Video released a whole package of female-lead HK action films about ten years ago."

On DVD with English subs??

"The best one was KILLER ANGELS (1989) with Moon Lee."

Wah, am seeing quite a bit of love for Moon Lee on this comments thread. :)

"Cynthia Khan...[is] great in three of the IN THE LINE OF DUTY films (nos. 3, 4, 5)"

Have to confess that I don't share your love for Cynthia Khan. Can't get over the fact that her kicking technique is more akin to the way that one kicks a football/soccer ball (i.e., with the front of her feet) rather than the way I was taught to do in karate class (i.e., with the sole of one's feet)! ;(

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that "Little Sister In Law" is available in the Joy Sales Legenday Collection? SO far vcd only, but with English subs. ^.^

YTSL said...

Hi Mikael --

Nooooo, hadn't noticed. Had only been gnashing my teeth at the English sub-less Brigitte movies that have been turning up on DVD. So thanks VERY MUCH for the heads up! :)