She Shoots Straight (1990)

Country: Hong Kong
Starring: Joyce Godenzi, Tony Leung, Carmina Lau, Wah Yuen, Anglie Leung, Sandra Ng Kwan Yue Pik-Wan Tang, Sarah Lee, Agnes Aurelio, Sammo Hung
Screenplay: Cory Yuen, Barry Wong
Director: Cory Yuen
Cinematography: Moon-Tong Lau, Chi Ming Leung
Music: Lowell Lo
Producers: Lenard Ho, Sammo Hung
Original Title: Huang jia nu jiang

For fans of Hong Kong action cinema, Sammo Hung needs no introduction. Even the most cursory fan of Hong Kong cinema will have stumbled upon his work or possibly even seen him in the US television series Martial Law. However, maybe not quite so popular, is Sammo’s wife Joyce Godenzi. Joyce was a Miss Hong Kong pageant winner who drifted into acting. At first her roles played to type, as an attractive girl next door. Then Sammo Hung unleashed her as a guerrilla fighter in Eastern Condors, and suddenly she was an action queen. Although she didn’t come from a martial arts background she worked hard on the choreography of the fight scenes she was involved in, and was prepared to do a lot of her own stunts.

She Shoots Straight starts with the marriage of two police officers, Mina (Joyce Godenzi) and Bo Huang (Tony Leung). On what should be a day of celebration, becomes one of intense family squabbling. You see Bo Huang is the only son, in a family of five children. All five are police officers, but Bo, as the man is expected to carry on the family tradition. However, Bo’s sisters are happy to have a new girl in the family. In fact their jealously clouds the whole ceremony. The worst and most outspoken of the sisters is Ling (Carmina Lau). She is downright antagonistic to Mina, and refuses to be in any of the wedding photographs with her. With such a family dynamic, it will come as no surprise that there is a bit of the old Cinderella story going on here. Mina is treated as the ugly duckling and constantly put down by her step-sisters.

After the wedding, the Police Superintendent arrives to give Mina a bouquet, and to assign her to her next case, which starts on the following day. Duty calls – so much for the honeymoon. She has been assigned to protect a visiting princess. The film doesn’t say where the princess is from, but as we all know, princesses are special and need to be protected. Assisting Mina on the mission are three of Huang’s very jealous sisters, including Ling, who are very keen to make sure that no praise should come Mina’s way. The princess is visiting Hong Kong for a fashion show, and as a security precaution, Mina acts as a decoy, dressing as the princess with a veil covering her face. The fashion show has a square catwalk with a square glass pyramid position in the centre. For those unfamiliar with the mathematical equation, allow me to elaborate. Hong Kong action cinema + glass = shattered glass. But first things first, and that entails a snatch attempt being made on the princess. And four heavily armed gangsters arrive to do just that.

Meanwhile, two of Huang’s sisters decide to have a bathroom break, leaving Ling on guard. The gangsters march in and toss about some colourful smoke bombs, which look kind of arty, so the audience believe it is all part of the fashion show. Under the cover of the smoke, the gangsters snatch Mina, thinking she is the princess and march her out. Ling follows and the other two sisters stumble out of the bathroom in time to act. With absolutely no concern for Mina, who is being marched away at gunpoint, the three sisters open fire at the would be kidnappers. The gangsters could just pop one in Mina and be done with it, but obviously the princess must have some value so they don’t kill her. However a large scale shootout follows

The Huang sisters polish off three of the kidnappers. Of course, one of these gangsters is shot and flies back through the glass pyramid – I didn’t see that coming! Mina takes out the fourth, then rushes to the aid of another police unit who are in charge of protecting the real princess. This other unit shuffles the princess out into the multi-storey carpark, where, wouldn’t you know it, even more gangsters are waiting.

The princess is pushed into the back seat of a car, but before she car be whisked to freedom, the gangsters take out most of the police unit, and then in their car race up next to the vehicle the princess is in. They break the window of the vehicle she is in, and then drag her across the jagged glass, out the window, and then in through the open window of their car. Then they speed off, however, the princess is not completely in the car. In fact, the bulk of her torso and legs are still dangling out of the car.

As they try to get away, one of the Huang sisters starts shooting at the car. The thing is, what would happen to the princess if she were to disable the car? Would it careen out of control into one of the concrete pylons? Would the princess be killed or only severely whiplashed?

That is the biggest failing in this film is its lack of logic. Sure it is action packed and the stunts are great, but the shear illogicality of many of the sequences beggars belief. There is no ’cause’ and ‘effect’. If Dirty Harry and his imitators were chewed out by their superiors for endangering the lives of innocent civilians, then by the end of this film, the whole Huang family, which seems to make up the majority of the Hong Kong police force, would be constantly on suspension, or kicked off the force. The disrespect for human life and property is absolutely staggering. But, after all it is only a movie and not real life – so let’s press on, shall we?

Mina is called into action as the kidnappers escape onto the street in a brown car. From her position, high above them in the car park, she unholsters her weapon and opens fire despite the princess being inside (I won’t labor the point again). Mina then jumps onto a cloth banner and slides down the face of the building. Then she leaps onto the roof of a passing car. From there, she darts through a bus, from one window to the other, finally landing on the roof of the kidnappers car. From inside, the gangsters starts shooting at the roof of car, and Mina is forced to roll off, falling on the road, in the path of an oncoming motorcycle. Miraculously, the motorcyclist slides to a halt, and Mina borrows the bike to continue her pursuit.

With Mina hot on their tail, the kidnappers break suddenly, and she rides the bike over the top of the car. Now she is in front, and the kidnappers start up again, chasing her. They fire their guns out the car window, and one shot hits the handle bars. Mina loses control, sliding to a halt in the middle of the road. The bad guys bear down on her. She leaps out of the way at the last second, and the car ploughs into the motorbike. The vehicle then careens out of control, flips over three times, coming to a crashing halt. The bad guys are bloodied, battered and bruised – as you would be if you were a passenger in a car that has rolled three times. Oh, the princess was in that car too!

The film conveniently doesn’t show us the princess. I assume she was okay, because the film cuts to an award presentation, where Mina is being presented with a commendation for outstanding police work. Yeah, right!

Above, my description is a very truncated version of what happens in the first fifteen minutes of the film, and I think I have laboured the point that She Shoots Straight is one action packed stunt fest that sets out to entertain rather than present any logical story. Having said that, in the middle of the film, there a sequence that gives this film an emotional core on which to hang the back end of the film, which once again is packed full of stunts and some impressive fight sequences.

The main plot is about a Vietnamese criminal, who is about to be deported from Hong Kong. However, he escapes from the deportation centre and goes on a crime spree throughout Honkers. It is almost as if he wants to make the city pay for trying to deport him. His first mad scheme is to rob the New World nightclub. But the police get wind of the plan and assign Mina and the whole Huang clan to work on the assignment. The operation goes horribly wrong, causing a rift in the Huang family. It also pisses of the arch villain who now wants revenge.

She Shoots Straight is directed by Cory Yuen, who certainly knows his way around an action sequence. In recent years however, he has also become a specialist gun for hire, as an ‘Action Director’ working on films such as Bulletproof Monk, Transporter 1 and 2, Cradle to the Grave, Kiss of the Dragon and Rogue Assassin (AKA: War). Prior to this however, he directed No Retreat, No Surrender and No Retreat, No Surrender 2 (and was allegedly and uncredited co-director on Game of Death 2). Yuen’s work can’t be faulted here – the the pace is sharp, only slowing in the middle when it needs to, to amp up a bit of human drama, and visually the film looks pretty slick. It only clocks in at 87 minutes, so as you can imagine, not too much time is wasted on needless plodding exposition.

I must admit, I went into this movie with pretty low expectations, expecting it to be a vanity piece for Sammo Hung who produced the film – that is to give his model wife a leading role in an action film. I expected Sammo’s pull in Hong Kong got this film made and Godenzi the leading role. And that may very well be true. But, despite any showbiz nepotism, this isn’t a half bad little action film, with some pretty good fight scenes. Godenzi acquits her self rather well, and although she seems outmatched in the final fight with Agnes Aurelio, her ability to portray conviction and pure single minded determination make the viewer believe that this slight, wafer-thin stick girl, could actually kick some serious ass. She Shoots Straight, aside from a few gaping gaps in logic, pushes all the right buttons as a cop action film. At one point Godenzi even seems to be carrying a .44 Magnum – not just ‘girls with guns’ but ‘girls with really big guns’ – which appeals to my pop-cop viewing sensibility. As a film that slipped under my radar (and may have slipped under yours), I believe it is worth seeking out, watching and enjoying. Just don’t think about it too much…just let the stunts, the fights, and the action wash over you and you will enjoy it.

This review originally appeared on Teleport City, February 2, 2011

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