Murders Made to Order (1993)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2009-07-11
"Welcome to our society" says Waise Lee(Shih Lung) to Cynthia Khan (Nikko), toasting her with his wine glass. What follows is a reference to one of the iconic scenes from “La Femme Nikita". Cythia is paged and leaves to answer a phone call. Returning to the table she finds her companion is gone and has left a carved wooden box and a bouquet of flowers behind. Unconcerned about paying the tab, Cynthia opens the box, reads a note and (of course) hefts the gun inside. The phone call told her to deliver the flowers and shoot a person dining at the restaurant which she does, dispatching several guards both during the hit and afterwards. She finds her escape blocked, retreats through the kitchen out a small window.

This is compressed storytelling and economical filmmaking at its very best. In a brief scene made shorter by egregious undercranking Lee Kwok-Laap tells us everything we have to know--assuming that we have seen "La Femme", "Point of No Return" or "Black Cat". The arrest, death sentence, reprieve and all that special training can be assumed to have happened to Cynthia Khan and overseen by Waise Lee.

But wait: here comes a flashback, perhaps to sketch in some of the backstory. It is hard to follow, with a lot of gunplay, many dead people including Anthony Wong and then the expected prison within a hospital, the grim parade of doctors and guards entering the white painted cell, the prisoner sitting in the corner with her face obscured. She lifts her head and...wait, that's not Cynthia Khan! It's Jade Leung!! This must be "Black Cat 4". Cool.

Nope. It isn't Jade, either. Caught up in the context (and fooled by the haircut) we misidentified Maggie Siu for a moment. So, back to "Murders Made to Order" where a brainwashed Maggie (Angel) shoots Lester Chan (Cheng, a uniformed inspector) who earlier was the person who killed Anthony Wong, who was also a police officer and who was close to Angel.

Two years pass, Angel is released from the hospital/prison into the custody of Cheng who now walks with a limp since Angel shot him but not in the leg. He is after Mr. Tu who has taken over the gang that employs both Lung and Nikko. Everything clear? I couldn't really figure it out either but decided to just go where the creative winds decided to take Lee Kwok-Laap.

He decides to dress Maggie as a hooker and drop her, as Gigi, into the middle of a feuding group of hostesses in the club owned by Mr. Tu where she quickly earns her props in the ladies locker room when she ends a dispute by brandishing a broken bottle. She has already gone through the ceremony, apparently one undergone by a significant number of Hong Kong police officers, in which she is sent undercover, her police identity erased and he contact limited to only one officer. Who, if history tells us anything, will not live to the end of the movie.

Having lost count of the movies that were referenced/quoted/plagiarized it was best to just enjoy Angel/Gigi being Angel/Gigi. She cuts quite a swatch through some of the low rent gangsters, driving a carving knife through the hand of one and pining him to the table when he hits her newly found friend/informant/target Chiu. She dispatches another with a blow from a board studded with nails--actually two blows, one on the back to get this attention the other into his chest to finish him off. While Maggie Siu was ferocious and convincing in these one on one type scenes in which timing, delivery of lines and facial expressions were more important than the one act itself, she would fare much worse in convincing us that she was able to take out large groups of thugs.

Shih Lung spots her as the next recruit and Gigi is prospering as the newest highly trained murderess--so well the Mr. Tu picks her for a particularly difficult and important assassination. The unfortunate part of this honor is that she will be killed afterwards. Not knowing her planned fate, Gigi carries out the assignment but doesn't kill the target, hitting him in the arm which allows him to escape. Inspector Cheng has completely turned against Gigi by now, not only telling Mr. Tu that he is free to kill her but helps set her up for his killers and even going to the ambush himself to make sure it goes off properly.

It doesn't, of course. Gig has already thwarted one clumsy and ineffective attempt by Shih Lung to finish her off and escaped in the company of and with the help of Bo (Chang Kwok-Bong who delivers the only authentic and convincing performance in the movie). Now she deals with two motorcycle mounted assassins, killing them but also reducing the inventory of phone booths in the then Crown Colony since they blow up in flames when a skidding motorcycle hits them.

With less than ten minutes left before the final credits role, Lee Kwok-Laap decided to recap the childhood relationship between Gigi and Cheng through some clumsy flashbacks to the orphanage where they grew up. Since Gigi and Bo were just hanging out on the beach waiting for a squad of gunmen to arrive to kill them it was as good a way as any to pad out the ending. They thought they were waiting for a boat that would take them to the Philippines but we knew the only boat showing up on that morning would be full of armed men with murderous intent.

Since no one involved in "Murders Made to Order" seemed capable of staging or filming a plausible action scene they filled the last few scenes with people who had to be killed multiple times. Shih Lung was dispatched once pretty quickly but then, having had a change of heart while dead, recovered to kill a bunch of bad guys to help Gigi escape. Bo was made of even tougher stuff, suffering three mortal wounds before finally succumbing for good and killing Cheng for the third time during his second resurrection. Cheng who had been shot (apparently) dead made a comeback to corner Gigi who this time tried to make sure by shooting him through the heart. Even this didn't keep him dead so the final battle on the beach was between Cheng and Bo who killed each other taking turns with a wicked boat hook. This could be a preview of karmic retribution, being constantly reborn only to have to die again in rage, fear and pain with your throat cut open by the same person who you had already killed once.

Or maybe the thin stream of ideas that had fed this movie ran completely dry by this time. "Murders Made to Order" is a mediocre film made worse by its atrocious action scenes. Maggie Siu Mei-Kei has many sterling qualities--she is a terrific actress in both lead parts and supporting roles; she is very attractive and can convince an audience that she is tough enough to take on a platoon of thugs. But she simply doesn't shine as an action heroine and the plodding and occasionally completely incompetent action direction here made that all too clear, including a couple of fights in which her double was not only clearly framed and filmed but who didn't look like her at all.

Not recommended even for fans of Maggie Siu and Cynthia Khan.
Reviewer Score: 3