Black Cat in Jail (2000)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2011-08-25
Summary: A badly constructed mess
“Black Cat in Jail” is far from a typical women in prison movie—it’s more like a Lifetime Network movie of the week about female bonding during extremely difficult circumstances. There is self-sacrifice, nobility in the face of tragedy, the transforming power of true friendship and a couple of stark warnings about the dangers of cosmetic surgery: you will get old anyway unless you get hit in the face with a pool cue and then your nose and chin will fall off. But the really bad news is that the bags of silicone in your chest will leak and give you cancer. Death, disease and pillow fights but not a hint of what we expect from this genre: scenes from the uncurtained shower room and some same-sex groping.

Three of our heroines are serving life sentences for murder. Jade Leung, the Black Cat herself, took out a few roomfuls of lazy and sloppy villains, guys just begging to be put out of their misery. Since they were led by the always menacing Frankie Ng, Cat could have just let things run their course and waited for Frankie to start throwing them out of windows. However, things start with a blaze of action as Cat fires through the peephole of a locked door and into the eye of one of Frankie’s men. The mayhem begins and confusion reigns during a melee on a stairwell and then a rooftop with lots of gunplay among Cat and two groups of armed men who seem to be trying to kill each other.

When a stray bullet knocks a child from a 14th floor ledge, Cat rappels down the building using wires from a TV antenna and saves him, ignoring the instruction from her controller to drop the kid and escape. A wanted criminal—although the Hong Kong police must not have been looking too hard for her since she struts around in a black leather suit with very dark wraparound shades and a couple of big pistols—she is sent to prison for life.

Teresa Mak is also doing life; she was set up as the front woman for an illegal real estate deal and when the police stopped her to arrest her she decided to make a run for it in her car, smashing into and killing one of the police officers. Catherine Hung Yan, the third lifer, had a private detective follow her philandering husband, brooded over the pictures of him with his girlfriend and then stabbed him with a big knife while he slept next to her in their double bed. Having killed her husband she now plots revenge on the woman from behind prison walls. The fourth prisoner probably belongs in stupid jail. She was at the airport with her young child in her arms when a chancy looking guy with the same type of athletic bag that she had switched them, literally at her feet. The switched bag had an easily discovered (and not even well wrapped) package of white powder.

We see theses and a few other crimes in flashback. The very clunky structure of “Black Cat in Jail” has a scene of dull exposition followed by a scene of prison life—in the yard, the cafeteria or the large, airy cells for 20 or so inmates—followed by a flashback. Impossible coincidences are piled on top of each other as it grinds along in a slow march of traffic cop like directing, point and shoot cinematography and risible dialog. The actresses do as much as they can; Teresa Mak has a couple of nice scenery chewing moments and Jade Leung does a decent job with her very slow understanding that even cold blooded murderers need love. Catherine Hung Yan was convincing in one of her big moments as a knife wielding maniac.

The way the prison is depicted is like no other I have seen in films. Everyone has ready access to weapons like sharpened toothbrush handles, sawed-off pool cues and strips of metal that have been honed to a fine edge. If an inmate wants to take an overdose of sleeping pills she just heads for the infirmary and steals them. Fights, beatings and even killings happen regularly but no one is punished for anything. All the prisoners have matches even though no one smokes—they come in handy for the non-stop round of birthday parties in the cells after lights out.

There isn’t much reason to join Jade, Teresa and company in the slow slog to the final credits of “Black Cat in Jail.”

Three point out of ten. One for Teresa Mak, One for Jade Leung and one for having the chutzpah to put this dreck onscreen.
Reviewer Score: 2