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夜生活女王霞姐傳奇 (1991)
Queen of Underworld

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 01/18/2009

The busty one, Amy Yip, stars in this Triad potboiler where she plays Ha, a young woman who moves up from being a waitress to becoming Hong Kong's top madam. There's a good amount of Category III-level sex and violence, but Wong Jing's cliched script and Sherman Wong's lackluster direction assure that this film never rises above the realm of the average.

1991 was a prodigious year for Wong Jing, even by his blitzkrieg standards. He was involved in over a dozen productions. A few of them, like Fight Back to School and God of Gamblers III weren't mind-blowing examples of cinema at its' finest, but were fun enough movies. However, most of them were like this picture, cheaply-made and rushed to production in order to make a quick buck.

Everyone else involved with Queen of Underworld seems to have been in the same mode, most notably Amy Yip. She looks at times bored, and at others disgusted, neither of which add up to creating a compelling character. And even though the supporting cast is stacked with several actors who normally deliver solid work, the only one who looks like they're actually trying is Shing Fui-On, who seems to enjoy playing against type as a kind-hearted Triad that becomes Ha's protector.

Like many Wong Jing productions, there's a lot of boobs and blood thrown at the viewer. But it's nothing up to the level of something like Naked Killer, and the naughty bits just come off as hollow attempts to create some sort of interest in the pedestrian story. Even a scene featuring a gang rape of Gigi Lai (who plays Ha's daughter) doesn't come of as salacious or shocking, just a bit dull and a little insulting to the viewer.

Unless you're a huge fan of Amy Yip and her cleavage, and feel the need to see each and every movie she's been in, don't hurt yourself trying to see Queen of Underworld. When things boil down to their core, this certainly isn't a bad movie. But in the crowded world of Hong Kong gangster pictures, a film has to do something really special to stand out from the pack. Queen of Underworld's decidedly average workmanship isn't going to propel it to the head of the class anytime soon.

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 11/24/2007

“Queen of Underworld” is a melodrama that covers about 30 years in the life of Ha, a waitress who becomes a prostitute and then a madam. Ha is a huge role, full of scenery chewing pathos. She loses her daughter, gets her back, stands up to some of the toughest hoodlums in Hong Kong and wins, gives several impassioned speeches—it is the type of part that actresses love and almost never get. Amy Yip does less with it than I thought possible. Given the role of a lifetime she does a walk-through while showing all the emotion of a telephone company recording saying that a number is out of service.

Ha’s life is defined by the men who either protect or abuse her. She moves from the small time pimp Ming to Crazy Kwong, a tougher pimp, to Brother Zai, a connected police officer and then to Master An who controls Kwong. She continues to Uncle King and finally to Brother Ho, who scares the hell out of everyone. Her progress is not completely unlike that of Qiu Ju as portrayed by Gong Li in “The Story of Qiuju” as she works her way through the legal bureaucracy of the People’s Republic seeking justice for her husband. In rough and ready capitalist Hong Kong a prostitute, even a very wealthy one, has to cut deals with whoever can best protect her, always looking for someone more powerful while among the principled Communists in the PRC (at least according to their movies) anyone, even a very poor farm woman, can get justice from the state. In each case our heroine must look to forces beyond her control for help.

The structure of the film is provided by Ha’s constant seeking out of more powerful men to sponsor her and by Amy Yip’s narration, a device that adds nothing to the audience’s understanding or enjoyment. There are the not unexpected scenes of extreme violence and sexual brutality. Even though Ha is beaten up regularly the worst of it directed at Butterfly, Ha’s daughter. While both of the men who commit the violence are punished, the first when Ha slices off his penis and the second when she shoots him in the head, her retribution doesn’t bring her peace in either case.

There are a few well done set pieces. One is the first time Ha confronts Handsome Chiu. Chiu has the upper hand with only Ha and her always faithful retainer, very well played by Shing Fui-On, there to deal with Chiu and most of his gang. All seems lost until Ha plays her trump card—her boss is now Brother Ho. Ray Lui Leung-Wai stomps into the room, favoring a crippled leg, wearing a gray silk sharkskin suit and looking as mean as anyone possibly could. He is used to being obeyed—Chiu winds up on his knees pleading for his life while his gang escapes out the back door. It is a very powerful scene, done (unlike most of the movie) with great restraint and economy.

Another fun scene is Ha’s speech to her assembled working girls on how to best separate men from their money with as little risk as possible. It could be seen as a parody of every super-motivational oration ever shown on film or television, a combination of “win one for the Gipper” (it is actually given in a locker room) and “do you really want to be rich?”. Ha comes across like a more attractive (and effective) Donald Trump. Unfortunately Amy Yip’s lack of affect in delivering the speech—clearly the word “flat” would be inappropriate—robs it of much of its humor.

From what I have seen of Amy Yip’s work there was no reason for anyone in 1991 to think she could play the central character in a melodrama which “Queen of the Underworld” proves.

Not recommended

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 01/28/2007
Summary: Lots of Amy, for a change

Amy Yip in a full-on starring role ! Mostly tepid soap-opera, sometimes feverish melodrama, not much comedy and only the briefest nudity (not including Amy).

The Cat III rating is well-earned, but applies to two short scenes only : one violent sex scene near the beginning and one nasty gang-rape near the end. A very young Gigi Lai does well in the small but important part of Amy's daughter.

Far as I can tell, this is one of only two films in which Amy appears with Tan Lap-Man (the other being the excellent Erotic Ghost Story). And this is the first time I've seen the unsightly Shing Fui-On look almost handsome, as Amy's long-time male friend. A number of well-known gangster/tough actors pepper the proceedings.

Overall : mainly of interest to keen Amy fans, who want to see her actually dominate a film, rather than just walk (or wiggle ?) on and off.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/21/1999

This is a sex-and-crime vehicle for the bodacious Amy Yip, professionally put together and thus quite entertaining. While Yip shows her limitations as an actress in certain scenes, Shing Fui-On does well in a rare good-guy role as her business partner and eventual husband(!). Plenty of violence and degradation, not too much sex (several would-be actresses display their natural endowments, but not Amy) and some thrills add up to a moderately gripping C3 woman's revenge thriller for the easily pleased. Sensitive minds should avoid it.

[Reviewed by Thomas Muething]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This is the legend of Ha, and how she became the queen ofthe underworld. Working as a prostitute, abused by the men she cares for, Ha puts her life into building up a night-life empire, but fate still has one card left to play against her.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]