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RE (1996)
Velvet Gloves

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 02/27/2007

“Velvet Gloves” begins with an assault against a group of armed men in an abandoned building. All the members of the attacking team are women dressed in green camouflage fatigues and red berets and look quite fetching. They are experts with small arms and explosives and can kill silently with the knife, garrote and sledge hammer(!). All of the members of the unit are very well trained in unarmed combat and are not above beating up a prisoner who is being held at gunpoint. While this initiative looked to be successful—the hostage was freed and all the kidnappers arrested or killed—in the after action meeting the male commander of the unit picks out the mistakes each of them had made. Despite the very real looking explosions and live gunfire we were watching a training mission and it is time for more rigorous training.

Training consists of a very difficult obstacle course. There are walls to be scaled, ditches to jump across and hurdles to be hurdled. They swing from ropes, cross river on shaky bridges and crawl under barbed wire. All of this is accomplished while wearing full combat gear including a heavy pack—and once they are finished they simply start again, continuing the course until each of them falls exhausted. There is one lesson in particular that stands out. The trainees are divided into squads. One by one the trainees step forward, brace themselves and are hit in the back by an instructor wielding a huge club. The trainee who has been hit then collapses in pain and is led away by other squad members. This is one tough bunch of people. Additional classes in make-up—how to look like a nightclub hostess, for example—followed by lessons in language, computer skills and target recognition.

By now the audience should have seen relationships flourish among the women and have developed some interest in who would succeed, who would fail and how it would happen. But for this to occur we would have to see distinct personalities, strengths and weaknesses in at least a few of the recruits. However they remain a bunch of running, jumping and shooting nonentities. It is only after three of them fail a particularly inane exercise and are forced to fight with three male kung fu instructors in order to stay in the program—instructors nicknamed “the killing machines”--that we see enough of three of the characters that we can empathize a bit with them but by then it is much too late.

The group antics continue when a bunch of boorish young men try to pick up the trainees who are on leave in Hong Kong en masse. When they go from being merely annoying to crude the women, to the surprise of no one at all, rough them up enough so that they slink away. Almost immediately afterwards, while traveling in their rented bus they encounter a gang beating a bunch of workers at a construction site. We have seen that the workers are being roughed up after complaining to the boss that their paychecks have been shorted. The trainees don’t know this—they just see a melee going on, pile out of their vehicle and put their training to use, beating up and isolating the thugs, stomping the suit-wearing boss and, to top it off, escaping from a squad of uniformed Hong Kong policemen who arrive to intervene.

There are a couple of inescapable points here. The first underlines the main theme of the movie, that there are both safety and strength in numbers—while any of the recruits by themselves wouldn’t be able to accomplish much as a group they are all but invincible. While there is one very specific instance successful individual initiative—the three who each had to defeat one of the “killing machine” instructors—this came about only because the group begged their chief instructor to allow the three to redeem themselves after a failure. Everything they do, from eavesdropping on the base commander to learning English by flashlight after curfew to beating up bad guys they do as a group.

The second is that the female trainees are already superior in countering criminal violence than are the regular Hong Kong police. Without weapons, uniforms or identification they stop the assault on the workers but are able to easily slip away when the police come storming in, batons raised. The district commander, when meeting with their superior officer, makes clear that he is not all that unhappy with what happened—a bunch of unarmed girls successfully dealing with a vicious mob, some of whom were armed while others were already wanted by the authorities.

The movie ends as it must. Right after their final exam—which, apparently, they all passed—their unit is summoned to do battle with a group of gunmen who are barricaded in a warehouse. Plenty of shooting—the newly commissioned policewomen slide down ropes, hang upside down and leap through the air all while firing 9mm rounds into criminals who are firing back with automatic weapons. When they finally confront the leaders of the gunmen they are almost out of bullets so hand to hand combat is necessary. Since each of the three leaders is a very accomplished fighter it takes the entire group to subdue them.

There are a couple of decent action scenes, including the last training exercise which takes place in a what the group thinks is a poison gas manufacturing facility—they believe they are on a live mission—defended by chemical workers who are also highly trained martial artists. The camera moves from one fight to the next, staying on each one long enough to capture excellent punches, kicks and falls.

Recommended only for fanatical Jade Leung fans

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: sharkeysbar
Date: 03/14/2005
Summary: Girls n guns galore

Jade Leung Chang "stars" in this mid 1990s movie, which is unfortunately very, very forgetable. It follows an intake into the Gong An's special forces training school.
It is a cheap film, with an equally cheap and predictable story line, girls, guns, fights, repeatedly endlessly. There are more holes in this story than a sieve, but if a dose of entertainment based on girls, guns fights etc is what is required then this fits the bill. The story is just silly but I think that isn't the reason it was made, nor why most (me included) would want to watch it.
I don't know what this says about "Velvet Gloves", but I think "Satin Steel" may be a better film all round! It certainly isn't Jade Leung's best work, but it will do, it is firmly in the middle of its genre.