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神勇女煞星 (1982)
Girl with a Gun

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 01/17/2009

Girl With a Gun is a remake of Abel Ferrera's 1981 film Ms. 45, right down to the cover art. If you can forgive the fact that there's really not a shred of originality in this movie, it actually turns out that this is a very solid picture. It doesn't go as over-the-top as you might expect from a Hong Kong movie of this genre, but that actually ends up being one of the film's biggest strengths.

The story centers on Pi-Ho (Ying Hsia), a young woman who has gone mute after her parents are killed. One night, while walking home from work, she is raped in an alleyway. After Pi-Ho returns to her apartment, a man attempts to attack her, and so she fights back and kills him. The murder sets Pi-Ho off, and she beings stalking the streets and killing men she deems to be problems for women, regardless if they actually are or not.

There really isn't much depth to the story, but this is a case where there doesn't need to be a whole lot going on beneath the surface. Through her performance, Ying Hsia brings enough to the table to create a compelling character. It's too bad most of the cast doesn't seem able to follow her lead, most notably Alan Tam, who despite his top billing, only has a (thankfully) smaller role as Pi-Ho's boss. The acting isn't bad enough to totally de-rail the picture, but it definitely hurts it at points.

A big part of the reason the acting doesn't hurt this movie too much is its' style. Since I'm not well-versed in director Richard Chen's movies, I'm not sure if it was intentional or accidental. But the somewhat amateurish techniques Chen and his editor, Chiu Hung-Shing, employ give Girl With a Gun a stark grittiness and toughness reminiscent of Ringo Lam's better work. The synth-heavy score composed by Hiu Gam and Shut Git-Wing is also extremely solid, with the one big caveat being a song sung by Ying Hsia (who was a minorly popular singer in her native Taiwan) that is repeated in parts over a dozen times during the course of the movie.

Overall, despite the inherent pitfall in doing remakes (not-so-boldly going where someone just went), some flat acting, and the technical flaws in the production, Girl With a Gun ends up being a pretty satisfying take on the "female revenge" film. Fans of the genre would be well-served to hunt this little-known movie down, pop a couple of tops, and press play.

Note: the only legitimate version of this film currently available is a VCD released by Ocean Shores. Like many of their releases, the picture has been center-framed and the company's logo appears on-screen at times during the movie. The subtitles are absent for approximately half the movie, and when they are on, there's lots of grammatical and spelling errors. There also appears to be a couple of hard edits during a scene where Pi-Ho is dismembering a body. This sort of tactic is often done by home video companies to avoid a Category III/OAT II rating, yet both the front and back covers carry large warnings to not to sell the VCD to someone under the age of eighteen. Finally, the Cantonese language track appears to have been altered from the theatrical release, swapping out some of the score with circa-1984 US pop hits, including "Ghostbusters" and "Like a Virgin".

[review from]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 06/27/2002
Summary: Above average

This film was not what I was expecting. The cover shows a leggy young beauty holding a gun, and a pic of Alan Tam looking somewhat bemused. A glamorous take on James Bond, perhaps ?

Far from it ! This is a fairly gritty documentary style crime thriller about a very disturbed young lady. It may well be a true story. I know nothing about the lead actress, and can find no other films in which she acts. However, she sings the theme song, which is in part played about 15 times throughout the movie. This hyper-repetition becomes pretty tiresome, and gives the film the feel of a musical at times, as do several other musical interludes, including an excrutiating and seemingly endless three minutes of "He's Got the Whole World in his Hands", sung in horrendously fractured English.

But there is much to admire about this film. Apart from a very obvious dead spots, the direction is quite good. The cinematography is simple but very effective, especially so in the many horror scenes which deal with disposal of the first dead body. Curiously, the most impressive aspect of this film is the sound design. In the horror scenes, for example, the sonic landscape is superbly crafted from simple elements. I cannot recall any other film from HK or Taiwan which has stood out in this department.

Nearly as impressive is the lead actress. Bit of a shame that this was apparently her only role. She and Wong Yuk Wan are the only two actors whose characters are believeable and compelling, and they stand out far ahead of the remaning insipid cast, unfortunately including the nominal co-star Alan Tam. This film is a vehicle for Ying Hsia. She appears in most of the frames of the film, and gives an intense portrayal of a fast descent into madness without speaking a word (her character is a mute). And despite being a total cliche, Wong Yuk Wan does a good job as the ultimate nosy landlady.

Unfortunately, I can think of no reason to recommend this Taiwanese-produced movie, filmed in Hong Kong, to Alan Tam fans. His role is pretty small and his character is as peripheral as many in the support cast. He's little more than a guest star, and does nothing but look cute.

But the weirdest feature of this film is the subtitles. They are of far above average quality .... when they appear ! Many HK and Taiwanese films suffer the "subs drop out" syndrome, but this is the film where I've seen subs of nearly-perfect English do the flip flop. Very strange.

Overall, this film is certainly no classic. But it's a refreshing change from the poorly-directed and sloppily-made fare which is produced in massive quantity in this region. Worth a look.

Reviewer Score: 7