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Angel (1987) Directed by: Teresa Woo & Raymond Leung

While Yes, Madam and Royal Warriors resurrected the female action heroine in the form of Michelle Yeoh, it was Angel that more distinctly kickstarted the genre, also known as "girl with guns". In particular it was Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima that became icons of the genre (no wonder in regards to Yukari, she's terrific here) and went on to star in numerous other similar vehicles such as Angels 2, Dreaming The Reality and Angel Terminators 2. As with important efforts from the martial arts genre such as The Chinese Boxer and The Big Boss, Angel doesn't necessarily represents the highest quality but a kind of landmark and therefore it's more of an effort on par with many entries in the genre.

The mixture of Charlie's Angels and James Bond doesn't exactly mean originality and with routine plotting, Angel only has the action to fall back on. However, that aspect does add colour with action director Tony Leung creating fast moving set pieces involving both gunplay and fight action. Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima fans may be disappointed that neither is fighting to the extent that subsequent movies showcases but rest assured, the finale represents a beginning of this pairing in a gritty manner. Also with David Chiang, Elaine Lui, Saijo Hideki, Alex Fong (he's come a long way since these days) and Hwang Jang Lee.

The Hong Kong print credits Tony Leung and Ivan Lai as directors in addition to Teresa Woo and Raymond Leung but according to an interview with Tony, Woo remained on the sidelines producing and writing in actuality.

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Angel II (1988) Directed by: Teresa Woo

Setting a new, kickass standard compared to its landmark predecessor, while Angel was no great shakes outside of the fine action, Angel II is largely and clearly a bought product by the likes of the Malaysian Tourism Board. The angel team consisting of the returning Moon Lee, Alex Fong and Elaine Lui go on vacation to Malaysia, visit transvestite, little people and kung-fu dancing shows while the process of producing palm oil is explained in detail by their rich friend Peter Kam (Nathan Chan). Indeed incredibly dull patches of film with the three leads courteously smiling and laughing along, rightfully a lot of this was lifted out of the international Killer Angels 2 version.

It turns out Peter is smuggling arms though and wants rebellion so finally control is handed over to the Hong Kong filmmakers (as with the first movie, I doubt the last half hour action finale was overseen much by Teresa Woo but instead action director Stanley Tong) who delivers the material for Angel II to be able to claim it's a much better movie than the first. Although dependable action often involving the leads has been hinted at, it's in the terrific jungle action sequence the true goods are revealed. The production design and pyrotechnics are of high caliber are resembles Tong's own, subsequent directorial work such as The Stone Age Warriors and Police Story III: Supercop. Moon Lee burns herself into the minds of the audience the most though by among other things doing a hairy fire stunt followed by a high fall perfectly showcased by Tong's multiple cameras (later on Devil Hunters, Lee would be injured performing a similar fire stunt). Her encounter with Yuen Tak is also OUCH-celluloid if ever that was an official term to use and Angel II is reference material that doubters of the original will surely approve of. Of course the films are a mix of Charlie's Angels and James Bond and listen to the score over the end credits... there are some familiar notes present there. Shameless. Priceless.

Angel III (1989) Directed by: Teresa Woo

KENNETH'S REVIEW: More executive director's Stanley Tong and Dang Tak-Wing's work is felt on this the third installment of Teresa Woo's series of films. That's surely because Woo still remained on the sidelines producing and writing in actuality, something that was the case for the first movie according to hkcinemagic's interview with action director Tony Leung. There's no need for a storyteller though, just a guiding hand to make sure this comes off as a mostly Thailand bound James Bond adventure. Gadgets and stock villains with their pets along with international flavour is evident, even down to the casting of a Caucasian member of the angel group called Computer. Still, it's the Hong Kong influence that reigns, leaving out potentially a varied character action assault but Moon Lee and Alex Fong carry the torch pretty well. Fong/stunt doubles take part in a dangerous car chase through a marketplace, a hard hitting kickboxing match and gets jetpacks to play with during the finale. The latter being quite the insane, wonderful moment to surprise with during the standard gunplay. Moon isn't by any stretch of the imagination doing reference work but jacks up the intensity level of the film via several bouts with multiple characters at once. She's curiously left out of the climax though, showing filmmakers thinking more of desire than logic.

Angel Delight (1992) Directed by: Kong Yeung

Introduced in modern day by an announcer who says we might remember him from ATV, the launch into the period sex drama from that suggests we're about to follow something or someone meaningful. Vague suggestion that becomes a clear fact very soon that this is a very sparse time. Shot on very few and small sets, largely the thread is about a group of prostitutes being bought out by men and some dream for the prince to come along. Some goofier sights of training, whipping and torture through tickling pass the time and the erotic factor is fair at some points. But it grows tiresome when director Kong Yeung present little flare and largely a static drama aimed at a bed for many scenes. Although getting the point across during a rape sequence that we're not being let out of this horrible scenario through that choice, Angel Delight is so small and vague to the point where it doesn't matter even when a main character dies tragically right before the end credits.

Angel Enforcers (1989) Directed by: Hoh Chi-Mau

Credited at the Hong Kong Movie Database as co-director, Godfrey Ho's presence is certainly felt in the casting of it all as a bunch of awkward Western performers come and go, some more familiar than others (Mark Houghton, Abbott among others). What Angel Enforcers clearly is however is afterburner fuel courtesy of Angel and a designed intro around our quartet of girls with guns (Sharon Yeung leading the pack) where they all get an op to pose leads into a cheap vehicle that merely wants to crush and punish. Scattered with not too much painful intervals of comedy and drama are some quite heavy duty, painful stunt work (I'm willing to bet Ridley Tsui took the jump from a bridge and then bounced off two cars) and lead Yeung fights ferociously as the tough cookie of a chick she is. A fair success then and some well-spent money (or not) on these insane stuntmen means we, as padding, have to endure the shenanigans of naughty, rich boy Charlie Cho who at one point is left in the caring hands of American gay porn stars! Dick Wei also appears as the brutal force he can be at the best of times but the narrative choice to focus on the righteous brotherhood between him and Phillip Ko's character actually switches sympathy attention away from where it's supposed to be. Very odd. Ha Chi-Jan (Eastern Condors), Wu Fung and Walter Tso also appear.

Angel Hunter (1991) Directed by: Sun Chung

Social worker Chow (Lau Ching-Wan) together with a professor on religion (Ng Man-Tat) tries to expose the religious sect Heresy (led by Anthony Wong) who ropes in innocents and is starting to get a footing in the world of politics as well. Sun Chung's last movie as director and he proved post Shaw Brothers after making classics such as The Avenging Eagle, Human Lanterns etc that he had vision and gas left in the tank. Making edgy, violent and dark movies like City War and Lady In Black after life at Shaw's, Angel Hunter continues on that theme. With a plotline not often utilized in Hong Kong cinema and playing it mostly straight (Ng Man-Tat's professor keeps nude slides amidst the material he shows Lau Ching-Wan at the beginning of the film in a rather dopey moment), Chung keeps fair tension throughout and stages arresting imagery both connecting to the allure of the sect, the eroticism within and the subsequent violence (including a horrific bit where one of the actresses has a shower curtain wrapped around her head, seemingly a very real stunt). Vivian Chow is effective as the girl experiencing doubt in God and gets close to Anthony Wong's bishop and his closest woman played by Carrie Ng, even if her journey is spelled out way too literally at points. Footage from Race With The Devil is incorporated and used as "real" footage within the plot.

Angel Of The Road (1993) Directed by: Barry Chung

It's a van driver's non-future or lack of pure desire to build one vs. the good girl looking to be educated, of course these two opposites (in this case Max Mok and Loletta Lee) are drawn to each other. All while Mok's Shing Kee is building up enemies in a rival triad gang (led by an overacting Alex Fong). Competently lensed and even performed (Max Mok is assured and veteran support comes from Roy Chiao and Chen Kuan-Tai), Angel of The Road is predictable, dull and sedated with only the final reel violence involving lead cast fire stunts showing off any colour.

Angel Or Whore (1990) Directed by: Lai Jun-Git

Behind a very upfront title detailing quite clearly the main plot beat lies a flat and limp fantasy. Matthew Wong and Sheren Tang are destined to be heaven's warriors or something like that and have to stop Pai Ying's plans to rule the world. Initially crafting a very solid opening with mix of physical and animated effects plus surprisingly brutal bloodshed, it all fades out as we try and grasp Wong's character and why he leaves several people dead in his tracks. Eventually becoming a road trip, without much of a budget to spice up the frame and terrible chemistry between the leads there's no chance to matter here. Even though Pai Ying tries admirably, the finale set against pitch black backgrounds to disguise lack of budget and wires becomes an exercise in desperation to matter.

Angel's Mission (1990) Directed by: Phillip Ko

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Showcasing an arsenal early and eventually packing a decent punch in the action-stakes, Phillip Ko won't have anyone interested in experiencing his bare minimum plot at regular speed. No, the fast forward button is your friend in this story of friendships and connections on both sides of the law. Seeing Yukari Oshima actually speak Japanese for once is fun. As is a strange scene with Alfred Cheung demanding AIDS should not enter Japan but little makes sense but the pain, mayhem and hard hitting nature in the action. It makes for a watch that perhaps reaches 20 minutes at normal speed. Dick Wei and Ha Chi-Jan (Eastern Condors) also appear.

Angel's Project (1993) Directed by: Cheung Ho-Tak

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Dire Moon Lee/Sibelle Hu actioner set in Malaysia. A simple delivery mission of a criminal and a computer disc goes wrong and the female duo from Hong Kong has to stick with the Malaysia setting. This mean some culture clashes and an unwilling bond via handcuffs with a thief (Benny Lai). Shame about the suckage in a way because director Cheung introduces an unusual hero early. I.e. an older, slightly obese kickass cop but as he's killed off, we put our hopes into Lee and Hu. Utilized very poorly and within choppy action, there's minor one-take wonders with Lee but remainder of Angel's Project bores. Laughable "highlights" include the world's slowest car chase, piss jokes and a jungle setting with sneaky traps bound to come out during the finale. Jimmy Lung as a crooked cop isn't even allowed to act up a storm.

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