Underground Wife (1982)

Directed by: Hsu Yu-Lung
Written by: Yiu Hing-Hong
Producer: Yen Wu-Tong
Starring: Juliet Chan, Ma Sha, Paul Chang, Chuen Yen, Tsang Chium Chen Sing & Chen Hung-Lieh


Mei-Ling (Juliet Chan) is brutally raped one night by a number of men. Cut to six years later and now the boss of a hostess club, together with assassin for hire Shiu Ping (Ma Sha), she gets help taking out each man one by one. Including gangster boss Geng Mui-Shiu (Chen Hung-Lieh) who was one of the rapists and who hired Shiu Ping for his services. An agreement that didn't end well...

Hsu Yu-Long (Who Knows About Me, King Of Snake) continues to merely come off as workman like director not making any cinematic imprints as such. With King Of Snake being a special effects spectacle (successful to varying degrees), that is a noisy genre at least. So is the rape-revenge one and while to the point efficiency is a welcome choice for Underground Wife, as a genre piece it goes through the motions and doesn't make much of that genre-noise.

Certainly promises to be harrowing and violent as the opening ten minute rape scene is pretty excruciating yet at the same over the top to comical effect as the drunk gang are anything but subtle. They're a happy, delighted, sadistic bunch and that should be tough and frightening. But here it's tough to watch and rather embarrassing the way Hsu favours the lack of subtlety.

But being swift and simple is a minor positive for Underground Wife and while there's attempts at fleshing out characters, the whole movie has her ticking off each man to take out and so does the movie as it presents its elements. Seek out, lure in and violently take revenge plus some unexpected romance between Chan and Ma Shaw (in a rare, semi-heroic role) who both have turbulent pasts and scars. But not enough violence in all honesty is there (most take place off screen and Hsu Yu-Long doesn't know how to make that impactful) to make the revenge felt and Chan, while game, does not have the chops to make an impact akin to Lu Hsiao-Fen in The Lady Avenger.

Underground Wife has its sights on exploiting a commercial genre and it's even more profitable element of action and it's in the latter department the movie scores better. The last 20 minutes or so is a pretty relentless assault of brawls and fights with Ma Sha usually taking on multiple opponents and the The First Error Step-star makes this an immersing stretch of celluloid. It's also here some more visible, intense violence flashes before us and those flashes are enough to be effective. But it's flashes in a rather calculated, mild time in a genre that needs to show its teeth and bite to cinematic and impactful.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson