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April 30th, 2001 Issue #54

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- a film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

Martial Angels
(2001; Film Power Company / The Storm Riders Management Co.): 3/10

Cover art courtesy Deltamac.

Juet sik san tau

Jue se shen tou

Most Sexy Mystical Thieves

Hsu Chi. Image courtesy Deltamac.

While in the midst of trying to steal a valuable diamond necklace, beautiful high tech thief Cat (Hsu Chi) finds that she is in for some competition from male counterpart Lok Chi-yeung (Julian Cheung Chi-lam). The two end up stealing the bauble (stored in a safe located at the bottom of a swimming pool) together and successfully elude the mansion's armed security guards. The story picks up three years later, with Cat and Chi-yeung having gone their separate ways and the former now working as a secretary for the Mega Soft high technology firm. Shortly after re-uniting with her old partner in crime, Octopus (Kelly Lin Hsi-lei), Cat receives word that Chi-yeung is being held by the Russian mafia and will be killed unless she does a job for them.

Kelly Lin (left) and Rosemary Vandenbroucke (right). Image courtesy Deltamac.

Enlisting the aid of her other attractive associates (Sandra Ng Kwan-yu, Teresa Mak Kar-kei, Rachel Ngan Wing-sze, and Eurasian models Rosemary Vandenbroucke and Amanda Strand), Cat devises a plan to free Chi-yeung and the team is able to successfully rescue him from a hideout in Chungking Mansions. However, the Russians manage to steal him back, necessitating that Cat fulfil her end of the deal by stealing new anti-piracy software stored in her company's seemingly impenetrable safe. For that, she will need help from explosives expert Bone (Terence Yin Chi-wei), who is also a dangerous sexual deviant.

Terence Yin (left) and Teresa Mak (right). Image courtesy Deltamac.

A few years back, the prospect of a girls-with-guns actioner directed by Clarence "Naked Killer" Fok Yiu-leung sounded about as close to a can't-miss proposition as genre fans could hope for. Unfortunately, MARTIAL ANGELS manages to disappoint on practically every level, ranking down with the director's similarly ineffectual HER NAME IS CAT (1998). The action sequences are thoroughly routine and certainly not helped by the fact that none of the leads can fake their way through the martial artists setpieces (undercranking and over-editing are abundant). The achingly familiar storyline induces yawns and groans in equal measure, and allusions to NAKED KILLER (via the emphasis on visuals, chic outfits, and the fact that Octopus is a lesbian) merely punctuate this movie's shortcomings. The production also looks unforgivably cheap (the Mega Soft safe and surrounding area an especially threadbare bit of production design) and the CGI is poor, resembling something that was concocted on a consumer PC. MARTIAL ANGELS does boast one of the most photogenic casts in memory but, in the end, even a multitude of the prettiest faces around can only carry a movie so far and there is nothing else here to entice the viewer. Wong Jing appears, in a supporting role, as a company official that Sandra Ng must seduce in order to get his fingerprints.

Rachel Ngan. Image courtesy Deltamac.

DVD Specs:

Deltamac #DVD88015
Dolby Digital Mono (1.0)
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English or Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
9 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Stills
Letterboxed (1.85:1)
Category IIB (for mid-range violence and brief, non-explicit sexual violence)
87 Minutes

DVD menu courtesy Deltamac.

There is minor wear in the source material but the image is very sharp and boasts quite attractive colors. The Cantonese version (which is about 50% post-synched) is rather flat, while the Mandarin dubtrack sounds crisper and more appealing. Identical Cantonese and Mandarin trailers are the only extra and, while Deltamac has started providing an English synopsis on their packaging, they are still leaving the menu only in Chinese. Subtitle translation is mediocre, with some amusing errors (when one of the villains refers to Chungking Mansions, it is transcribed as "Drunken Mention"). There is actually a second disc inside the keep case, consisting of a four minute English language promo video for CMC Corporate Video (a Taiwanese disc manufacturer), a slide show of their products, trailers for six Deltamac DVDs (this film, CONMAN IN TOKYO, HEALING HEARTS, THE ENEMY, THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT, and WISHFUL MILENIO), four Dolby Digital trailers, and two DTS trailers.

Hsu Chi (left) and Amanda Strand (right). Image courtesy Deltamac.

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review