Note from Vern: I’m working on a write-up of the Cinefamily Seagalogy event, but for now please enjoy this review of an obscure Hong Kong gem thanks everybody.
SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT (aka LETHAL LADY) is an action vehicle for Joyce Godenzi, who stole the show as the Vietnamese double agent in the classic EASTERN CONDORS. She had been in a bunch of movies before this, but I believe this is her only starring vehicle. Today she’s known as the wife of Sammo Hung (who has a supporting role in this), but it should be noted that she didn’t marry him until 1995, so that’s not why she gets a movie, it’s not because of nepotism. Actually, it’s probly because she was Miss Hong Kong, 1984. But I’m glad they thought of doing that because she is incredible.
Here she plays Mina, a supercop who recently got a promotion and also married her handsome co-worker Tsung-Pao (Tony Leung, the one from A BETTER TOMORROW 3).
And you’d think she’d be happy as a clam on Zoloft but she’s got this problem that now she’s got a gaggle of sisters-in-law who are fellow cops who all hate her. They’re worse than the sisters in THE FIGHTER. They’re jealous of her success at work, they try to undermine her authority, disobey her commands, embarrass her. They whine about her getting all the credit for an operation where she clearly deserved the most credit. If they were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that she was the one who slid down the side of a parking garage, jumped onto a moving cab, climbed through a bus, jumped out the other side onto the moving getaway car, got shot at and rolled off and almost run over by a motorcycle which she then commandeered and chased the car literally through a wall of fire, drove over it, ducked a bullet, skidded out the bike and jumped off so the car would hit the bike, flip and roll without hurting the princess. Yeah, the sisters helped, but Mina did the Jackie Chan shit. Plus, the attack happened when most of you ladies were in the bathroom.
I don’t want to be crass, or actually I do so here goes, it seems like they want to fuck their brother. But not only that, they’re racist. The sort of ring leader of the sisters eventually flips out at work and yells “Half breed!” over and over at her (in real life Godenzi’s mother was Chinese and her father was Australian).
It’s so ridiculous to me, these bigots who seem to exist in all cultures, who insist on racial purity. They think it’s “unnatural” for people of different heritages to fall in love and/or have children. Now, this may not be the most politically correct argument to use against those knuckleheads, but have you ever noticed how many ridiculously attractive mixed race people are out there? It doesn’t even matter the combo. The more ethnically ambiguous the better. It seems to me if something is unnatural here it’s ignoring that instinct. But anyway. She claims that Mina is ugly. This is Joyce Godenzi:
I mean come on. You’re ice skating uphill, girl.
Anyway, amidst all this familial bickering comes a big case. Mina and the sisters have to go undercover as workers at a casino about to be robbed by a vicious Vietnamese gang. These guys became blood brothers during the war – I think it’s a lift from ROYAL WARRIORS. They also have a scene of guns hidden in bird cages like HARD BOILED. Of the two it’s most similar to the first one, because it’s very much a vehicle for this limber, beautiful woman to do crazy, acrobatic moves like this:
But also the cop movie stuff like guns, cars and motorcycles. And you know what, I’m not saying it’s as amazing as Michelle Yeoh jumping the motorcycle onto the moving train in SUPERCOP, but I’m pretty sure this is Godenzi really doing this motorcycle jump. Think about American movies starring models. Cindy Crawford didn’t do any real motorcycle jumps in FAIR GAME in my opinion. But that’s how they did it over there in Hong Kong back then. Hats off to her.
One thing that makes it stand out from other movies of the time is not necessarily a positive. It has this big chunk of melodrama in the middle that paints a pretty traditionalist picture of women. It’s all about these sisters, their jealousy, attachment to their brother, the importance of a wife as a babymaker.
Mina fights against this, asserting her right to wait until she’s where she wants to be in her career before trying to have a kid. But the movie treats it as cutesy when her husband ignores her wishes and pokes holes in the condom.
In my opinion there is no legitimate reason to poke holes in a condom. It should be a felony. Only possible exceptions are 1) if there’s some reason to do it in squibs for a bloody action movie 2) if you need to time travel and give Hitler an STD. Other than those two reasons if you EVER find yourself with a rubber in one hand and a sharp object in the other you better check yourself, motherfucker.
Of course in the movie it turns out good because SPOILER he’s killed in the line of duty (being experienced guerrilla fighters those Vietnamese create some SERIOUS booby traps, man) and she’s pregnant and carrying on his legacy for the family. So in the movie’s opinion she is meant to be a mother, ready or not. There’s a long, incredibly awkward scene where Mina and sister have just watched him die, but agree not to tell the family yet because they don’t want to ruin mother’s birthday party. Then everybody keeps bringing him up and they have to make up fake stories without crying. It didn’t make any sense to me but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t actually kinda sad when the mother found out and made an emotional toast to her dead son. She’s a tough old lady who punches out a few people in the course of the movie. You can see where the rest of the family get it from.
Soon after that scene it’s gonna be badass from here on out, because the Vietnamese guys blow up the coffin at the funeral (another thing kinda like ROYAL WARRIORS), Mina gets injured and chooses to have surgery with no anesthesia to protect the baby, then she and sister-in-law put aside their differences and disobey orders to go bust the motherfuckers themselves. All that soap opera stuff paid off because after they work that through they seem like a solid mis-matched buddy team. Just a fierce bond, no RUSH HOUR type racial jokes.
There is definitely some stuff in here that’s gonna bother us as feminists. Like, why is it these badass martial artists suddenly “fight like girls” when they get into it at work? You gotta have a cat fight even in this movie? But on the other hand this is a women’s movie in that she takes care of the men first and has the climactic fight with the one woman in the gang.
That’s a great fight, totally vicious. The bad girl seems to be a fan of the Ice Cube lyric “what you oughta do is kick the bitch in the tummy.” But our girl Mina doesn’t take no mess. She kicks her enemy in two different types of lady parts.
Despite that part in the middle this has that great Hong Kong feel of being stuffed with crazy action sequences. It’s a Corey Yuen joint, and you can tell. One fairly small part that really impressed me has a guy getting knocked out a window, breaking through awnings, landing on the street and shooting back up at the window, all in one shot. Even now that they have computers to do it they don’t usually do a shot that cool.
Dear Hollywood, next time you’re trying to turn somebody into an action star, you should go all out like this.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.