Angel Force


Feb 25, 2012

Angel Force (1991)
Director: Hua Shan and Simon Chun Yueng
Writers: Johnny Lee
Starring: Moon Lee, Wilson Lam, Shing Fui-On and Wang Lung Wei

The Plot: Angel Force begins by introducing the audience to Herman (Shing Fui-On) who is walking through a underground parking garage with his henchmen who are carrying briefcases full of cash. Before this group can make it to their illegal meeting, two interpol officers, Lung (Wilson Lam) and May (Moon Lee), jump from out of the shadows and begin questioning them. What follows is a brutal fight scene that allows Herman his chance to escape. Skip forward and we watch as Lung and his wife, who are a young couple with a son, preparing to finally head off on a long overdue vacation. Lung is a government agent though, so as you might have already expected, his plans don’t come to fruition. He is immediately called off from this vacation and must instead help find Herman who has now ran away to Burma. Lung is now given the option to put together his very own special team of agents in order to travel into Burma and tackle Herman headfirst. He of course brings along May (Moon Lee), as well as a group of violent and specialized warriors. Will they be successful in their mission, or will Herman walk away free yet again?

The Review
For those of you who have missed all of my previous writings, the Hong Kong “girls with guns” genre is one area that I have recently found myself quite infatuated with. Featuring pretty girls who fight harder, rougher, and go way further than their male counterparts, this strange world has certainly dominated the front page of Varied Celluloid within the past several months. While Angel Force was a title that I originally tracked down because of Moon Lee, and although the title might confuse you into thinking otherwise, Angel Force isn’t actually the very best example of what this genre has to offer. As I will talk about during the rest of this review, this is a title that doesn’t hand over the reigns to Moon Lee right from the start. Inevitably she wanders into the limelight throughout the movie, but it most certainly takes away from the status of the picture in terms of its role in this legendary genre. Still, does it detract that much from the movie? Not at all, but it does create an atmosphere of weirdness that the movie delivers upon in wealthy supply.

Despite whatever negative things you can think to say about Angel Force, it is a movie that has a unrelenting pace. There’s a sense of urgency within the movie and we can never tell what direction the plot will inevitably take. For instance, the means in which Moon Lee actually becomes the star of this vehicle is a classic bait and switch. With the majority of the first half establishing Lung (Wilson Lam) as our lead character, it isn’t until around the thirty minute mark that this character becomes permanently incapacitated. Afterward, the movie becomes a classic lady action’er, but the speed in which all of these things happen is quite ridiculous. The movie ultimately becomes incredibly watchable because there is never a dull moment. However, this also leads to one of the greatest weaknesses that the movie has. With so much plot and action flying around, one can’t help but become a bit confused by the often-meandering plot. When the entire crux of a picture is based around roughly three of four minutes worth of spoken exposition, but when the one or two scenes that serve this function are bordered by ten minute action sequences, it becomes easy to imagine the audience growing a bit lost. I know that I was! Still, even if audience members have to play a little guessing game as the movie tumbles along, these action sequences make up for it.

Action sequences this movie has, too! Plenty of them! The fight scenes are numerous and filled with some very solid choreography, but the variety, speed, and violence of the action is what makes this movie stand out. With brains being splattered on the camera from closeup gunshots to the face, as well as a massive number of explosions unleashed in a way that I haven’t seen since digging through John Woo’s filmography, Angel Force is patently ridiculous in terms of its action output. There’s a pretty epic motorbike chase between Moon Lee and another young woman that certainly deserves a mention while talking about the action found in this one. Beginning with a bloody assassination, this sequence takes us through the city streets of Burma and finally culminates in a back alley shootout/kung fu battle that certainly brings some rather rough edges to the movie. This is only one of the many action sequences to be found in Angel Force, however, and it sets a very high standard. Although the action here might be the most prominent way to recommend the movie, for Hong Kong film fans the cast might also be worth a mention. Moon Lee has been mentioned on these pages numerous times, but another name that needs to be mentioned with Angel Force is Shing Fui-On. A physical presence in any movie, this time he shows off his versatility through a few well-choreographed action sequences. Still, Shing is more of a “face,” and he does a excellent job in exuding his evil charisma.

If Shing Fui-On wasn’t enough for those who love their Hong Kong villains, how about Wang Lung Wei? What if I say we have Wang Lung Wei wearing humongous black sunglasses, tight black pants, and a camouflaged muscle shirt? That, my friends, is a recipe for success no matter how you look at it. This is a movie that really reflects the eighties and early nineties aesthetics of what action cinema was supposed to be. Featuring all of the requisite plot strands that you might expect, including a cop who is attempting to spend time with his family but is pulled into a big case, as well as the classic “men on a mission” style of storyline that could be seen in other Hong Kong action tales like Heroes Shed No Tears or Eastern Condords, amongst numerous other American and European titles. The movie is chock full of exploitation-cinema aesthetics. The concept of a “fixer” being pulled in to help pull off this crazy adventure is one of my favorite bits in the movie. Why a government agent would be able to contact such a nefarious killer, I am unsure. Nor do I understand why a hitman would be called in to work for the government. All I know is that it gives us another “cool” character to go with all of our Hawaiian shirts, saxophone solos, Canadian tuxedos, Uzis and bad girls who wear leather. That’s right, this one was a surefire product of its time.

The Conclusion
There are so many things to be said about Angel Force. Although I have written at length about the positive aspects found in the film, not everything here is spectacular. Unfortunately, the plot does meander around a bit due to the action. As the movie delves deeper into its runtime, it changes itself up so much that few would truly recognize it. A solid piece of entertainment, don’t go into this one expecting it to be the very best of this genre. I give it a solid three out of five. If we were working on a different rating system, this would be a three and a half, easily. After you delve into the genre, don’t be afraid to pick this one up.

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