|The Avenging Quartet (1992)|
|Director:||Stanley Siu Wing|
|Writers:||Stanley Siu Wing (?)|
|Starring:||Moon Lee, Waise Lee, Cynthia Khan, Chin Kar-lok and Yukari Oshima|
|The Plot: In ancient China a majestic painting was crafted that was the envy of all the land. When the Japanese conquered China, they took this painting back home with them. During the second World War, the new owner of this painting secretly hid the results of numerous bio-warfare experiments inside of this very painting. Over time, the painting found its way back home to China, but several prideful Japanese, who know about the painting and its secrets, will do anything to get it back. So, we skip forward and are introduced to Feng (Moon Lee) whose brother has recently passed away. She runs into Chin (Cynthia Khan), a young woman in desperate search for her lover who abandoned her back in mainland China. Moon tries to help, but there is only so much that she can do with very little to go on. When Feng finds that her sister-in-law is trying to sell all of her brother’s assets, she steps in to stop the madness. Unfortunately, her former sister-in-law has mob connections and this throws Feng and Chin into a life & death struggle with some nefarious thugs. While this is going on, the sale of the aforementioned painting is being set up by a man that Moon Lee has secret affections for, and the Japanese are edging closer to attaining it. The Japanese are inevitably sending their very best agent, played by Yukario Oshima, to retrieve it.|
Much of the comedy within the film is provided by the character of Paul (Chin Kar-lok), who is a rather baffoonish police officer placed in charge of protecting the two ladies. He continually tries to “woo” the girls, but unfortunately his brain is apparently made of diced carrots. Although Hong Kong comedy is almost always a mixed bag that leans towards the lowest-commond-denominator, I have to admit that I did quite like his performance. While Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan both present very solid dramatic performances (Moon even sheds a few tears), they are this way in order to provide straight characters to play off of the craziness that Chin Kar-lok brings to the table. He brings a certain amount of good cheer to the movie, and his presence is readily felt once he is introduced. As the movie went on, I became more and more thankful for Chin Kar-lok’s character. Although this may be considered an action-comedy in terms of genre, it is much more “comedy” than it is “action.” This isn’t a terrible thing, it just puts far more emphasis on other aspects of the movie. If the film didn’t have Chin Kar-lok hamming it up, or if Moon Lee wasn’t being her regular adorable little self, this might have been a very different sort of movie.
The movie actually looks really good for this sort of project. Although one imagines Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima starring in dozens of movies in only a scant amount of time, The Avenging Quartet at least has the appearance of a film that had a decent amount of preparation behind it. There are a few really interesting tracking shots throughout the movie, as well as some atmospheric lighting. During one sequence, Chin Kar-lok, Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan actually visit a drug den known as “heaven,” and it almost resembles something out of Jacob’s Ladder. Blue strobe lights lighting long corridors mark our entrance into this hellish location, and we soon watch as the camera pans between numerous rooms that are filled with party-go’ers who are all busy getting stoned. The movie switches gears often, but it can be very visual when it is called for.
The sequences involving the painting-subplot, where we follow a few brief scenes from Yukari Oshima as well as numerous scenes of Waise Lee trying to escape Japanese assassins, almost seem entirely disconnected from the main crux of the film. The wild adventures of Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan are where the plot actually finds its teeth, and this entire Japanese-Chinese painting subplot can feel a bit tacked on at times. Despite the introduction for the film featuring some narration that tells us all about this mysterious painting that seems so dramatically important to the plot, all of these scenes seem secondary to the drama that unfolds when the girls are onscreen. While it is thrilling to see Yukari Oshima finally pop up, even if it is relatively late in the movie and for very little screen time, it is unfortunate that she isn’t spending her screen time with Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan. As Oshima gets closer to Moon Lee’s side of the story, things become progressively more interesting, but the movie misses the mark in presenting anything dynamic between these three.