Devil Hunters (1989)
Director: Lu Chin-Ku
Starring: Moon Lee, Sibelle Hu, Ray Lui, Chan Wai Man, Ken Lo, and Francis Ng

The Plot: Inspector Tong (Sibelle Hu) is a tough policewoman who stands out to her Superintendent (Alex Man), and because of this she is placed in charge of an assignment to bust veteran gangster Hon San. However, when the day comes, a young woman named Abby (Moon Lee) steps in and disrupts the bust. The police disruption is noted by Hon San and all of the other gangsters involved. This leads to Chiu Shing (Francis Ng) forcing Hon San to step down as leader and allow him to lead their criminal organization. Shing is a madman and immediately starts killing off all who could be seen as a liability. This leads to the death of Chai Sun’s (Ramyond Lui) father, which leads Chai Sun on a quest for vengeance against Hon San. So, now the police, Chai Sun, and the strange woman named Abby are all after Hon San, although none know that Shing is actually the madman whom they should be chasing.

The Review
When it comes time to discuss Devil Hunters, it is impossible not to mention the finale for the movie. Ending on a stunt that went incredibly wrong, the sequence has become YouTube fodder in recent years, and I won’t deny it: It’s the main reason that I searched the film out. As would be expected of Hong Kong cinema, the filmmakers decided to keep the final shot in the film and took full advantage of the burning of both Sibelle Hu and Moon Lee, who are shown catching fire as a miss-timed explosive goes off behind them. In other markets, the shot would have been completed with stunt people and the show would have went on. However, this is Hong Kong, and actors doing their own stunts and being shown to have injured themselves is too much of a novelty for any producer to pass up. So, not only is the shot kept in the film, but so are newspaper clippings detailing the accident. In fact, the movie breaks free of all cinematic logic during its final frame and instead of completing the story, the film sort of ignores all logic and gives a rundown of who was injured and why this stunt went awry. Yet, despite this obvious exploitation, surprisingly it is not being used to cover up a terrible movie. It isn’t even being used to hype up a middle-of-the-road title. No, Devil Hunters is actually the real deal. Coming at the beginning of the girls-with-guns genre cycle in Hong Kong film history, Devil Hunters tries to gather all elements that made Hong Kong cinema so exciting during this period… and it succeeds!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Hong Kong world of “girls with guns,” these are movies that, as you should expect, feature female leads and gun battles. However, the only part of the equation that is actually required is the female cast, the gunplay is only an added bonus within most of these movies. Many feature martial arts action, some mix in the crazy stunt work that made Hong Kong so popular during the eighties, and some did their best to mix it all up. Devil Hunters is one that tried to mix everything up. Featuring gun battles that seem as if they were ripped from a better-made John Woo ripoff, fight sequences, this is an entertaining action film that is elevated to above average levels due to its barrage of adrenaline inlets. Although the movie initially impresses with its inspired variety of martial arts choreography as well as a few stunt-based action moments, including a few high falls where we see insane stuntmen/actors jumping from buildings, but by the time the movie gets to the massive raid led by Chan Wai Man… audiences will have a difficult time collecting their jaws from the floor.

Speaking of things that are jaw dropping, would you look at the cast for this movie? It has the previously mentioned Chan Wai Man, as well as Moon Lee, Sibelle Hu, Francis Ng, Alex Man, and Ken Lo! For Hong Kong film novices, I can only assure you that this is an incredible cast. Moon Lee and Sibelle Hu are two legends from this genre, and Chan Wai Man, Ken Lo, and Francis Ng are all notorious heavies that make up an incredibly strong supporting cast. On top of the excellent cast, the action is also being directed by Lu Chin-Ku, an actor turned director who could be considered as one of the few “big names” that this micro-genre ever produced. Lu Chin-Ku released this film in the same year as Killer Angels, but this would turn out to only be the beginning for this director. Along with these two films, he also made Dreaming the Reality, Angel Force, Mission of Justice, The Lady Punisher, The Big Deal, and Angel Terminators 2. He may be the “auteur” of this particular genre, and his work here proves worthy to be admire.

If there’s any problem with the movie, it is that it is very cause-and-effect driven. The plot has its moments of being formulaic, as one might expect from an action movie of this sort, but the real problem comes from the simplistic nature of the story. A story that ultimately gives the movie a somewhat procedural atmosphere, despite it not being an ideal version of this genre. Everything fits together just a bit too formal, but if you simply enjoy the movie as something that is relatively simplistic in its narrative – then there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a blast while watching Devil Hunters.

The Conclusion
The action found in Devil Hunters should be enough to win over audiences, but if that isn’t enough to catch someone’s attention, there’s always the stunt that nearly took the lives of this cast. Whatever your reason for seeing Devil Hunters may be, just make sure that you track this one down. A machine-gun-wielding Chan Wai Man demands it!