She Shoots Straight (1990)
Director: Corey Yuen
Writers: Corey Yuen, Barry Wong, Gai Chi Yuen
Starring: Joyce Godenzi, Carina Lau, Sammo Hung and Tony Leung Ka Fai

The Plot: Detective Mina (Joyce Godenzi) is the toughest woman on the Hong Kong police force. She is all business, but goes that extra step in order to take down criminals. Even if it means putting her own life at jeopardy, she is willing to take that risk to be the best that she can be. After a successful attempt at protecting a princess, Mina is awarded a medal ahead of her teammates which generally leads to a very tense relationship amongst her former friends. Amidst these coworkers is her own sister-in-law, Huang Chia-Ling (Carina Lau) who despises Mina for her mixed race background as well as the attention that she gets from her own brother Toby (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who is Mina’s new husband. When a gang of psychotic Vietnamese arms dealers make their way into Hong Kong, blood and bullet casings are soon littering the streets. It’ll be left up to Mina and her sister-in-law to find this gang and put an end to their reign of terror!

The Review
I feel downright ashamed of myself right now. I write this review on New Years Eve, as the clock strikes twelve and the year of 2011 begins. Outside I hear a mostly stormy night that is occasionally disturbed by the sound of a lone firework being set off by a persistent local who couldn’t imagine their New Years celebration being ruined by a little rain. Inside my home, I’m left in shock and awe. Not because my drenched neighbor would dare try to light explosives in the rain, but because I just finished watching an action movie that trumps just about anything I have screened within the past year, and to top things off, I had never even heard of it before sitting down to watch it. She Shoots Straight may have a following behind it, but if it does I have never ran into any of the film’s biggest fans. The fact that an action title this good could have remained such an obscure gem, at least for me, seems like a travesty of epic proportions. I don’t want to over sell the movie for some of you, but I won’t lie either. I now adore She Shoots Straight and will spend the rest of this review gushing over the insane action that the movie packs in its brisk running time. So, prepare yourselves and wear your boots!
Classifying the subgenre that She Shoots Straight belongs in could prove to be difficult for even the most well versed Hong Kong cinema professional. While it does feature some blistering martial arts throughout, I’d be hard pressed to list this as a true Kung Fu film even by the most modern of concepts. Well, is it a heroic bloodshed title then? I don’t think that is a particularly apt description either. The martial arts seems to help cancel that idea to enough degree, but there’s also the fact that the cast is predominately made up of women in the lead action roles. So, maybe it belongs to that distant cousin of the Heroic Bloodshed genre, is this a Girls With Guns flick? I suppose that might be the closest correlation, but if I had to tie it down to Hong Kong action film genres then I would say its a mix of Girls With Guns as well as the stunt-fu insanity of Jackie Chan’s late-eighties-to-mid-nineties work. This isn’t surprising, considering Sammo Hung’s involvement in the film, as a producer as well as a actor, and his eventual marriage to starring actress Joyce Godenzi! The insane denial of self preservation in the stunt work is ultimately what should draw in viewers, but I think what will ultimately keep them stuck to their seats is the simple but effective story and fervent performances of the cast. Surely there will be those who argue against me on this fact, but you really can’t argue with the intensity and excitement of the movie.

Gripping from its very introduction, She Shoots Straight is relentless in its action. Showcasing the fluidity of Hong Kong action in all respects, the pacing for the film is established during a opening series of action setpieces. The initial fifteen minutes of She Shoots Straight shattered all of my preconceived notions about this movie. I halfway expected to find a relatively generic piece of girls-with-guns action that might have provided some scantily clad women performing action choreography rather poorly while looking good, but I was so incredibly far off in that assessment. Looking back on what I originally imagined the film would be, I am slightly offended. When I saw the cast, something should have clicked but it did not. Joyce Godenzi I was vaguely familiar with due to her work in Eastern Condors amongst a couple of other titles, but after this movie I will never forget the name. It is actually a shame that we didn’t get to see more from the actress before she retired, because the daring things that she does in this film easily puts her in contention alongside Michelle Yeoh and her work on Jackie Chan’s Police Story III (aka: Supercop). If you’re familiar with that film, then you know how huge of a compliment that is.

A mix of gun-fu choreography, martial arts action and some insane and elaborate stunts, She Shoots Straight is a female lead best-of examination of Hong Kong cinema from this time period. The former Miss Hong Kong beauty queen Joyce Godenzi doesn’t seem like the type of actress to lead a maniacal action film, but she is so convincing and determined in her role that you never at one moment doubt her loyalty or commitment to this project. We watch as she is thrown on top of speeding automobiles, has to jump from several stories in mid-air, is thrown down to the ground from a massive tree and we see her become emotionally drained as her character has to go through some incredible drama halfway through the film. I won’t go into detail, but there are some pretty traumatic events that occur that push the character to her emotional limits, and Godenzi takes to these scenes as apt as she does the intense violence. This is where the heart and soul of the film ultimately comes into play and these characters relent from simply being staples of the genre and become somewhat human, despite the heroics of Godenzi’s epic character.

When you watch Hollywood fare such as Charlie’s Angels, everything becomes so stylized that it gets to the point where it no longer remotely resembles anything close to reality. Although Hollywood films such as these look to emulate the action of Hong Kong cinema in their techniques, they are rarely ever successful in even the most minor ways possible. What is the reason for this? Well, you can usually start with the cast. In the case of Charlie’s Angels, you have a cast of actresses who were not chosen for their talents nor pushed to the degree that Hong Kong martial arts film stars usually were. You can fully feel the pillow-like gloves that were used to handle the starlets in such Hollywood drek. With She Shoots Straight, you don’t even have to worry about gloves. Period. If anything, Joyce Godenzi packs a pair of brass knuckles, which she isn’t afraid to use in her attempt to soften your skull. It doesn’t matter that you don’t recognize these women, as we would some assorted cast of Hollywood divas, that isn’t the reason why we believe in their ability to kick butt. A quick glance at their bios and you’ll realize that Joyce Godenzi was a model and Miss Hong Kong winner and not a martial artist by trade. Carina Lau was also never a martial artist. These things do not matter. The difference is the level that these women were pushed and their insane commitment to their roles. Let’s see Cameron Diaz run up a wall, grab a railing and throw her body through the center of it. I couldn’t do that even in my best shape, but this only describes one of the more ‘mild’ stunts in She Shoots Straight.

The Conclusion
So, let’s summarize some of things you are going to see in this movie: A woman narrowly ducking under one car in order to avoid another vehicle smashing her skull. A woman being dragged from halfway out of a vehicle. A woman sliding down a third story, from a flag that drapes to the ground. Said woman jumping off of said flagpole, onto a moving car. Said woman jumping from said car, into a bus, then jumping from said bus onto the top of another moving automobile. Really, is there much else for me to say? She Shoots Straight blew my mind and has been the most surprisingly spectacular non-period Hong Kong movie that I have seen in a while. Absolutely, search this out! It gets my highest recommendation, a 5 out of 5!