2 June 2014 | grumpynerd
Uneven, but a landmark
When Angela Mao is off-screen, this movie is mediocre to a fault. Not bad, but of little interest to anyone but a serious Hong Kong movie geek. But when Mao is on screen, she's electrifying.
It's not just her charisma, although she's got buckets of that. She has a magnificent gift for selling a move that transforms what would be at best a serviceable fight scene into something riveting and dramatic. In the build up to her first fight in the casino, Mao flashes an ironically contemptuous sneer that sends icy chills down your spine. At the end of the fight she beats the crooked casino boss with a cold fury that's thrilling and appalling in its savagery.
What's really unusual is how the movie doesn't do anything to soften her character. Often the girl in these movies is there to be raped and killed so the hero can take revenge. Sometimes she's sifu's daughter, who fights pretty good for a girl but is ultimately there to be rescued from the boss. None of that for Miss Tien. She is Nemesis, come to punish the hero for his past misdeeds. The question is: will she let him live long enough to redeem himself by fighting the boss of his old gang?
This curious twist transforms a run-of-the-mill early 70s Kung Fu flick into something compelling and different.