Broken Oath showcases the charm, the beauty and the total arse-whuppin ability of Angela Mao. Moreover, this is kung fu cinema in its purest form. If vengeance is the central theme of Chinese martial arts films you don't get much better than Broken Oath.
Angela Mao plays Lotus Liu. Her father is killed by an infamous quartet of assassins. They spare her pregnant mother, who is sent to a prison island. While in prison she gives birth to Lotus.
One of the women inmates helping to deliver the child says, "It's a girl!" The mother simply states, "It doesn't matter. Boy or girl, this child will have vengeance. My daughter is born into hate."
A well-meaning inmate delivers the child to a Buddhist temple. She explains Lotus' background and asks the Sister Superior to raise the child as a peaceful citizen. The Sister Superior agrees and they dutifully raise Lotus and train her in the peaceful ways of Buddha.
It doesn't work. Even though she doesn't understand how or why, Lotus is driven by a hate-filled desire for violence. Sparring sessions with the other nuns are hardly fair as Lotus pummels them mercilessly. Classes on love and Buddha's commandments annoy her so she skips them to sneak into the nearby woods for further practice.
One day in the woods three ruffians happen upon her. One announces that they like to kill but are "tender" with girls. He further assures Lotus that they'll take turns with her. Lotus kills them. It's not a fight, the ruffians are hopelessly outmatched. Lotus is never in any real danger but she not only kills them, she takes a slow delight with the death of the third.
The nuns have no choice but to throw her out of the temple. Before expelling her, the Sister Superior tells Lotus where she may find the woman who delivered her to the temple. Lotus does so and discovers her past. Now she understands why she is fueled by violence and is happy that she has a target at which to aim her furious skill.
Though there has already been killing, it just gets better from this point. Lotus begins seeking the four assassins one by one. Taking on the masters singly or their gangs by the dozen she cuts a swathe of bloody destruction.
Angela Mao has ranked as my third favorite actress for most of my adult life (behind Audrey Hepburn and Judy Holliday). I love the kung fu genre in general and consider Mao to be in the elite echelon of performers. Mao not only possesses a fierce beauty (watch her expressions) but a physical skill equaled by very few other female martial arts actresses.
Her timing is superb which enabled the directors to place her in complex choreographed fights and her physical range is astounding. Clearly short of stature, even by the Chinese standards of the time, Mao can deliver kicks that come out of nowhere. And when she launches into a series of kicks, it's a thing of beauty.
My favorite movie of hers remains Sting of the Dragon Masters but Broken Oath is the best showcase for her skill, both in quantity and range. If you enjoy kung fu cinema, watch this! If you enjoy Angela Mao, watch this!
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