25 November 2015 | The_Phantom_Projectionist
"Foreigner, you're finished!"
The 1980s "girls with guns" films from Hong Kong can be pretty hit-or-miss for viewers who aren't particular fans of that subgenre, but I'm happy to say that DREAMING THE REALITY is a general hit. Imperfect though it may be, it makes the most of its cast and features an accessible, surprisingly dramatic and funny storyline. Action heroines Moon Lee, Sibelle Hu, and Yukari Oshima have made movies together before, but this one's the best of their team-ups that I've seen.
The story: An expert assassin (Lee) - trained since childhood to be the perfect killer - loses her memory during a mission in Thailand, and ends up in the care of a wry ex-policewoman (Hu) and her boxing cohort (Ben Lam). The equally lethal sister of the assassin (Oshima) pursues her, uncertain of her intentions and whether to kill her.
Like many movies of this era, it takes a while to warm up: though it opens with the humorously macabre scene of the assassins as children practicing marksmanship and blowing away a (toy) bunny, it's not until the film's second half that the drama, comedy, and action portions reach their zenith. An early action highlight includes a surprisingly lengthy and well-balanced boxing match between Ben Lam and an uncredited opponent, but the two standout scenes include an effectively emotional exchange between Moon and Yukari and a lengthy shootout that John Woo would have been proud of, featuring the heroines going through a number of different weapons and causing a ton of explosions. Lee and Oshima do good with most everything they attempt, but while Sibelle does well while holding a shotgun and a baseball bat, her single one-on-one fight sees her being doubled a lot.
Hu shines more evenly as the dramatic force of the picture: her role as the cigarette-smoking big sister is my favorite of her career so far, and she's responsible for about half of the humor in the film. Ben Lam is a little colorless, but while Oshima and Lee are merely passable on their own, they display a surprising dramatic chemistry in the scenes they share, including the aforementioned fight scene. The writers of the film - Lee Ho and Tony Liu - deserve at least some of the credit for this, though they couldn't resist inserting some weirdness into some portions of the picture, like when our heroes inexplicably decide to bury two of their fallen comrades in the woods instead of giving them a proper burial. Nevertheless, the movie's still more dramatically accessible than many a lesser-known Hong Kong action flick - at least enough so for me to enjoy it.
These aren't the most enthusiastic four stars I've ever awarded, but DREAMING THE REALITY certainly does enough things right to qualify for its score. As of this writing, it's ridiculously expensive to get a hold of, but I encourage you to try and watch it at a more reasonable cost if you can. You can definitely do worse for any of the stars involved!