21 April 2008 | BrianDanaCamp
LADY PROFESSIONAL Lily Ho in a black leather trenchcoat
THE LADY PROFESSIONAL (1971) is a Shaw Bros. crime drama starring Lily Ho as an assassin in contemporary Hong Kong. It opens as she performs a hit on a lowlife while riding a roller coaster at an amusement park. Her weapon is a compact/powder puff that shoots lethal darts. As she flees the park she's inadvertently captured on film by another lowlife with an instant camera whose girlfriend finds the dropped compact and recognizes Lily from the picture, leading the lowlife boyfriend to hatch a blackmail plan. We gradually come to learn that Lily's not actually a professional assassin, but is on a mission of revenge against the extortion gang that killed her father. The blackmailer pressures her to rub out a newly-released ex-con due to testify in court against a gang of smugglers fronted by a textile company whose manager is the boyfriend of Lily's close friend, Jiamei. (Yes, the film is full of convenient coincidences like that.)
The ex-con (Chan Shen) is supposed to be under police protection, but the gang attacks as he's being driven from prison, leading to a rousing car chase-and-shootout sequence that leaves his entire police escort dead. He then roams quite openly on his own around Hong Kong unescorted and even goes bowling at a popular alley, making himself an easy target for Lily, whose escape from the scene is hampered when the brakes in her sports car fail, the wires having been cut by the lowlifes who recruited her so they won't have to pay her. She survives and begins a new campaign of revenge.
One inspired action scene takes place at a construction site where Lily is attacked by three thugs hired to kill her. Two of them are quite strong (one is played by Bolo Yeung, of ENTER THE DRAGON fame), and one is a knife-wielding jumper (he leaps from place to place, rather than walk). Lily's clearly outmatched, yet she miraculously prevails, disposing of two of her attackers in highly creative, if wildly implausible ways. From there, it's on to vanquish the leaders of the gang, including her friend's boyfriend, culminating in an airport hit where she's dressed as a nun!
Continuity errors abound. Her hair goes from short and wavy to long and straight in the bowling alley scene, with no indication that she'd ever put on or taken off a wig. In the construction site attack, the knife-wielder "tortures" poor Lily by cutting the buttons off her stylish leather coat, one by one. Yet when she turns up at her next stop, Jiamei's apartment, the buttons have magically reappeared.
As you may have guessed, nothing that happens is remotely believable. But at least there's enough memorable action to elevate this above the other contemporary thrillers Lily's done, most notably her two secret agent "Angel" films, ANGEL WITH THE IRON FISTS (1966) and THE ANGEL STRIKES BACK (1968), which didn't even have one decent action scene between them. (Both are also reviewed on this site.) Lily's quite a beauty here and wears a steady stream of attractive and glamorous fashions. She's also got more attitude than usual, the result of family tragedy brought on by gangsters. She's even got a sick mother to worry about. All of this gives her no time for a romantic interest, not even a sympathetic male ally. Which means there's nothing to slow the film down, making for a compact 80-minute Lily Ho vehicle that may not be as thrilling as some of her costume adventures like THE GOLDEN KNIGHT and THE JADE FACED ASSASSIN, but will please her fans nonetheless.