Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cynthia Khan and Melanie Marquez in "Angel on Fire"

“Angel on Fire” is not a good movie, even by the not always lofty standards set by Phillip Ko Fei who wrote and directed it. The two reasons to bother with it are Cynthia Khan, playing, as she often does, a character that will give you a big smile a second before she caves in your knee with a kick, and Melanie Marquez an actress/model with a distinctive look and powerful screen presence.

The editing is abysmal. It looked as if parts had been snipped and then lost—for example early on Melanie Marquez as Mimi, the supermodel with sticky fingers, is being pursued by two thugs. She escapes by jumping on the ferry just as it is pulling out, leaving the bad guys (actually one bad guy, one bad gal) fuming on the dock. The next shot—not the next scene, but the next shot—has her on a bus with the thugs in a car right behind her.

Marquez and Khan are well matched foes—both are very fit and athletic, Cynthia is her usual extremely earnest, righteous and essentially humorless cop while Melanie is a demented, deranged lunatic who is also a master thief. The opening scenes of Mimi at the Shaolin Temple set the tone; while the monks are in the courtyard practicing kung fu she is in the bell tower stealing a precious relic. The entire monastery is alerted to the theft but she manages to get away by outfighting, outrunning and outbiking all of her saffron clad foes. One unintentional subtext may be that Shaolin has fallen on very hard times if a person can not only sneak into the temple and steal an object of great value from them but also get away with it. The correlation, of course, would be the sorry state of classic kung fu movies in 1995 and the seeming anachronism of both Shaolin Temple and this genre of films.

Sharon Yeung is a Mainland cop dispatched to Hong Kong and then to the Philippines (along with the rest of the cast) in search of the relic and those who stole it. She has little to do, occasionally popping up accompanied by a Philippine police officer to shoot or beat up someone. Possibly the shortest person in the cast she gets the honor of beating up Black Leopard, played by the very large Winston G. Ellis.

Things are completely confused by the end of the movie. There are either two or three sets of bad guys armed with automatic weapons. They show up in an industrial area for the handover of the sacred object to buyers with a briefcase full of money. There is a lot of gunfire, many explosions and a high butcher’s bill but who is shooting at who is never really made clear. Everyone seems more interested in emptying as many clips of ammunition possible than in retrieving the stolen Shaolin trophy.

The good news is that Cynthia Khan looks great. Excellent make-up—she has a lot of close ups—and some nice costumes that look as if they had been picked up at nearest Topshop. She looks sexy and feminine in an outfit of high waisted trousers with suspenders over a white blouse but also ready to mete out quick justice. For once in a modern police drama she wasn’t stuck with the boxy jackets and baggy pants that often pass for a wardrobe. Melanie Marquez, at over six feet tall and supple as a sword blade, would look good in anything including the long coats, form fitting slacks and always present opaque sunglasses.

In keeping with the customs of Hong Kong DVD marketing, this image from the DVD cover is not from the film.

A must see movie but only for fans who must see everything with Cynthia Khan.

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