Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dreaming the Reality

                                              Director: Simon Yun Ching
           Starring: Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Sibelle Hu, Ben Lam, Eddie Ko Hung

This sadly neglected masterpiece is in my opinion not only the best of the many Moon Lee/Yukari Oshima pairings, but the finest Girls With Guns/Battling Babes film ever made.

The plot consists of two parallel and seemingly disparate story archs. The main story involves two women, Silver Fox (Moon Lee) and her 'sister', Kat (Yukari Oshima) who have been raised as orphans since childhood to be assassins by their 'Foster Father', Fok (Eddie Ko). They are contract killers without emotion, working completely independently outside the law. After accidentally killing a busload of children (a tough scene to watch) during an ambush, Silver Fox begins to have feelings of guilt. Later, a mission in Thailand goes awry and the two sisters are forced to separate. During a police chase Silver Fox hits her head, falls into a lake and wakes up an amnesiac. The second story concerns an ex HK cop named Lan (Sibelle Hu) who runs a bar while attempting to deal with her drinking and gambling habits. Her brother, Rocky (Ben Lam) is a (wait for it) boxer (Thai Boxer, actually) who runs afoul of a local gangster who wishes to manage him.

For first time viewers, this parallel story arch may cause them to feel initially that they're watching a notorious Godfrey Ho cut and paste job (the edits between scenes are admittedly choppy), but stay with it as the two stories do merge just past the mid way point as Silver Fox stumbles into Lan's bar, still not knowing who she is. She's put to work there as she attempts to sort things out. It isn't long however, until "Foster Father', Fok sends Kat and a 'brother', Scorpion to find (and terminate) their missing 'sister'. Fox having recovered her memory, now finds her two worlds colliding.

The film's director, Simon Yun Ching has been really tough for me to pinpoint as he's gone under so many different names (including this film, where he's dubbed Tony Liu), but near as I can tell, he is the same man responsible for this, 'Angel Terminators 2' 'That's Money' (which I reviewed just a few films ago) and the way over the top comedy "The Big Deal'. Assuming my info is correct (which I'm not 100% sure it is) then Yun is THE unsung hero of the Girls With Guns movement. He more than any other seems to have been able to channel the talents of his fighting femmes and extracted every ounce of charisma that each possesed.

Both Moon and Yukari look absolutely incredible in their sleek uniforms and dark shades and each give wonderfully subtle perfs. The relationship between these two unrelated 'sisters' leads to some wonderfully subtle moments, all of which are merely (and mysteriously) hinted upon. When Yukari notices Moon giving a longing glance to a happy couple, she mumbles, "This game doesn't suit us". As Moon attempts to drink her Bloody Mary, she hears the screams of the dying school bus children (again, very powerful stuff). Yukari notices her hesitation and without fliching swaps drinks with her. When Moon asks Yukari, "What would you do if I were to die?", Yukari without showing an ounce of outwardly emotion, simply responds "I'd die with you". In a film filled with such gory, hard hitting action (including a WOW of a finale), it is these brief exchanges which prove the most breathtaking. Most mysterious of all is a brief dream sequence where Moon envisions Yuakari as a policewoman who begins firing upon her. This is never explained and it is all the richer for it. Moon and Osh are matched here by Sibelle Hu in by far the most memorable role of her career as the wise cracking ex-cop (Hu apparently to some degree, channeling Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark). Her wonderfully quirky, over the top comedic perf proves to be a perfect foil for the dark somberness of her two co-stars (her lone shared sequence with Yukari is especially memorable). Eddie Ko portrays the loathsomely evil Fok to perfection. An absolutely hissable character, the 'Foster Father' proves to be one of the great villains in HK cinema history and Ko is more than up to the task.

Despite the admittedly too long and too numerous Thai Boxing sequences, 'Dreaming the Reality' emerges as one of my all time favorites. It's mixture of blistering action set pieces, powerful, subtle drama, potently memorable characters, top notch acting chops from all involved and strong production values make this absolutely essential for any fan of the genre.

                                                                Rating: 9/10

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