Angel of Fury

Director: Ackyl Anwary                 
Cynthia Rothrock, Chris Barnes, Peter O'Brian

Although there's a lot in life that can't be predicted for sure, I have come across a few things that are a certainty to happen:

(1) Whenever you go to the supermarket, there is always a little old lady blocking the way to at least one of the items you want.

(2) Whichever supermarket or fast food establishment you go to, the manager will have a mustache.

(3) If you arrive early at a movie theater to get the best seat possible, someone will sit in front of you a minute or two before the lights dim and the movie starts.

(4) If you rent a Cynthia Rothrock movie, you'll deeply regret it afterwards.

As for that last one, I admit I haven't had a chance to see any of Ms. Rothrock's Hong Kong movies, and I've heard some positive things about them. But until I do, that fourth rule is going to hold. That's because all of her previous movies I have seen (24 Hours To Midnight, Martial Law, Rage And Honor, Undefeatable, etc.) have sucked in the worst way. I'm not blaming her for the downfall of these movies - she looks great and definitely knows martial arts. Her acting, well, it may not be great, but I've seen far, far worse. Yet watching her American movies, nothing works. The scripting is terrible, the direction lacks energy, and her fights are edited in the worst way possible. Angel of Fury is even worse than these American films (with the exception of the total bomb 24 Hours To Midnight) because it was made in Indonesia, a country not exactly known for its cinematic excellence.

It's a very confusing, not helped by the fact that the American distributor hacked it down to 77 minutes, which while making it a less painful experience, does make the proceedings frequently very confusing. Take the first time we see Nancy Bolan (Rothrock), after the obligatory opening torture scene when the torturer goes through the "If you tell, I won't hurt you and your young daughter yada yada" routine (of course he's lying.) We see her walking down the gangplank of a cruise ship which is docked in - sorry, don't know. As she is walking down, she is talking to a mother and her daughter. The relationship of them to her? Sorry, don't know. She happens to be carrying something important in a case. What is it? Sorry, don't know. Some guy meets her at the dock, and then they are attacked by some creeps with guns and martial arts. Who are these guys, and why are they attacking? We don't know that as well. And by the time they escape on a power boat and are pursued by the bad guys on jet skies, Nancy still has hardly said a word.

Eventually, we have some sort of idea of the plot. Seems there's this bad guy called "Bolt - the terrorist that strikes like lightning" (which is uttered twice in the movie), and he is after some high-tech computer that's being shipped into the country. Nancy, security chief of N.T.I. (whatever that means - we never find out) has been hired to safely transport the computer into the country. Her technique involves smuggling in two fake computers to throw off the bad guys, though instead of foiling the bad guys, it just ends up confusing the viewer. One character even admits he's confused, saying, "Now let me get this straight - You don't know who they were, what they look like, or where they took you. They have a case that may or may not contain the real computer." Oh, there is also the obligatory former boyfriend appearing that our heroine though was dead, and I don't think I need to mention how this subplot finishes up at the end, even though there is a weirdly edited sex scene between them in the middle of the movie (with the sheets always up to Nancy's armpits, sadly.)

The boyfriend subplot almost seems like an afterthought, since he only makes the occasional appearance throughout the movie. It's as if the producers suddenly realized they needed some sex and a final action sequence, and hastily wrote him in at the last minute. There are other scenes in the movie that seem to have no point, the worst being with that mysterious mother and daughter Nancy is friends with. After some useless scenes showing them at an amusement park and going shopping, the bad guys grab the daughter - never mind why. Anyway, it leads to a long scene where Nancy chases them first by car, ramming them and not seeming to mind that it might hurt the girl inside. She then hits a motorcyclist, and then in the very next shot we suddenly see her wearing a helmet and riding the guy's motorcycle. Then she further endangers the girl by doing the kick-through-windshield bit that Chuck Norris did in Good Guys Wear Black, causing a nasty car crash that doesn't hurt her or the girl. By the very end of this scene, nothing of consequence to the plot has been altered in the slightest.

That awkward editing during the motorcyclist scene is a typical example of the editing as a whole. In a few scenes, bad guys are hit by blows that we don't actually get to see. The opening action sequence has a bad guy running up a staircase to attack Nancy, but by the next shot he has disappeared. The later airport shootout is so jumbled, I couldn't tell who were the bad guys and who were the protagonists aside from Nancy. At one point, we cut to Bolt's headquarters where his henchmen tell him, "Boss, we lost him." Lost who? Speaking of dialogue, everyone (including Rothrock) is horribly dubbed.             For one thing, people speak with lengthy pauses between their sentences.            The dialogue is filled with horribly clichéd lines including, "When the time's right, we'll kill the b***h!" and " So don't f**k up - you got it?" There is amusement when near the end of the movie, with the bodies now piled up high, Nancy mutters, "This is getting out of hand."

As is often the case with low budget films made with substandard equipment, the cinematography has a slightly out of focus, reddish tinged look to it. Even the Mercedes in the movie looks ugly in this light. The budget was so low, the effect of a character impaled by a metal rod is rendered by having him tuck the rod between his arm and torso. Most of the budget seems to have gone to Rothrock and ammunition, because no one ever runs out of bullets in the shootouts. (Speaking of shootouts, there's an interesting one where with handguns, it's for a change the bad guys who pick off their assault rifle wielding opponents.) The biggest action set piece is when a helicopter explodes from a car driving into it, but I couldn't help but notice the helicopter exploded before the car even touched it. Most of the action consists of unspectacular karate fights, punctuated by slow motion close-up shots of feet sweeping past heads by inches, and the kickee driven back as if he or she was hit.

And speaking of karate, that brings us back to Ms. Rothrock. With her dubbed, it isn't fair to judge her of her acting ability here. I can say that she looks pretty hot wearing those very tight fitting clothes, and that she is to be commended for doing her stuntwork, except for the scene where the substituting stuntman wears a horribly yellow wig. Some of the fights aren't that bad; the climactic brawl is acceptably savage, and when the camera stays on her for more than two seconds, we really get to see her in action. This kind of fight direction - keeping the camera running - is almost always how the best fights originate, something Hong Kong has known for years. Why, why, why can't America - or even Indonesia - realize this when they make their own martial arts films?

UPDATE: Michael Prymula sent this in:

"Hey, I just wanted to mentioned that the version of this film that you watched was heavily edited from it's original version, which bore the title Triple Cross, for the U.S. version, scenes of both violence and language were removed and it was also redubbed with new voices, so that may explain the clunky editing during the fight scenes as well as certain continuity errors in the film."

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Behind Enemy Lines, Overkill, Sword Of Honor