Not a sequel to Angel Terminators (1990) but reteaming the stars of Angel (1987), the Hong Kong girls-with-guns classic that likely spawned it, Angel Terminators II transcends its convoluted origins and emerges a sublime example of the genre. Insanely acrobatic tough cop Madame Wu (Sibelle Hu) goes in all-guns blazing when jewel thieves hold a whole building hostage, but two survivors manage to escape. Meanwhile, fellow cop Bao (Jason Pai Pao) struggles to reconnect with his estranged daughter Bullet (Yukari Oshima), a kung fu delinquent just out of jail. She and her scrappy best friend Chitty (Moon Lee) try to stay on the straight and narrow, but explode with righteous fury when arrogant gang boss Brother Mad and sleazy porn baron Mr. Chin. During their revenge attack, Bullet discovers the stolen jewels stashed at Mad’s hideout and inadvertently sparks a cycle of tragedy.
Kicking off with a breakneck action sequence right in the midst of the opening credits, the film features consistently tense, expertly choreographed stunts, shootouts and kung fu fights with fluid camerawork by co-directors Chan Lau (an actor turned director who also co-stars here) and Lu Chin Ku, director of such demented Shaw Brothers gems as Ambitious Kung Fu Girl (1981), The Lady Assassin (1982) and Holy Flame of the Martial World (1983). But what proves truly impressive is the substantial and affecting story plus the terrific performances delivered by the female leads. For once, martial arts princesses Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima flex their acting muscles as much as their kung fu skills. Having played adversaries so often onscreen it is oddly charming to see them as buddies, bonding over beer and karaoke. Sibelle Hu is equally impressive as the snarling policewoman who makes Dirty Harry look like Woody Allen. Hu rose to fame with a run of weepy Taiwanese melodramas, but after her stellar turn in the classic My Lucky Stars (1985) was quickly typecast as a no-nonsense policewoman. An incredibly prolific and popular actress, often spliced into movies for a few scenes cameo, she gave one of her most notable performances opposite Jet Li in the kung fu comedy Fong Sai Yuk (1993).
Moon Lee is splendidly feisty while Yukari exudes the kind of swaggering cool one usually associates with Chow Yun-Fat. Indeed the film’s themes of friendship, loyalty and honour share a lot in common with the movies of John Woo, as does its core premise of the ex-con trying to go straight. Interwoven amidst this gender-bending take on familiar crime movie tropes is a theme of daughters (both surrogate and real) avenging father figures, with emotional confrontations between Bullet and Bao and Chitty (silly character names are the film’s only real failing) and her beloved uncle. Brilliantly played by Shaw Brothers legend Lo Lieh, the blustery but gregarious old rogue is yet another character with a shady past who tries to redeem himself and set an example for the younger generation. After a lighthearted start, the plot grows progressively darker, building to an explosive finale where last-women-standing Chitty and Wu take down Brother Mad and his American cronies. Sibelle Hu goes crazy with a pump-action shotgun while Moon scraps with a blonde (Sophia Crawford, another genre veteran and later stunt double for Sarah Michelle Gellar on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Chinese lady assassins in ridiculous red and yellow tracksuits. The closing shot, wherein our heroines deliver a one-fingered salute to some patronising police officers, underlines the film’s pro-working class, anti-establishment tone.