Widow Warriors (HK 1989)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/27/19
Director: Wang Lung
Cast: Elizabeth Lee, Niu Tien, Wei Ying Hung, Winnie Lau, Michiko Nishiwaki, Pauline Wong Siu Fung, Michael Wai Man Chan, Philip Chan, Ken Lo, Shih Kien

Ching (Elizabeth Lee) returns to Hong Kong after studying abroad and getting married. Shortly after her return, all of the men in the Liu family get murdered during a carefully orchestrated attack by a rival gang led by Yim. This leaves the Liu family widows in charge of the family business, and they plot revenge.

This tedious and incohesive drama feels like three separate films stuck together. The first third focuses on the men in the Liu family (Shih Kien, Wai Man Chan, Ken Lo, and Philip Chan) and the social dynamics of the family. After the men are all killed, the second third focuses on Michiko Nishiwaki, Wei Ying Hung, and one of the other sisters attempting to avenge their husbands' deaths. When that fails, the final third focuses on Ching and Nan (Niu Tien) coming up with a better plan for revenge, and revealing a traitor in the family.

It's a good looking film and the production values are decent, but it liberally borrows music from several other Hong Kong films of the same period. The acting is good and it's nice to see action actresses like Wei Ying Hung and Michiko Nishiwaki working with more dramatically complex roles than they typically get. It's a slow burning film and the story is weighed down with way too much dialog, but there are a handful of nicely executed action scenes to spice things up. The highlights are a fight between Michiko Nishiwaki and Pauline Wong, and a brilliant exchange between Wei Ying Hung and two bad guys. The gunfight at the end is also quite entertaining, and both Elizabeth Lee and Niu Tien put up a spirited fight. It's just unfortunate that the film doesn't gel better as a unified whole.