Woman Avenger (HK 1979)

Rating: **
Review Date: 10/22/00
Alternate Title: Fatal Claws, Deadly Kicks
Cast: Hsia Kwan Lee

A cheap and simple, but thoroughly enjoyable rape-and-revenge film starring kung fu diva Hsia Kwan Lee. A group of highway bandits kill Hsia Kwan Lee's husband, and then rape her and leave her for dead. She is luckily rescued and nursed back to health by a Buddhist priestess, and she begs the priestess to teach her kung fu. The priestess reluctantly agrees, and Ms. Lee spends the next three and a half years learning dragon fist kung fu. With vengeance burning in her heart, she sets out to find and kill the men who raped her in a series of increasingly brutal set pieces. Hsia Kwan Lee delivers a fierce and powerful performance, and exhibits some incredible feats of strength, dexterity, and flexibility. You definitely don't want to mess with this woman. Unfortunately, the film suffers from a lean budget, an overuse of the utterly annoying dropped-frame editing technique, and a lot of the kung fu choreography looks too choreographed, for lack of a better term. The fight scenes often look more like synchronized gymnastics than hand to hand combat. But Hsia Kwan Lee is awesome throughout, and the film is surprisingly fun to watch. Apart from Ms. Lee's spirited performance, what makes the film work so well is its single-minded purpose. It's a revenge film through and through, and isn't cluttered or weighed down with humor, romance, sentimentality, intrigue, or heavy-handed morality issues. Hsia Kwan Lee means to kill the men who raped her, and everything in the film is a part of meeting that end. A refreshing and underrated approach to storytelling.