A Woman Commando (Hong Kong 199?)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/30/13

Not as awful as "Chinese Amazons" (1975), but eerily similar. Losing ground against the Japanese, someone in the Chinese army decides it would be a good idea to put together a female fighting force. Whether by choice or chance (it's not made clear), eight beautiful young women are recruited and put through the wringer by a hard-nosed commander. The first half plays out like a military training film, as the girls learn kung fu, knife combat, and how to shoot guns, along with seduction skills like how to dress provocatively and smoke cigarettes like sophisticated ladies. Their ultimate mission is to take out some high ranking Japanese tough guys through seduction, stealth, and firepower. Unfortunately, the group is betrayed, spelling certain doom for everyone involved.

I'm noticing a pattern with these Chinese military propaganda films, as the overall theme seems to be "what better way to die than in the service of your country." It's a very somber and depressing film, where everyone is miserable and looking for a way out. Dying in a violent blaze of glory seems to be the best that anyone can hope for out of life, and seeing pretty young girls go through these paces is a bit heartbreaking. The version I saw wasn't subtitled, so I missed out on a lot of the details surrounding the group and their various histories and conflicts, but the overall plot is routine and formulaic. Unfortunately, my copy of the film also had a flaw that dropped out their entire first mission, which appeared to be a pivotal rape, torture, and rescue operation.

The production values are decent, but it's definitely low budget and there are no recognizable actors. I couldn't find a date listed anywhere on the film, but judging by the look, I'd guess it came out somewhere between 1987 and 1991. The girls are all pretty, and a couple of them are quite good at kung fu and dancing. The action scenes are a bit weak, but it's still fun to watch the girls deliver death and destruction. The training scenes aren't as gratuitous as other films in the genre, although there are the obligatory rain and mud fighting sequences. Similar to the "women in prison" exploitation films of the 1970's, the main goal of the film is to make the characters suffer as much as possible until they reach their breaking points. From what I could tell, politics are kept to a minimum, but there's a strong undercurrent of patriotism and national pride. While it's not at all what I was expecting or hoping for, it's marginally entertaining and just barely satisfies a girls-with-guns fix.