From the always reliable Eureka Entertainment comes this release of the fully restored 1990 Hong Kong actioner She Shoots Straight. Before we get to the plot it is worth stressing what a fine print this is: an absolutely stunning 1.85:1 restoration, with only clothing and hair giving away that this is not a new film (along with a couple of over-exposed sequences common to the time). It really does look that good. This is complemented by a choice of DTS surround English or mono Cantonese soundtrack options.
Starring Joyce Godenzi and Tony Ka Fai Leung (he of the infamous 1994 film The Lovers, not the Tony Leung of Infernal Affairs and Shang Chi), it tells the story of Mina (Godenzi), a police officer due to marry Huang Tsung-pao (Leung), her supervisor and a man from a family of police. Mina’s future sister-in-law, Chia Ling (Carina Lau, Leung’s future wife), is a fellow officer, and critical of the apparent favouritism shown to Mina, and even goes as far as impugning her ethnic background.
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Faced with the rise of Vietnamese organised crime in the city, led by Yuan Hua (Yuen Wah), the police find themselves in danger, trying to thwart the threat. When Chia Ling goes to investigate alone, saving her life comes at the cost of Huang’s. United in grief, the two women seek vengeance in the most violent of fashions. That is all there is to say in terms of plot. Running a mere (and tight) 92 minutes, this is a relatively slight actioner that will appeal chiefly to fans of far east actioners, and films of this era. Although nothing particularly outstanding in and of itself, the film has been lovingly restored to look its very best, and put out on a disc to the usual standard we have come to expect from Eureka Entertainment.
Bonus features kick-off with a pair of commentaries. Frank Djeng was a marketing manager and co-programmer and interpreter at the NY Asian Film Festival. He describes himself as the co-host for the last 26 years of the superhero kung fu extravaganza panel at San Diego Comic Con. We have taken the time to note this, as it is rare on the usually otherwise excellent Eureka releases to get a good feel for who contributors are, and what their areas of expertise are. His is a new commentary that he seems really happy to be here for, sounding full of enthusiasm.
Djeng is fluent in Cantonese, so can tell us all about the alternate titles for the film as well as what the names of the companies involved mean. Right away we are bombarded by facts about the film and the people involved, added to a knowledge of the culture that enhances the insights. In fact, cultural knowledge is its chief selling point. Djeng is a very fast talker, with a Cantonese accent that can make some of his words difficult to follow, but he knows everything about everyone involved, even having met many of the key players, so it is worth persevering with, even if a subtitle track might have been helpful in a few places. He notes early on how unusual it for a work from this time to be so female-centric, and so he has grasped that this is a little ahead of its time. As the film progresses, he contextualises the society of the time, whilst having the film knowledge necessary to talk about the composition of the work.
The second commentary is from action cinema experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema. We are not told this, but the former appears to be an English producer, actor and casting director based in Hong Kong (though his accent is a little antipodean). Venema is a director, producer, and editor of unknown background, but also based in Hong Kong. They have worked together before, and so are on the same page when it comes to this commentary. They leave little dead air, and at times can be a little bit much. They both know the city well, and they have a technical background, proving insightful on technical choices as well as locations. They are not as studied as Frank, but they have picked up a good deal of knowledge about Hong Kong cinema and its key players, so they have a lot to impart, as well as a perspective born of their own experiences in the region. On balance, this commentary is recommended, but they will not be for everyone.
Further extras include ‘Filmmaker Valerie Soe in She Shoots Straight’: a short, seven-minute feature. Soe introduces herself as a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, as well as a writer on film, and a filmmaker. This appears to be a new feature, and Soe talks about the films of the time, and how this work fits into its era. It is a basic talking head intercut with scenes and shots from the film. She has no inside knowledge about the film but is substantial value on the cultural background into which the film was released. It is a little too short a feature, given how well Soe talks.
‘Shooting Locations’ is twelve minutes in duration and does exactly what is says on the tin, with a couple of guides taking us around the key locations from the film. This is an enjoyable feature but just feels a little rushed; the same content allowed to breathe over, say, twenty minutes might have felt a little less jarring. It is impressive, as always with Eureka, to see new features being shot, in this case literally on location. As always, as decades pass, cityscapes change, and it is interesting to see how locations have altered since filming as locations are contrasted with relevant shots from the film itself. Extras are rounded off by the English opening and closing credits, and a theatrical trailer from that time, which really highlights how the footage might look unrestored in the main feature.
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As is usual with Eureka, we are given a thoughtful accompanying booklet. The only essay on this occasion is ‘A Family Affair: Love and Bullets in She Shoots Straight’ by James Oliver. This writing deals with some background to the making of the film not really covered in the commentaries, such as the lead’s relationship with producer Sammo Hung (also a police chief in the film). From here we move on to the relationship between said producer and director Corey Yuen, then the latter’s background, which was decidedly not action. It then moves on the female-centric nature of the film and discusses the morality of some of its choices. A decent, if slightly tabloid-feeling piece of writing, but excellent value for giving us more than a rehash of the same stories and insights we hear on the main disc.
This is a release for Hong Kong or nineties actioners completists. It is not a stand out release, but as a film relatively little known in the UK it is always a privilege for any filmmaker to find his or her work in the hands of Eureka Entertainment, as they are assured that their work will look and sound great, and be presented with thoughtful feature to educate and inform the audience. A fine release, for an unremarkable film.
She Shoots Straight is out now on Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment.