Oriental action / martial arts films never fail to surprise. Take for instance the visually stunning, high kicking Vietnamese period adventure The Lady Assassin. In this garish, cartoon’esque adventure – starring Kim Dzung, Tang Thanh Ha, Thanh Hang, Thai-Hoa Le, Diem My and Ngoc Quyen – director Quang Dung Nguyen and writer Ngo Quang Dung have fashioned a celluloid adventure which, though preposterous in premise, is as entertaining and visually impressive as many films currently being produced by western cinema.
Beside a beautiful beach, on a lonely stretch of coastline, live four women whose sole job is to entice the corrupt local hierarchy to stay at their hostelry. Once there the deadly ladies lighten the men of their purses as well as their lives. One day though they discover, to their cost, that the ‘treasure’ being carried by their latest victims may be more trouble than its worth.
Many films which fall into the grouping of martial arts adventures, frequently figure two aspects prominently – a predominance of alluringly clad women, and a fixation with violent (though cartoonish-like) action sequences: both factors feature heavily in The Lady Assassin. That the storyline (what there is of it) is simplistic in the extreme, is of little consequence in a film thats main objective seems to be to titillate. Here a bevy of beautiful maidens make their livings by luring corrupt local officials and business racketeers to their deaths, under the premise of providing them with food, lodging and ‘whatever’ else they may require. Like a bevy of female ‘Robin Hood’s’ the viewer never feels anything less than on their side even though, unlike the legendary Lord of Locksley, these girls steal for personal gain, despatching their victims in an exuberant display of high octane and increasingly impossible deadly gyrations.
Which is pretty much all there is to say. It feels like the introduction of a young woman (played with accomplished believability by Tang Thanh Ha) – who supposedly provides the story with its main plot – is really only in order to give the proceedings a degree of legitimacy. The real reason for the film seems more likely to ogle the girls in their array of risqué, exotic costumes (which often appear incongruous against the film’s period setting) and series of bizarre pastimes (with heavy lesbian overtones) including several bouts of all girl beach volleyball.
Though The Lady Assassin may not be the deepest film you will see this year, it will undoubtedly be one of the most stylish and none the worse for that.