Monday, September 29, 2008

Bruce, Kung Fu Girls (Taiwan, 1977)

Wu Jiao Wa--given the courtly English title Five Pretty Young Ladies, and later rechristened with the nonsensical but paradoxically more descriptive Bruce, Kung Fu Girls--is another dose of amiable kung fu silliness from Polly Shang Kwan. It probably goes without saying that it has nothing to do with Bruce Lee, or anyone named Bruce, for that matter, so fans of Bruce Boxleitner are doomed to walk away from it disappointed.

In it, Polly portrays a kung fu instructor at a health spa who is recruited by her police superintendent uncle--along with four of her star pupils--to assist in tracking down a robber with the power of invisibility. Along the way she falls for a handsome young student (Lu Ming) who is responsible for creating the invisibility formula.

Despite its relatively brisk ninety minute running time, this is far from an exercise in lean filmmaking. There are comedic hijinks, pointless scenes of the girls frolicking and even a sequence in which Polly sings--or, at least, lip-synchs--a song. It also has the clear feeling of having been made up as the filmmakers went along, exemplified by the way it suddenly seems to shift to being all about the women having to guard the moon rock.

Man, the fucking moon rock. I remember being dragged to see that thing when I was a kid. For those of you that missed it: It was a rock. I'm sure I would have found it more worth waiting in that long line for if the thing had been guarded by a squad of hot Asian women in black leather hot pants. But, sadly, the past is written--and in these more sophisticated times, people can't be conned into standing in long lines to look at a rock, unless maybe it was in IMAX.

Anyway, because she is sparring with actual humans, rather than flying sharks or men dressed as lobsters, Polly really gets to show her stuff in the fight scenes, and they are uniformly good. That, the dopey concept (an early precursor to The Heroic Trio? Ummm, probably not), and the kinky outfits add up to making this either a classic for the ages or an enjoyably fluffy little time-waster. I'll let you decide.

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