|Index||6 reviews in total|
Better not watch this one with your parents around, kiddies.
I kid. 'Top Fighter 2: Deadly Fighting Dolls' starts off a little risqué, with the first segment trying to convince us that Amy Yip is representative of female action stars. Apart from that, 'Top Fighter 2' is an action-heroine version of 'Top Fighter'.
Essentially, this is just a list of (predominantly Asian) female action stars, complete with video clips and the odd interview. While it uses the same formula as 'Top Fighter', I must say that 'Top Fighter 2' is a better documentary. While 'Top Fighter' showcased a lot of now-famous stars, most of the women in 'Top Fighter 2' don't enjoy the same fame as their male counterparts, and so we get to learn more about these women and see more of their work.
Michelle Yeoh, one of my favourite actresses, is interviewed and a clip of her kicking arse is shown. Although she is well-known now for roles in 'Tomorrow Never Dies' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', when 'Top Fighter 2' was done in 1996, Michelle would have probably been a virtual unknown outside of Asia. Cynthia Rothrock gets her share of screen-time. After those two, 'Top Fighter 2' is a showcase for a lot of talented actresses from Hong Kong and Japan who may not be that well known at all. I was a little disappointed that someone like Amy Yip was shown while Etsuko Shihomi was left out completely.
'Top Fighter 2' is a nice documentary, and a little better than the first. I reckon any fan of martial-arts movies should check it out - 7/10
....and that problem is that it doesn't tell you which movie each clip is coming from. I recognized quite a few of them, but that's not the point - it couldn't have been so difficult to have a title card at the start of each clip, just like they have for each person that appears on the screen. And this time, the titles aren't even mentioned during the closing credits. Thankfully, what "Top Fighter 2" lacks in informativeness it makes up for in sheer enjoyability. Practically all the big names of HK female action cinema get their screen time - and some smaller ones as well (like the underrated Sharon Yeung). And most of the women interviewed are extremely charming - I think I just fell in love with Judy Lee. But my favorite segment is easily the one devoted to the very sexy musclewomen Sophia Crawford and Michiko Nishiwaki: their interviews are shot in a gym, where we can also see them work out and spar with each other, and we also get to see parts of Sophia's incredible nude fight scene that has been cut from most copies of "Escape From The Brothel". I won't say this compilation is worth getting just for that - it's worth getting anyway - but it's certainly a nice little bonus. (***)
TOP FIGHTER 2 is a documentary highlighting the female action stars of
Hong Kong cinema past. Directed by the maker of the original TOP
FIGHTER, Toby Russell, it's an amusing outing for fans of the topic.
However, it's not that great of a documentary in the sense that it
fails to tackle any specific viewpoint or pursue any objective other
than showcasing many archived fight scenes and interviews, interspersed
with light narration. It's fun to watch at least once, but definitely
doesn't sustain itself enough to earn more than a single viewing.
It seems like the producers made a list of all the women kung fu stars they could think of and then presented a series of mini-biographies on them, coupled with interviews of them giving their views on various subjects. Not following a strict chronological order, the complete list of stars is as follows: Amy Yip, Pei Pei Cheng, Feng Hsu, Shih Szu, Polly Shang, Judy Lee, Pan Pan Yeung, Hui Ying Hung, Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Elaine Lui, Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Khan, Sophia Crawford, Michiko Nishikawa, Lien Kwai Yi, Kathy Long, Tse "Kung Fu Mama" Gam-Guk, Cynthia Rothrock, and Angela Mao. The list is so thorough that it includes performers who have not only never contributed to Hong Kong cinema (i.e. Kathy Long) but also don't even have any movie credits at all to their name (i.e. bodybuilder Lien Kwai Yi, who nevertheless had a fight scene filmed for this movie).
The main reason you'll want to watch this is for the plethora of fight scenes offered. Almost all of the performers are accompanied by one to three brawls from movies they've appeared in, and considering that these are stars from different eras of Hong Kong filmmaking, the result is a diverse and rich collage of kung fu. Personally, I'm not a fan of most fight flicks made prior to the mid-80s, but even for me, the ample selection of fisticuffs is entertaining - from the respectively bare-bones and elaborate wuxia and swordfighting flicks from decades ago to the more recent "girls with guns" style of film fighting. Of course, these scenes are still best when viewed in context with the movies they're clipped from, and over time, the fighting can become a bit monotonous. Most disappointingly, the documentary doesn't provide the titles to most of the films it highlights, so good luck to you if you're interested in finding the ones that look interesting for yourself.
The accompanying interviews (there are about thirteen of them) are largely informative but not very well connected: besides the performers talking about their film experiences, there is no underlying theme they appear to adhere to. Judy Lee talks about her opera experience, Moon Lee assures us that it's "guaranteed" to be injured while shooting an action movie, Elaine Lui elaborates on her disappointment with the action orientation of her career, Cynthia Rothrock comments on the stunt differences between Hong Kong and American action flicks, etc., etc. It's fun listening to them speak, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be listening to. Additionally, the audio quality of some of these dialogues is iffy: though you can hear everyone speak with little trouble, some of the interviews (especially Polly Shang's) appear to have been filmed in public places with lots of background noise.
The video quality of the DVD is iffy, though this is likely thanks to the footage used: none of the clips from the featured films has been restored. The production offers little by way of aesthetics: the presentation is almost entirely frills-free, and narrator Shenagh Cameron speaks like a newscaster with little enthusiasm. Thus, the focus is entirely on the clips and interviews, for better or worse. I think it's definitely for the better, but again, the documentary doesn't really sustain itself through repeated viewings: greater production flair or at least a more directed approach to the topic would have made for a more memorable film.
TOP FIGHTER 2: DEADLY FIGHTING DOLLS is a great documentary that
celebrates the wealth of female fighters who were dominating Hong Kong
action cinema at the time. This was made by Toby Russell, a martial
arts film expert and son of famed director Ken. The film is mainly made
up of clips which understandably show off the fighting talents of
pretty much every female fighter ever to grace Hong Kong cinema, along
with a few contemporary interview clips with some of the actresses
The clips utilised tend to be quite poor quality, understandable given the lack of high quality DVD prints of many of the films at the time. My only complaint is that they fail to identify the films shown so if you end up liking a fight scene you'll have no idea where it comes from. Many of the films shown seem to be quite rare and some of them are jaw-dropping, like the nude fight with the western actress; I have no idea where that came from.
The interview footage is very interesting and reveals many insights about the workings of Hong Kong cinema. Moon Lee, Michelle Yeoh, Yukari Oshima, and Cynthia Rothrock are all very verbose and engaging. TOP FIGHTER 2 goes back to the beginning by looking at the careers of Cheng Pei-Pei and Angela Mao before moving to the wealth of girls 'n' guns thrillers of the 1990s with Elaine Yui and Moon Lee covered extensively. It's great fun and hard to dislike.
Review: This is a decent documentary, about the old school Kung Fu
ladies, who really kicked butt. It did look a bit cheap and the
narrating wasn't that great but there are some decent interviews with
the athletic ladies, who didn't have the advantage of special effects
or string action, so they really had to show there top skills in the
low budget martial arts movies that they made years ago. You do get to
see some top class action throughout the documentary but some of the
fighting is really slow and not that great, which was expected in some
of the older movies. From big names like Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle
Yeoh to Angela Mao and Kathy Long, it's definitely worth a watch if
your into you Kung Fu movies and it's a deep insight into a world, were
women risked there life's to entertain. Enjoyable!
Round-Up: I can't help but think that this documentary would have been much better if they had some money behind it. The director, Toby Russell, has made 9 documentaries, mainly about martial arts, which include 2 films on Bruce Lee, so he's not new to the game. You can definitely see that he had a low budget, because of the terrible camera work during the interviews and the bad editing but the archive footage was enough to keep me entertained.
I recommend this movie to people who are into their action/documentaries starring Jackie Chan, Sophia Crawford, Cynthia Rothrock, Michelle Yeoh, Pei-Pei Cheng and Angela Mao. 5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This strikes you as it could have been so much better. It is good to see the likes of Angela Mao and Judy Lee given the credit they so richly deserve but 1) why are the interviews so poor, often done in noisy, inappropriate locations 2) why are the clips not identified. You see a clip from a film and think, I would like to watch that film, but no title is given within the film, in the credits or as an insert 3) why are some of the clips so poor - Hapkido with Angela Mao for instance looks washed out. Any fan will argue, are the clips the best they could find for a particular star but this may have been limited by rights issues. It was good to see stars like Angela Mao are still alive (and still beautiful I might add) but none of them give much of an insight as to what it was like to be in such films or to work for Shaw Brothers or Golden Harvest at their peak. Interesting but could have been far better.
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