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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Profile In Anger (1984) review


Leung Kar Yan (Leung Ting Yu/Chun Yu), Chan Wai Man (assassin #1), Philip Ko (assassin #2), Chang Yi (Wai Kit), Damian Lau (Wong Kin Hang), Patricia Ha (Heidi Lam Sau Ling)

Directed by Leung Kar Yan (Liang Chia Jen)

The Short Version: Fan favorite, Leung Kar Yan gets down and dirty with this thoroughly ridiculous, hugely enjoyable and brutally violent piece of Hong Kong trash about a former race car driver turned architect who gets mixed up in a friends vendetta. Outrageous is an understatement in the face of cackling assassins, mohawked, futuristic gangs, gratuitous car crashes, bars with built in ramps for motorcyclists, even more gratuitous violence, a damn fine Euro Prog Rock-Metal score, and a plot that makes less and less sense as this films modest 83 comes to a close. This type of insanity and outright cinematic chaos could only come from the wacky world of Hong Kong cinema.

Leung Ting Yu, an architect, former race car driver, and avid sports enthusiast, picks up his childhood friend, Wong Kin Hang at the airport. Thinking he is in town on a visit, Wong's purpose is a bit more personal. He plans to kill a jewelry tycoon named Wai Kit who had killed his father and taken his wealth and properties back in South Africa. Failing to do the job, Wong is tortured and reveals to Wai that he has documented evidence of his crimes that's in safe keeping. Not long after, Wai learns of Wong's friend, Leung. Assuming he is a knowing accomplice, Wai sends assassins after Leung and his fiance.

Leung is about to be attacked by the KISS Army.

Prior to re-joining Shaw Brothers, Leung Kar Yan (Liang Chia Jen) helmed his first directorial effort for Shaw's biggest competitor, Golden Harvest. Not only did Leung direct, but he also co-choreographed the action (with former Shaw action designer Shikamura Ito), took the lead role and also wrote the screenplay. He apparently took on far more responsibility than he could handle what with the script maintaining cohesiveness for the first half of the film then quickly dovetailing into kitchen sink territory immediately thereafter. It starts off as a typical revenge story resembling those in the DEATH WISH mold (Leung is even an architect, much like Bronson's Paul Kersey character), but soon deteriorates into the most enjoyably nonsensical mess indigenous to HK cinema; the likes of which can either be the bane, or the blessing to Asian action movie fans.

What we have here is a less sadistic, but no less chaotic version of Shaw's monumentally troubled PURSUIT OF A KILLER (1985), a film that went through two directors and lost numerous chunks of footage over the course of the four years it took to complete. The two films are similar in that they have flip-flopping hairstyles and start off on course before taking a wrong turn and ending up in bizarro-ville. But while the Dr. Frankenstein patchwork that is PURSUIT OF A KILLER has an indelibly seething mean-spiritedness about it, PROFILE IN ANGER is a roller coaster by comparison; a roller coaster that flies off the tracks killing everyone aboard, but a roller coaster just the same. Leung's movie balances its brutality with hyper under cranked car chases, saloons with conveniently placed ramps inside of them, abandoned cars just sitting in the middle of suspiciously empty streets, brick walls out in the middle of nowhere, post apocalyptic gangs and two supporting villains who aren't given names, but get far more screen time than the main antagonist does.

Phillip Ko obviously has no compunction about nudity and he seemingly has a clause in his contracts stating that he must bed down at least one of the non essential female cast members whether it makes sense in the film or not. If a gratuitous sex scene for a character who isn't even given a name isn't enough, halfway through the movie, we see that Ko's character is actually bald and bears massive burn scars over a quarter of his body! No explanation is given for this, we are forced to accept it. Possibly this is due to injuries sustained from his phantasma-gory-ical light show battle with puke eating wizards from THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983).

Also, his character has suddenly transformed from a machete wielding bodyguard to a sniveling, cackling, insane madman. Both Leung and Ko's characters reach an incredible level of ludicrousness during the mud and blood soaked salvage yard battle near the finale. While whacking the hell out of each other with impossibly heavy truck parts swung with the most herculean of ease, Ko's TERMINATOR like assassin disappears briefly only to emerge moments later stripped down to his underwear with steam coming off of him!

A really scary moment at the 79 minute mark during the final minutes of PROFILE IN ANGER.

During this "backyard battle", it's clearly evident Leung was performing some rather dangerous stunt work. It's possible he could have suffered some head trauma which might explain why his movie loses its mind at around the 40 minute mark. Speaking of stunt work, during the twisted metal finale, a potentially fatal bit of business has a large steel prong affixed to a dump truck piercing the back of a speeding car where it appears to possibly cleave the head of the stunt driver! It's difficult to tell as the camera cuts away too fast, but it's a harrowing bit of footage nonetheless.

Chan Wai Man (Chen Hui Min to you Mando followers), whom you may remember as the screens ultimate ninja bad ass in Chang Cheh's flashy, gory spectacular, FIVE ELEMENT NINJAS (1982), steals the film as another nameless assassin (we can refer to him as assassin #1, although the DVD box refers to him as killer Mau) who gets a few of the films best scenes when he isn't torturing people, smacking kids around, or running over pregnant women.

One of them is a suspensefully shot sequence during a thunderstorm wherein Chan's character pursues Leung's bride-to-be throughout their home with the intent of killing her. Some other great Chan moments are a brutal battle with Leung (Chan holds Leung at gunpoint all the while beating the crap out of him) that leads into a rambunctious car chase. This scene also showcases another moment of Leung Kar Yan performing a dangerous stunt, this time jumping off of a balcony with no mat to brace his fall. He lands on his feet and takes off running, having evaded a severe sprain or even a broken foot, ankle, or leg.

The level of outright bat-shittery reaches an apex when Leung finds himself on a set that looks almost identical to the one lorded over by Gene Simmons' hermaphrodite villain from the MAD MAXian-James Bondian silliness of NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE (1987). Housed within are a gang of post apocalyptic punks that look to have stepped out of any number of early 80s heavy metal music videos. Leung proceeds to battle what appears to be the gang leader. Why is this scene even taking place? What the hell does it have to do with the movie? Why does the film look like it's suddenly transformed into one of those ROAD WARRIOR clones? Are they going to fight over the last can of gas or water?

Apparently, this mohawked character is 'Buffalo', a man whose name we hear earlier in the movie when a gang of motorbike ridin' cretins enter a saloon from the SECOND FLOOR. This isn't just any saloon, either. This establishment has its own ramp as if folks on motorbikes frequently ride in and trash the place on a regular basis. Either way, it gives the stunt guys something to do and a chance to break a lot of glass and balsa wood furniture.

Does Chang Yi look suspiciously like Sir Run Run Shaw, or what?!

Chang Yi, the bad guy from such oldschool kung fu favorites such as EAGLE'S CLAW ([1976]also with Leung Kar Yan and Ko Fei) and THE VILLAIN (1980), not to mention a handful of earlier Shaw Brothers swordplay classics like THE BELLS OF DEATH (1968) and THE SECRET OF THE DIRK (1970) is the main villain here. But you wouldn't know that from his terribly limited screen time, particularly during the second half of the movie. His death warrant against the uninvolved Leung after his friend, Wong foolishly implicates him sets the action in motion. However, he disappears for most of the movie and doesn't reappear till the last couple minutes when Leung shows up suddenly sporting a much thicker, hastily thrown together beard! How ironic in that Leung was famous for his facial hair including his famous beard which gave birth to his UK fan handle, 'Beardy'.

After the salvage yard skirmish and the car chase mash up, some viewers might find the last moments abrupt. Considering the array of nuttiness preceding the ending, you half expect a few dozen suit and tie wearing minions brandishing machetes to come out of the woodwork to protect the big boss, but that doesn't happen. What we do get is a patently pissed off Leung Kar Yan brandishing both a shotgun, the aforementioned fake ass facial hair, and that ever so charismatic look of 'Im'a fuck you up' he wore so well in movies like SHAOLIN MARTIAL ARTS (1974), THUNDERING MANTIS (1980), SECRET SERVICE OF THE IMPERIAL COURT (1984) and HONG KONG GODFATHER (1985).

If bad movies with an over abundance of verve grab your attention, than prepare for sensory overload. For all its ineptitude, PROFILE IN ANGER seems to take forever to reach the last few seconds of its short 83 minutes, but it never seems to drag, at least not for very long. It's also worth mentioning the Euro style prog rock-metal soundtrack, which adds to the outlandish nature of Leung's debut directorial effort. This shoestring production, as impoverished and intellectually barren as it might be, is miles away more entertaining than the similarly retarded big budget HK-US co-pro mega bomb from 1982, MEGAFORCE. Golden Harvest could stink it up as good as the next studio and rarely does cinematic shit smell as sweet as polished turds like PROFILE IN ANGER (1984).

This review is representative of the Fortune Star/Joy Sales DVD


Steve said...

Never realized the Death Wish connection, despite having seen Death Wish dozens of times. I can also see a definite Mad Max influence. Also I can't help but feel the bizarre "arena" fight is some how inspired by Walter Hill's The Warriors.

venoms5 said...

I couldn't help but notice similarities to DEATH WISH 3 and EXTERMINATOR 2 even though both of those hadn't come out yet. And the arena scene instantly brought to mind both early 80s metal videos and a similar set piece in NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE, which also hadn't come out yet.

Haha, yeah, THE WARRIORS is another one, Steve. All those guys needed were some coke bottles and to hear Leung say "You must be goin' faggot" and we'd be set, lol.

Steve said...

Ya know, I'm surprised we never saw a Hong Kong version of The Warriors. That would have been sick!

venoms5 said...

Dude! THE WARRIORS is one of my all time faves and a HK version would have been awesome! Can you imagine the level of badassery on display with the amount of HK stars that film could potentially contain?!?!?!

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