Sunday, February 1, 2015

Superham Cinema: THE AVENGING FEMALE WARRIOR 2 (1991)

In the modern day when it seems like every low-rent genre movie has to be smirky, winky and sarcastic, it's great to go back to those films of 20 years ago which earnestly wanted to entertain without the swagger of mock bravado. Ah, who am I kidding? We've never left that era, and when we look for solid, old fashioned entertainment you know a trip south of the border is just what the doctor ordered. Hey, don't judge, it's for medicinal purposes.

Presumably picking up where the 1988 original left off, we find the girly, but tough-as-nails vigilante Ana Rosa (low-budget action staple Rosa Gloria Chagoyán), aka The Avenging Female Warrior, with big hair, full make up, miniskirt and mid-drift top, working in her garage refitting her rice-burning street rocket with forward-firing machine guns! All of this without chipping a nail. I say "presumably" because after years of hunting, I still can't find a copy of the original, so I'm a little vague on the character interactions, but whatever. We got a hot chica on a suped-up motorcycle who fights crime in disguise, what more could you want? Don't ask, I'll tell you.

During a bloody robbery of a Mexican Bank of America branch, Detective Lince (Rolando Fernández) finds himself stymied by police incompetence when the robbers start executing hostages while waiting for the cops to bring them a helicopter. Fortunately for him, and the rest of the hostages, Rosa is listening to the radio while her dwarf manservant, Refund, does the dishes. Realizing this is a job for La Guerrera Vengadora! Clad in skintight white leather and matching helmet, Rosa smashes her bike through the bank's windows mowing down perps with her forward-firing machine guns, then proceeds to do doughnuts in the bank lobby, finishing off the last of the bad guys with her fully automatic sidearm! This is literally the first five minutes of the movie!

While Detective Lince feels that Vengadora deserves a medal, the police chief wants her arrested and brings in a senator and president of the Justice Commission to back him up. They suspect that Lince knows who she is and tell him that he has to bring her in, or it's his badge. Meanwhile the leader of the crime organization who was defeated by La Vengadora in the first film, Carlos, is now confined to a wheelchair and has discovered who our not-so-dark knight is and demands that his henchmen (and women) find her and make her suffer. At which point one of the henchmen consoles him by caressing his face with the back of his hand.

Violent vigilante by day, Rosa is also a high school teacher by, uhh, also day (why do I have a Van Halen song in my head now) who not only teaches in skin-tight outfits, but has a heart of gold. This is evidenced by the scene in which she takes pity on one of her students who has been beaten and kicked out of the house after her boyfriend gets her pregnant and bails out on her. Talk about adding injury to insult. Rosa decides to let her stay in her house, but that gesture seems like a particularly bad idea since the mob is out to kill her. Sure enough, after leaving the house to meet Lince, a grinning maniac with a switchblade slices her up thinking she was Vengadora. Of course, once in the house, he has a seat and smokes a cigarette waiting for her to get out of the bath. I mean, he's not rude after all. The ensuing pathos is equally violent as the girl bleeds to death in Rosa's arms causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Fortunately, like all murderers, Mr. Switchblade dropped a matchbook at the scene of the crime embossed with the name the club run by Carlos' mob. You know, if you are going to take up homicide, as a hobby or a profession, you should really quit smoking.

I know what you are thinking, this will lead to an all out war in the nightclub! Wrong! It leads to an all out dance off at the nightclub. Seriously. Rosa decides to infiltrate the nightclub posing as a chica caliente in a white fur coat, black bustier and what looks like Christmas tinsel and after ordering a "silk stocking" (cream, coconut milk, grenadine and tequila) hits the floor dancing by herself in what appears to be a commercial for Leggs pantyhose, or Vidal Sasson shampoo, I can't tell which.

After discovering their gaffe, the mob decides to use a remote controlled Ferrari 328 to kidnap the Senator's daughter and frame La Vengadora for it. Hell, you can't blame her for it. You could probably kidnap me with a remote controlled Ferrari 328. In any event, Ana's performance at the club allows her to get invited to Carlos' mansion as a party girl and uses this as a opportunity for her to sneak around and get some evidence of the kidnapping. Carlos, of course, keeps this evidence in a filing cabinet with a dossier on the girl, complete with pre-printed forms and a head shot. Another bit of advice, if you are thinking of a criminal career path to get away from bureaucracy, you might want to reconsider.

This all leads up to motorcycle chases, explosions, a labyrinth of Aztek ruins, helicopters, automatic weapons fire and a variety of vehicular destruction. Plus, Ana cribs a page from Linda Blair in SAVAGE STREETS (1984) and pours herself into a skin-tight black leather outfit complete with black crossbow and exploding tipped bolts. This proves that their heart is in the right place. Presumably skewered on a hunting arrow.

Directed by prolific Mexican B-movie director, Raúl Fernández hijo (son of Raúl Fernández, director of the original film), this bare-bones blend of Batman, Bronson and Bond is so much fun that it's a bit of a shame that his films are so hard to come by. Borrowing heavily from the Hong Kong "girls with guns" films that became popular in the late '80s, Fernández hijo can't match the production values of the slick HK hits, but that doesn't stop him from trying and in the end, it doesn't really matter. The rather workman like technical aspect somehow adds to its charm and let's face it, you have to give the guy points for having his pyrotechnic filled finale in an Aztec ruin, instead of yet another rock quarry.

Fernández hijo, and his father, made quite a few films with Rosa Gloria Chagoyán, an Argentine born actress who gained minor stardom after appearing in LOLA THE TRUCK TRIVER (1983), a low-budget action film that was hugely successful, spawning a pair of sequels. The only real flaw, aside from the fact that there are several "sexy" scenes but no actual nudity, is the comedy. It's not what you would call sophisticated. While some of it works (particularly the scene with the rather affectionate henchman), some of it is painfully low-brow and dated.

Seriously, who in 1991 was still making films with midget slapstick? In one sequence Ana and Refund are trying to escape from the mob compound after rescuing the Senator's daughter, Refund falls down an airduct that lands him face down in a giant pile of dough in the kitchen. The French-speaking chef is so surprised that he throws what is apparently presumed to be the national dish of France (spaghetti bolognese) up in the air and all over his hat. The cooks grab brooms and chase the flour-covered dwarf around the kitchen smashing glassware and knocking people over. On the plus side, that is the worst of it. Well, aside from the AIDS joke that illustrates their late '80s HK influence.

In spite of the flaws, or maybe even because of them, this film doesn't feel like a HK knock-off, like so many US films of the period did, but maintains its own sense of identity and makes me sad that there was never a part three.

Moments of Clarity:

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