Eye For Film >> Movies >> They Call Her Cleopatra Wong (1978) Film Review
They Call Her Cleopatra Wong
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
International crime syndicates. Scantily-clad, high-kicking heroines. Nuns with guns. This is a film which has it all, with Marrie Lee's top Asian Interpol agent giving James Bond a run for his money in the first of the Cleopatra Wong films. Sent to investigate the appearance of high quality forged currency in several Far Eastern countries, she uncovers a conspiracy which leads her to an isolated convent who sisters are definitely not what they seem. It's a tale of subterfuge, high-speed pursuits, 'erotic' adventures and fighting - but mostly fighting.
The first half of this film is beautifully paced, lively and engaging, with a properly developed story and a series of entertaining minor skirmishes in which we get to see Ms Wong do her thing. Unfortunately, this doesn't last, and the battle which fills the final 40 minutes is reminiscent of watching somebody else play a computer game.
One adversary after another is killed in such a throwaway manner that it's difficult to care, even stylistic flourishes lost in the sheer monotony of it all. Still, grindhouse fans will be pleased to see several of the genre's foremost stars doing their thing in cameo roles. The martial arts is well choreographed and impressively performed, and Ms Lee can easily hold her own in the lead.
Enormously influential, the Cleopatra Wong films are probably best known in the West today for their influence on the work of Quentin Tarantino, most notably Kill Bill. Fans of that work will enjoy spotting the originals of scenes which he went on to make his own. But this is the real thing, and the atmosphere is distinctly different - playful, yet without a trace of irony. Bad dubbing adds an extra layer of humour. Its very rawness gives it an infectious energy, and though it'll never be winning any big awards it can make for a great evening's entertainment.Reviewed on: 30 May 2007