Thursday, August 16, 2012

REVIEW: Temptress of a Thousand Faces

Temptress of a Thousand Faces
Director: Chang-hwa Jeong
Year 1969
Temptress of a Thousand Faces is an extremely fun Shaw Brothers production that leans towards the ridiculous with its 60’s spy-centric style and over the top antics which depict a master thief who can transform herself in to anyone she pleases. Steeped in campy moments, the film is a fun little crime caper that focuses more on comedy and spectacle over anything else. With a barrage of beautiful locations, elaborate sets, and ingeniously ludicrous plot devices, Temptress of a Thousand Faces is a Hong Kong feature that really delights in thrilling the audience while at the same time tickling their funny bone in the wackiest of ways.
The film follows the nefarious dealings of the mysterious Temptress of a Thousand Faces, a master thief who masquerades as different people in order to accomplish her many lucrative heists. Fed up with the unsuccessful attempts of bringing the Temptress to justice, police officer Chi Ying goes on air demanding that the Temptress turn herself in or face the harsh judgment of Chi Ying’s fists. Not taking kindly to Chi’s threats, the Temptress’ thugs pay Ying an unexpected visit. They kidnap her and drag her down to the Temptress’ elaborate underground lair, where she is intimated, tortured, and then set free, but this doesn’t deter Chi’s determination in trying to bring down the Temptress, far from it. If there’s one thing you don’t want to do it’s piss off a woman who can disguise herself as anyone, because wouldn’t you know it, the Temptress begins impersonating Chi during her latest heist and the nasty result lands the real Chi in hot water with her fellow police officers. Can Chi prove her innocence and finally succeed in bringing down this master thief, or will she just be another victim of identity-theft by the inexplicable Temptress of a Thousand Faces?

Tina Chin-Fei plays the role of Chi Ying, the stubborn and highly capable female police officer that will stop at nothing in order to bring the Temptress to justice. Tina is phenomenal in the role, playing both the vulnerable and ass-kicking portions of her character to perfection. Her athletic ability on screen is spectacular and she can really bring the pain when the time calls for it. There is also a great amount of femininity to her role, which is made all the more clear when she uses her good looks and sexual prowess to get her out of a jam. In the film, Chi Ying’s character is thwarted and captured numerous times by the Temptress, but in the most dire of moments, she never gives up and keeps continuing to pursue her query even if it means that she might ruin her reputation in the process. That kind of determination allows the audience to sympathize with her plight and cheer her on as she tries again and again to succeed in her impossible task. That uncompromising drive propels the film onward and at a break-neck pace, making the film an energized spectacle that rarely stops to take a breather. Tina Chin-Fei’s performance is the heart of the movie and you can feel it every step of the way.
The secondary player of the piece is Chi Ying’s boyfriend Yu Ta, played by Liang Chen. Yu Ta’s role in the film is an interesting one, because in an unusual turn of events, this male counterpart takes a backseat to his female co-star. In a series of situations within the story of the movie, Yu Ta is resorted to being the pacifist or spectator of many of the action oriented moments, only getting into the action once he goes undercover as a female thief in order to draw the Temptress out of hiding. Liang Chen does a great job with the role reversal and it looks like he had a blast with the cross-dressing portions of the movie. As the film rolls to a close and the big climactic action sequence begins bursting onto the scene, Chen begins to encapsulate the stereotypical spy mold as he gets down and dirty and starts to taking the bad guys out along side his action heroine girlfriend. Without a doubt, the role reversal of Liang Chen’s character is one of the highlights of the film and an excellent choice for turning the genre on its head and trying something different.

Another opportunity that comes along with the role reversal is the inclusion of an over-amplified femme fatale tone that just drowns the film in sexual tension and naughty atmosphere. This is not a risky film by any means and it is far from pornographic, but the filmmakers were very specific in making this film a cut above the rest when it came to beefing up the femme fatale aspects of the movie. Not only that, but they ingeniously mixed in a heavy dose of comedy to smooth over the more sexually centric portions so as to have it blend more within the context of the narrative. For instance, Chi Ying is placed under arrest after the Temptress disguised herself as Chi and went on a jewelry heist, and she is handcuffed in the back of a police van with a male officer escorting her to prison. Chi Ying wisely begins to flirt with the officer by showing off her legs and basically being one exceptionally good cock teaser. Well of course the bumbling cop falls for it and she gets a hold of his gun, takes him hostage, and high-tails it out of there. This moment is replicated again and again, allowing Chi Ying’s character to display both the sexual side of her persona along with the more physical and ass-kicking oriented one which brings us to the action portion of my write-up.
Action! Action! Action! There is plenty of heart stopping moments in this film and each actor handles these tremendously uplifting moments with surprising flair and expert athleticism. Just as her performance is sexually charged, Tina Chin-Fei especially gives an outstanding show when it comes to dealing out some punishment and there’s no shortage of that. She’s given some ample opportunities to showcase her fighting skills and emphatic gunplay, and each situation is as well executed as the next. Her character also displays some death-defying stunts, particularly in the rooftop scene where Chi Ying must escape her attackers by jumping from roof to roof until she must eventually shimmy down a drain pipe which stands at a dizzying height, far above the city streets below. Whether this sequence was done with a stunt man or not, the sequence is rather impressive and makes for an exciting moment in the film. As for the movie in general, there is enough action packed moments within its runtime to satisfy any cinema lover, and combined with the comedic aspects of the production this Hong Kong effort is truly an entertaining and obscure wonder.
At the end of the day though, the true star of Temptress of a Thousand Faces is the Temptress herself and her ability to transform into anyone. Played by a number of random actors, including Tina Chin-Fei herself, the Temptress is a tricky character indeed and one that is worthy of having their name in the title. Her cunning exploits are legendary and you’ll get a hoot out of all the wacky hijinks she gets herself into and out of on a regular basis, especially her devilish and maniacal plan of posing as Chi Ying and sleeping with her boyfriend. The bitch! This is definitely a film that pulls out all the tricks in delivering a movie that is highly memorable and outstandingly brought to life.

Temptress of a Thousand Faces is a fantastically enjoyable cinematic ride that throws out the conventions of the spy and crime genre, while implying a more sexually charged atmosphere filled with comedy and action. The film does a handful of things and it does them all right, allowing for the main characters of the piece to shine on unparalleled levels. Tina Chin-Fei and Liang Chen thrive in their respective roles, as they both take on the action and comedic portions of their roles with a headstrong attitude that ultimately infects the entire production.
With an extra emphasis on hard-hitting fights, death-defying stunts, and tense shoot-outs, Temptress of a Thousand Faces makes for a delightful smorgasbord of 60’s drenched entertainment that really places the viewer’s personal enjoyment at the top of its priority list. On top of that the film introduces a character that is as mysterious as she is engaging, through the wild exploits of the Temptress and her many faces. Her multi-faceted collection of disguises and the collection of actors that portray her are all wonderfully showcased and the inclusion of this plot device is entertaining as all hell. If you’re looking for a cinematic effort that is genuinely wacky and wholly memorable, then give Temptress of a Thousand Faces a try. You won’t be disappointed, but you will be stupefied by the craziness that occurs on screen. This flick is…..

You look absolutely ridiculous.

The sleepover at the Temptress' place wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Chi Ying looks happy with her futuristic linguire....

..... the only problem is that she forgot to pay for it. SHIT!

Hang in there kiddo.

Nice shot pervert.

Get that light out of my face you multi-faced bitch!

What a wonderful collection.

Do me a favor.... pull my finger.

Looks like you're all washed up buddy.

She's got legs... she knows how to use them.

No more Mr. Nice Guy! Pull my finger or you can't finish your sexin'.

He sure does make an ugly woman, but damn what style!

I'm gonna punch you right in the baby maker.


Probably a bad time to go for the old "pull my finger" gag.

You'll never take me alive coppers!

The Temptress gets shot to hell.....

..... and everyone thinks it's hilarious as shit. Hahaha! Perfect ending.

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