License to Steal (1990)

Rating: B+

Dir: Billy Chan
Star: Joyce Godenzi, Agnes Aurelio, Richard Ng, Alvina Kong

It’s a shame the future Mrs. Samo Hung (Godenzi) more or less quit cinema after this film, as it’s a fast, fun piece of action. She plays Hung, one of a family of thieves, who is betrayed by her sister Ngan (Aurelio) and sent to jail. When released, her sister frames her again, and she has to co-operate with the cops (led by Ng) to bring her Ngan to justice. Meanwhile, Ng’s policeman also has to deal with a raw partner, and his swordplay-novel obsessed nephew Yuen Biao. Often, trying to mix comedy and martial-arts can lead to neither of the two working effectively but here, despite occasional mis-steps, the results remaining thoroughly entertaining.

The two sisters battle back and forth, both physically and intellectually, as Hung first discovers, then frustrates, Ngan’s plans to steal Napoleon’s death-mask. After Ngan’s gang is captured, she has to go after the treasure on her own, and the film climaxes with her and Hung going toe-to-toe round a warehouse in which the mask is located. It’s a well-worn location, but there are some nice twists to the action, such as the opening section being carried out in near-silence. Godenzi both looks and acts the part, and has a great battle in a car-park with Billy Chow, which almost overshadows the final fight against Aurelio. It’s entirely without pretense, but as entertainment goes, is slickly-paced and succeeds admirably.