Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Angela Mao Ying Collection: Stoner

Which is more deadly, Angela Mao Ying’s hapkido or George Lazenby’s mustache? It had better be Mao, because the one-and-done Bond eventually shaves his ‘stache to throw off the bad guys. It is all part of the sex-and-drugs-and-martial arts glory of Feng Huang’s Stoner (trailer here), which is included in The Angela Mao Ying Collection now available from Shout Factory.

Joseph Stoner is an Australian cop, whose girlfriend was deliberately hooked on a new form of sexually-charged heroin in retribution for his relentless investigations. Sometimes they also say he is American, but that would make him one of those Yankee coppers that drive on the left side of the road. Either way, its not worth getting hung up on.

Angela Li Shou-hua is also a cop, who has been sent undercover into Hong Kong from Taiwan to investigate the mysterious syndicate that keeps buying creaky decommissioned freighters at auction for ridiculous prices. They are both investigating the same outfit, but drug lords have no idea the shy young immigrant selling sodas on a desolate stretch of beach is actually a lethal martial artist. 

However, they see Stoner coming from a mile away and put Agnes Wong Yen-yen, their designated femme fatale, on the case. After a contrived meeting, they capture a blackmail shot of Stoner in bed with Wong. Yet, it really doesn’t seem to bother him because, A: it’s the 1970s and B: she’s hot.

In fact, you really cannot get much more 1970s than this. Supposedly, the bare bones of Stoner were originally conceived as a vehicle for Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba, but the latter dropped out after the former’s tragic death. Frankly, it is impossible to glean much of the initial concept from the final film that is Stoner. The irony further compounded with the casting of Betty Ting Pei (in whose apartment Lee somewhat scandalously passed away) as the temptress Wong.

Add in an incredibly funky soundtrack and some wild psychedelic interludes (that go on much longer than they should because they are designed to accommodate bare breasts) and you have cult movie gold. Believe it or not, Stoner is not a perfect film. Huang keeps his co-leads plugging away separately for way too long and he somewhat favors the title character over Mao’s Li. Still, it is wildly entertaining when they take on the collected bad guys (while Stoner fights off a dose of horndog H).

As usual, Mao throws down with grace and authority, just generally commanding the screen in all respects. It is important to remember the love-him-or-hate-him Bond also had skills, which is why the Broccolis hired him in the first place. Ting adds some smart, saucy smolder as Wong and you knew Sammo Hung had to be in here as one of the chief henchmen.

This is the sort of film you can watch over and over and over again. The normal critical standards do not apply—it just delivers. Highly recommended for fans of Mao, Ting, Hung, and Lazenby (you know who you are), Stoner is now available on DVD as part of Shout Factory’s Angela Mao Ying Collection.