So way back in 1988 Hong Kong had their own awesome version of Robocop, an ass kickin’ lady cyborg named Maria! Yes, the action/sci-fi flick ‘I Love Maria’ aka ‘Roboforce’ is easily one of the best 80’s movies I’ve seen coming from that region of the world since I started going down the rabbit hole of odd ball Hong Kong cinema a while ago. I must admit, a lot of Hong Kong films during that era are usually pretty hit or miss, many with confusing, nonsensical plots & often weird slapstick potty humor that likely loses something in the often rudimentary english translation provided. However ‘I Love Maria’ definitely hits the right beats on the humor, action & plot to make it stand out as not merely a foreign remake of Robocop but a uniquely charming little sci-fi adventure all of it’s own. The plot’s indeed pretty outrageous, but to a large degree that’s what makes it a so much damn fun. It’s also filled with some memorable characters that at the end of the day, leave you with some warm fuzzy feelings about friendship & the importance of true camaraderie. So what’s it all about you ask?
So the vicious “Hero Gang”, is a downright nasty criminal terrorist organization (I know odd name for the gang then huh?), hell bent on wreaking all out havoc upon the streets of Hong Kong with their unstoppable killer robots: Pioneers 1 and 2! While Pioneer 1’s a giant hulking armored unit, Pioneer 2’s been modeled after “Maria“, the Hero Gang’s devious second in command. When Pioneer 2 gets damaged during a secret assassination mission, it’s taken into the custody of a curious hi-tech weapons inventor employed by the police force named “Curly”. He secretly repairs & reprograms her with new coding that triggers changes to her logic center. Pioneer 2 begins to develop her own unique heroic personality and soon Curly finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly battle against The Hero Gang. Banding together with a drunken ex-gang member named “Whisky” & “T.Q.”, a bumbling news camera man, the four of them embark on a dangerous mission with the fate of Hong Kong in the palm of their hands!
‘I Love Maria’ is a must see for fans of odd 80’s sci fi, the three main human characters have some great chemistry together, one of which is cult director Tsui Hark (Detective Dee, Double Team, Once Upon a Time In China), who hams it up thoroughly as the heroic alcoholic ‘Whisky’. The special effects work is pretty stunning as well, especially when it comes to Maria battling the ‘Pioneer 1’ robot. They bash though walls, fire rocket launchers for their arms and fling eachother around like rag dolls on the streets of Hong Kong. They never skimp on spectacle here either as there’s a plethora of explosions, Hi-tech weaponry, martial arts battles, car chases & of course awesome robot beat downs to behold here. There’s also a pretty interesting duo of villains, the brother & sister leaders of The Hero Gang who also happen to be in love. Throw in “Mr. Vampire” himself, Lam Ching Ying in the mix to showcase his always amazing kung fu and you’ve got yourself a frenetic sci-fi action flick here that never lets up.
That all being said the real star of the show is clearly the charismatic cyborg Maria, who not only lights up the screen with her robotic butt kicking but also with her curious charm. A largely forgotten rad 1980s female action hero that more people need to discover. Hunt this one down, especially if you dig over the top, 80’s, sci-fi action stuff that really fires on all cylinders: unique characters, stunning practical fx, sets, locations and just pure cybernetic mayhem a’ plenty . Stick around all the way through the end credits as well, where you’ll some of the sweetest scenes of the movie. Someone needs to jump on releasing and cleaning up some of the amazing Hong Kong horror/sci-fi stuff out there from the 80’s & 90’s, there’s so many forgotten, rarely seen gems for fans of cult cinema in the USA. Until then this one’s actually pretty hard to find, but definitely worth the effort!
It’s pretty much common fact this day and age that ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ is one of the coolest movies ever made. Anyone wanna disagree with me here? It pretty much stands alone as one of the best, most original movies that John Carpenter has ever done and defies any real genre. Carpenter must be a genius right?!
Most likely that’s true, but even genius minds get inspired to create awesome things often from some other source. Sometimes though these brilliant minds can unintentionally take full credit for something great. So I wanted to take a quick minute to address just what movie was indeed the inspiration behind ‘Big Trouble’. Ever heard of “Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain“? I didn’t think so!
This rad Hong Kong flick from from 1983 was indeed the inspiration for Carpenter’s masterpiece! John Carpenter has gone on record several times citing this movie as his inspiration for his 1986 feature film. Yep this little known special effects driven flick was what got Carpenter’s mind reelin’ to eventually compose “Big Trouble in Little China”. This one is an unknown gem, at least here in the United States where it’s extremely hard to find. Director Tsui Hark, who was attempting to break out a s a superstar, attempted to mix the kind of mythological adventures that were popular at the time, with a more Hollywood approach and more western stylized special effects work.
Even more impressive was that he brought in the people behind Star Wars for technical special effects assistance. Add in my favorite chinese actor Sammo Hung and you’ve got quite a stellar movie! So go check it for yourself but keep in mind that there was a remake (which wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the original) and if you loved ‘Big Trouble’ eat your heart out with this one! Hong Kong cinema in the 1980’s was a ton of fun!
Here is the FULL movie uploaded to Youtube!!