Karate Girls (2003)

Directed by
Mostly harmless
Reviewed by Simon on 2006-03-02

Four teenage girls who want to be pop stars are signed up for Anita Yuen's new project... "Kung Fu Girls" (at least, according to the Chinese DVD... apparently it's "Karate Girls" in other territories), and the five of them go off to a temple in China for a month to learn some martial arts skills. Will the girls be able to survive their petty jealousies and rivalries and the hardship of life without luxury, or will the viewer throttle their whiny necks before the month is over? Perhaps some sort of conflict will come along that can unite them? Meanwhile, Anita Yuen discovers that her childhood love is a student/teacher at the temple... will the flames be rekindled?

To my surprise, I found that by the end of the film I almost cared what the answer to those questions was. The film does not start off auspiciously, with some really dreadful acting and a plot that offers nothing but cliche. The girls can be extremely irritating, but eventually won me over and made me at least not want them to suffer miserably and/or die horribly. The film feels like it belongs on kids' TV, and really can't be commended, but it just about manages to elicit some form of emotional response from the viewer... other than misery. The film started off as a 1/10, but by the end had charmed me up to a solid 5, at least.

The girls really are not martial artists, but they clearly put some effort into learning the moves and routines, so they earn some respect even if they never come close to being convincing as fighters. There are a few others in the cast who do know their stuff, including the guys teaching them at the temple and the bad guys who show up in the middle. The fight scenes are quite interestingly filmed, with a lot of time manipulation and some slight CGI which I guess is mostly to disguise the lack of skills from the girls, but in some places does enhance the perception of a slightly mystical martial arts ability in the masters. They won't impress purists looking for old-school action, but they offer at least a mildly interesting vision of modern action.

Of the four girls, there's no doubt that Stella Huang has the most credibility as an actress and a musician - I don't know if the other three have credits as either on their resume before this film. Ady Ang Yi Xuan is the most likeable of the group. Anita Yuen's role and performance certainly aren't up to the standards of her best work, but it's nice to see her on screen again.

I wasn't expecting too much from the film, and that's what I got... but it's mostly harmless I guess :)




Also known as

  • Kung-Fu Girls