Action movies from Hong Kong have been a staple in recent years, but one featuring an all-girl cast has rarely been seen since the 1980s.
Hence, the makers of Special Female Force decided to position it as a reboot of the popular The Inspector Wears Skirts (1988-1992) movie franchise.
Special Female Forces stars TVB actress Eliza Sam and Malaysian’s Chris Tong as members of opposing police teams vying for a spot in the female version of Hong Kong’s elite Special Duties Unit (SDU), popularly known as the Flying Tigers.
The ladies were accompanied by Singaporean co-star Aaron Aziz and film director Wilson Chin (Lan Kwai Fong, One Night In Taipei) and producer Charlie Wong (Beach Spike, Kick Ass Girls) at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote the movie.
For Sam, 31, this movie is extra special as it marks her debut on the big screen. Commenting on her tough girl role, Sam said: “I’ve really got to thank the producer Charlie and director Wilson, because before this I was only acting in TV dramas. And on TV, I’ve always been asked to play cute characters, the sort who gets lots of love and needs to be protected. I had never played a character who was so tough and had to protect others. So, when I first found out about my role in this movie, I was excited. as it was totally different from everything I’d been doing so far.”
Tong, 33, said she had some concerns after reading the script. “Watching The Inspector Wears Skirts, I saw the training the actors went through before filming started. Initially, I felt that I could not handle it as the pressure to perform was immense. If you botch the shot, it is not just your own problem. In an action scene, everybody else will be forced to do the extra takes with you,” shared the Malaysian actress.
Sam chimed in: “Moreover, it is especially tiring to have to redo group fighting scenes. The movie actually reflects our relationship as it is about a group of females who don’t know each other but have to learn to work together to solve a problem. That actually mirrors our real life situation as a group of girls who don’t know much but have to bond in order to deal with the issues at hand.”
Shooting an action movie was so tough that the two leading ladies recounted the days when they were so overwhelmed with the pressure to perform that they almost threw in the towel.
Sam shared how the long hours shooting the movie almost made her give up on an especially dramatic scene. She had just arrived in Malaysia in the wee hours of the morning and only managed to get a few hours of rest before commencing her packed schedule for the day. “We shot from 6am until 3am the next day. That’s more than 20 hours. I felt very tired so I asked for more time to prepare myself for the scene.”
Unfortunately, the director said no as there was a time limit to the usage of the space and they couldn’t book it again. “So, I soldiered on and it turned out to be much better than expected. In my frustration, all the emotions kept pouring out in the scene where I had to scream and cry.”
Tong recalled a scene where she had to leap over a big gutter was both mentally and physically challenging for her.
“I had never been able to make the distance, even while training. So, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to jump across safely,” Tong said.
Thinking that the director would go easy on a girl, Tong had initially hoped to convince him to just manipulate the camera angles for the take. But the director wouldn’t hear of such nonsense.
“I felt like I was about to burst out in tears. Even the producer came over to talk to me. All the girls also gave me a lot of encouragement. It was then that I realised I was not the only dainty one on the set. The rest of the ladies were also sweet young girls who had to grit their teeth and perform their own stunts,” said Tong who eventually aced the scene.
When asked to comment on some of the skimpy outfits the actresses had to wear in the movie, Sam said: “I felt it was quite representative of different personality types. There were some sexy ones and others that were more conservative.”
Fondly known as the Louis Koo or Andy Lau of Malaysian cinema by the local Chinese press, popular actor Aaron also has a pivotal role in Special Female Force. Elaborating on his first time starring in a Hong Kong production, the 40-year-old Aaron had to appear in disguise for some scenes and described his role as challenging.
“It took two to three hours to put on the prosthetic makeup (for my role) and we had to make sure that it sticks on my face. Also, I didn’t understand what the director was saying as he only spoke in Cantonese, so I had to figure out what he meant from the tone of his voice,” Aaron recalled.
He also spoke about how different it was to film action scenes in Hong Kong as compared to what he is used to doing in Malaysia.
“The way they do stunts is really different, and they brought in real guns for some scenes. I was quite surprised. We shot blanks so you can actually see the shells coming out. It was the real deal.”
Apart from Hong Kong, Special Female Force was also filmed in Malaysia and director Chin revealed that he first discovered some scenic spots while helping friends.
“I’ve been to Malaysia to help friends recce locations, and also assisted Ekin Cheng with his concert here. I found this to be such a beautiful place with majestic locations. In Hong Kong, it’s difficult to find a mall that would allow you to shoot a movie that called for a scene using over 20 guns. Even the airport in Malaysia allowed us to shoot some scenes for the movie. We also got to throw a girl off a bridge in Putrajaya. So, I feel that Malaysia is an excellent place to make movies,” said the 54-year-old director.