Warning: may cause female audience members to leave with a dangerous sense of empowerment. By ROSEANNE LIANG.

IF THERE’s one lesson to be learned from Mitchell Lichtenstein’s black-comedy-horror Teeth, it’s that deep down all men are pigs. If evolution, toxin-induced mutation, or indeed intelligent design were to equip a girl with the means to combat this unfortunate fact of life, then, like the rattle snake, she should be able to take the advantage and run with it. Set in the kind of all-American town that censors the vagina page (but not the penis page) of high school anatomy textbooks, this is a squirmy coming-of-age fable from feminist heaven (or hell, if you’re not into the whole cautionary castration thing).

Lichtenstein overcomes predictability with a perfect pitch of creeping humour, inspired lead casting and shrewd navigation of feminist theory and horror subtext. Without falling for patriarchal bullshit like ‘the hero must conquer the vagina dentata and make a woman of her’, he packs in the politics and symbolism with a wicked wink, from heroine Dawn’s girly wardrobe to the dripping ‘lovers’ cave’ complete with labia-like recesses and furnished with homely quilts. Dawn is played with career-defining charm by Jess Weixler, as she transforms from preachy pure youth spokesvirgin for an abstinence-ring movement called ‘The Promise’ to a dangerously self-aware woman. One-note characters and ad hoc story coincidences are forgiven as the appendage toll rises deliciously to its so-wrong-but-oh-so-righteous end. That the lone reprieve eventuates from a prolonged session of foreplay (involving the most sublimely absurd finger-mounted clit-tickler to be committed to celluloid) teaches all viewers the next most important lesson – you’d better treat her right. Or else.

A little less Women’s Studies and more The Next Karate Kid meets Bend It Like Beckman, Fighter continues on the ‘girls can do anything’ riff with a classic inter-generational immigrant drama. When young Turkish-born, Danish-bred Aicha (played with admirable restraint by real-life kung fu champion, Semra Turan) neglects her academic studies for a mixed gender kung fu club, she upsets her working-class father’s medical school dreams for her and scandalises the tight-knit Turkish community, ruining her older brother’s engagement to the uptown Turkish girl he loves. Working its way through a familiar path of cross-cultural romance and web of lies, it deals in the typical diasporic struggle between being true to one’s family, or oneself.

From the over-simplified rhetoric about being true to yourself and fighting your demons (gasp! The masked ninja she fights in her dreams is actually herself!) to the often gratuitous photography (yes, it is wonderful that Turan is doing her own stunts, but there’s only so much slow-mo-impact even a kung fu enthusiast can take), there is much to irk in this film. Do we really need to see another montage of her running again (we get it, she has nice hair!)? Does the camera have to do the NYPD Blue, Boston Legal shake to make it look ‘cutting edge’? However. Just when you’re about to dismiss this movie as naďve and predictable, it surprises with unexpected flourishes of brilliance. The kitchen food fight with Aicha’s nemesis explodes from nowhere and dazzles choreographically while walking the smouldering line between violence and seduction – a depth that Jackie Chan never achieved in any of his similar set pieces. Questions around multiculturalism and identity politics are dealt with swiftly and smartly, while the scenes between Aicha and her father pack an emotional punch while avoiding the cheese. With a climax reminiscent of Rocky, Fighter manages to keep it real without reducing all that passion and promise to a kiss. This isn’t a film about true love – it’s about a girl coming into her own. All power to her.