Hong Kong Action Movies

Movie Review: Royal Warriors (1986)

I’m a fan of the films of Michelle Yeoh – I generally thought she was super-cool back when I first saw her in Tomorrow Never Dies when I was in High School, but unfortunately very few of her movies had become particularly accessible in the US. Supercop got a wide release, as did Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but the rest of her filmography required hunting online, requiring you to hunt down DVDs through Amazon or other services.

Netflix made some of those films accessible on disks, but as those disks fell out of print (and were not returned to Netflix), it became harder to find some of those films. Thankfully, some of those movies have become available again through streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix Instant, such as the film I’m reviewing this time, Royal Warriors.

Royal Warriors is the second part of the loose “In The Line Of Duty” series, which are generally based around female Hong Kong police officers, in the first two films played by Michelle Yeoh. In the film, Yeoh plays Michelle Yip (in the grand tradition of Jackie Chan characters named “Jackie”) who is on a flight back from a vacation in Japan, when hijackers take control of the plane in the hopes of rescuing a prisoner being transported on that flight.

The hijacking is thwarted through the efforts of Yip, along with Japanese interpol investigator Peter Yamamoto (Hiroyuki Sanada), and airline security guard Michael Wong (played by Michael Wong going for the full Danza). In the course of thwarting the hijacking, the would-be rescuers and the prisoner are killed, and the three are caught up in a revenge plot brought on by the blood brothers of the prisoner, who swore an oath that they would die together or avenge each others deaths when they were fighting in Vietnam.

So, violence ensues, as the members of this circle attempt to kill our protagonists, with various civilians getting caught in the crossfire, and with The Chief (Kenneth Tsang, who is pretty much always The Chief in Hong Kong films from the ’80s) breathing down Yip’s neck (but not in the creepy way).

Actually in the creepy way is Michael Wong. He is written to be Michelle’s love interest. However, he’s aggressively creepy. However, he follows Michelle home from the police station to try to flirt with her after being turned down earlier, which somehow works, as opposed to getting him knocked da’ fuq out. And this behavior continues throughout the film, with him actively coming on to Michelle even when the circumstances would make this inappropriate.

This is also combined with Michael Wong being the comic relief of the film, except he has all the charisma of Rob Schneider, an actor whose roles are based around the concept that he is a black hole of charisma. Michael Wong’s scenes where he is intended to be funny end up instead just being awkward and uncomfortable.

The film also is written with the assumption that Wong and Yeoh have a sense of chemistry that they don’t. This isn’t because Yeoh is a bad actress – she’s a great actress. It’s more that when we reach the conclusion of Wong’s character arc, her reaction in those scenes is incredibly unearned. The performance is good, but it doesn’t mesh with the audience reaction.

This is a shame, because the film’s fight scenes are great. Yeoh and Sanada are excellent in their fight scenes, with Yeoh in particular being an action film star who is not only willing to take a punch, but is willing to take some really big hits. Like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, Yeoh is an actress who is willing to get the crap beat out of her for her film roles, to sell the peril of the situation and the skill of her opponents. I cannot give this enough props. Wong also fares okay in some of the film’s fight scenes, but Sanada and Yeoh are clearly the primary ass-kickers in this movie.

The film’s soundtrack is… interesting. It sounds a lot like the soundtrack from an episode of Miami Vice – lots of synthesizers and steel drums, with a little bit of drum machine and electric guitar.

This is a great film, and a great feature of Michelle Yeoh’s talents as an action film star, that is sadly marred by a horrible comic relief character. I’d say it’s worth picking up, but you may want to keep your finger on the fast forward button.

The movie is available on an expensive Blu-Ray, a less expensive DVD (if you get it used), or on Amazon Instant.