Magnificent Warriors is another of the early films in Michelle Yeoh’s career – made a little before Royal Warriors. As with Royal Warriors – the film has Michelle Yeoh in the lead, along with another male co-lead in a similar action role, and the third male lead being a comic relief character. However, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Magnificent Warriors puts Yeoh in the role of Fok Ming-Ming, an ace pilot and smuggler, who is hired to assist superspy Sky-001 (Derek Yee Tung-Sing) in helping stop the Japanese Military from building a chemical weapons plant in Western China. However, due to a bit of a mixup, she ends up roping a con-artist (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon) into their mission. The mission – Ming-Ming is to extract the ruler of the providence, Lord Yorda (Lowell Lo Kwun-ting), while Sky-001 assassinates General Toga (Tatsuya Matsui) commander of the Japanese occupation.
Yeoh is set up as a sort of Chinese Indiana Jones – complete with bullwhip, leather jacket, and swagger. She’s just missing the hat and the revolver. This generally works, but not entirely – and where this falls apart is through the fight choreography. In Royal Warriors, Yeoh, like her male counterparts, got smacked around just as much as they did – both in terms of the severity of the blows and how she sold them. That gave a real sense of severity to the fights. By comparison, here she really doesn’t sell jack. I’m assuming this is a matter of direction – she’s supposed to be a badass ass-kicker, so Yeoh’s is directed in this film to be unphased by anything, while In the Line of Duty/Royal Warriors is much more grounded. Still, this means that any time Yeoh is in a fight in the film, there’s not as much of a sense of threat as there is Tung-Sing and Yiu-Hon.
Visually, the film feels like a big budget affair. It’s set in a settlement out in rural China, and it appears like they actually built most of a full settlement – particularly since the film’s climax has it blown all to hell during a fight with the Japanese army. However, the budgetary shortcoming make themselves apparent in other ways. In particular, the film’s score is very monotonous. There are a couple tracks in particular that are heavily re-used throughout the film, some of whom are very short and used multiple times within the same sequence, which becomes grating very quickly.
The fight choreography itself is good. There isn’t exactly a fight scene that really stood out like with Royal Warriors and the fight on the airplane. There is a dogfight scene about a third of the way through the film that kind of falls flat, as it feels like the director didn’t get that you could tilt the camera to give the impression that a plane is banking – aggravated by the fact that the accompanying dogfight (a biplane vs. a torpedo plane) feels off.
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