Fast-paced and hard-hitting Hong Kong action classic starring Michelle Yeoh. Presented as part of the Eureka Classics range in its UK home video debut on Blu-ray presented from a brand new 2K restoration.
Available from today, 23rd January 2023, the first print-run of 2000 copies will feature a Limited-Edition O-card Slipcase & Collector’s Booklet.
Following her breakthrough leading role in “Yes Madam”, Michelle Yeoh stars as CID officer “Michelle Yip”. Yeoh would go on to star in such classics as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“, “Magnificent Warriors“, “Tai Chi Master“, “Police Story 3: Supercop“, “Reign of Assassins”, “Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy”, and even the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies”, and recently received acclaim for her role in the Oscar-tipped “Everything Everywhere All At Once“.
In an early role, Michael Wong Man-Tak stars as, er, “Michael Wong”! Wong has had a long and varied career in Asian cinema since the eighties, appearing alongside the likes of Jackie Chan, Brandon Lee, Chow Yun Fat, Donnie Yen and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, he is best known for his roles in “Beast Cops”, “In the Line of Duty“, “Legacy of Rage”, “City Hunter”, “Thunderbolt“, “Knock Off“, “From Vegas to Macau” and “Skiptrace“.
Japanese actor and protégé of screen legend Sonny Chiba, Hiroyuki Sanada plays “Yamamoto”. Having appeared in several Japanese films, he first came to the attention of Hong Kong film fans in “Ninja in the Dragon’s Den”. He gained international recognition with roles in productions such as “Ring”, “The Last Samurai”, “Sunshine”, “Rush Hour 3″, “Lost”, “47 Ronin”, “The Wolverine” and “Bullet Train”. He will be seen later this year in the fourth chapter of the “John Wick” series of films.
A real-life martial artist with underworld connections, Michael Chan Wai-man plays the gangster “Tiger”. With nearly 200 credits to his name he has appeared in Jackie Chan’s “Project A Part 2” and “Dragon Lord“, the award-winning comedy “Gallants”, as well as the “Young and Dangerous” Triad movies, and Brandon Lee‘s “Legacy of Rage”.
Taiwanese actor David Lam Wai plays “Raging Bull”. Having started in bit part roles at Shaw Brothers studios, he established himself as a lead actor, featuring in numerous crime, action, and gangster films throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. He will be familiar to kung fu film fans from his roles in “Yes Madam“, “A Chinese Ghost Story” and “Project A Part 2“.
Michelle Yip of the Hong Kong police is a mild-mannered Kung Fu expert. Michael Wong, from air security, is happy-go-lucky, stuck on himself, constantly talking, and smitten by her.
Meanwhile, Yamamoto is quiet, hard-boiled, leaving the Tokyo police to spend time with his wife and daughter.
They form an alliance when they foil a hijacking on a plane flying a mob prisoner from Tokyo to Hong Kong.
The mobster and his would-be rescuer die, and this sets off two avengers who were their blood brothers.
Our three cops become the targets. A high-speed chase, a car bomb, the destruction of a nightclub, a spectacular suicide, dead bystanders, and a flying coffin litter the landscape by the end.
Michelle Yeoh’s character is quickly established as a highly-skilled fighter, artfully dispatching two thugs in the film’s opening minutes. Apart from a couple of acrobatic moves, it is clearly Michelle performing the fast and flexible kicks and graceful jianshu (straight sword) duelling skills.
The Airplane Hijacking
A Who’s Who of Hong Kong stuntmen earn their wages the hard way during a plane hijacking. The unique confines of the jumbo jet result in some innovative, bruising, and exciting choreography. Michelle Yeoh makes particularly good use of a fire extinguisher as a weapon.
Of course 1980’s Hong Kong action movies aren’t legendary just because of the fight scenes, they are admired equally for their jaw-dropping stunt work.
An insane car chase particularly highlights the incredible risks and timing that Hong Kong stuntmen would take for the sake of entertainment. Although some of the set ups for the cars crashing and flying around are far- fetched, unlike the blockbusting “Fast & Furious” franchise, each gag was performed for real, without the benefit of expensive CGI and rigging.
After planes and automobiles, trains are passed over in favour of a ship for Hiroyuki Sanada to flex his feet and fists in a fight with Eddie Maher. It’s another great example of the environment being used throughout, giving the blistering battle its own punishing flavour.
If there is an unwritten law that says traditional kung fu films must have a fight in a teahouse or bamboo forest, it must also include a clause that says cops and gangster films require an action scene in a nightclub.
“Royal Warriors” is no exception, featuring a spectacular shootout that plays out like a John Woo-directed ‘Dirty Harry’ movie. Once again, the environment of bars, tables, glasses and bottles is fully incorporated into the choreography.
A truly spectacular high fall stunt sets up Michelle’s motivation to hunt down the psychotic bad guy. It means all bets are off in the quite literally explosive final fight, featuring some very painful looking impacts, the majority of which were quite clearly performed by Yeoh herself.
“Royal Warriors” is up there with the best of the 1980’s Hong Kong cops and gangsters action movies. In some ways, it’s a bit of an injustice to file it under the “battling babes” or “girls with guns” genres. This is a full-blooded action film whose strength lies in its exciting stunts and fights, and not the novelty of a female action lead.
Michelle Yeoh is excellent in the lead. Her character is much less hard-boiled and more feminine than the cop she portrayed in “Yes Madam”. She is no pushover though, and easily commands every scene she is in, be it action, light-hearted or dramatic.
The fashions, cars, synth score and chunky phones date the film very squarely in the 1980’s. However, the cinematography is surprisingly modern in style, something possibly overlooked when there is so much emphasis on the action.
The Eureka release features a very entertaining and informative look at the Hong Kong locations featured in both “Yes Madam” and “Royal Warriors”.
Presented by the audio commentary double act that is Arne Venema and Mike Leeder, their depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the films shines through their frequently humorous descriptions of each location.
As well as Arne and Mike’s audio commentary, there is an additional informative commentary from Asian Film Expert Frank Djeng.
One of the other features is a 2018 interview with Hong Kong producer and actor John Shum. He provides a fascinating insight into the film industry during the 1980’s golden era.
This is another cracking example of Hong Kong action filmmaking from its peak era, and another unmissable release for fans!
- Michelle Yeoh was credited as “Michelle Khan”, after historical figure Gengis Khan. The producers thought the name would sound more powerful to audiences!
- “Royal Warriors” was originally re-titled “Police Assassins” on VHS in the UK, with “Yes Madam” subsequently packaged as a sequel, and becoming “Police Assassins 2”. In other territories, they were called “In the Line of Duty 1 & 2”. The success of these led to “In the Line of Duty 3”, which introduced Yeung Lai-Ching, credited as ‘Cynthia Khan’ to link her to Michelle Yeoh/Khan.
- To cash in on the success of “Tiger Cage”, Donnie Yen starred with Cynthia Khan in “In the Line of Duty 4”. When “Yes Madam” made it to DVD on the Hong Kong Legends label, it was released as “Police Assassins”, and similarly, “In the Line of Duty 4” was released as “In the Line of Duty”. Did you keep up with all of that?!