music friday: my first sleater-kinney concert
perry mason, season one finale

royal warriors (david chung, 1986)

It was Michelle Yeoh's birthday Thursday, so I thought to watch one of her movies. She rarely disappoints, and Royal Warriors is a notch above average besides, so I made a good choice. But first, a few words about HK film series, understanding in advance that it all gets so confusing, I am certain to make some mistakes.

An example. In 1986, John Woo directed A Better Tomorrow, which made Chow Yun-Fat a big international star and started the "Heroic Bloodshed" genre. There was a sequel, A Better Tomorrow 2, but disagreements between Woo and Tsui Hark led to Tsui directing A Better Tomorrow 3, which was a quasi-prequel to the first two. Woo's script for that on, much changed, became his film Bullet in the Head. Chow had made such an impression in the first one that they wanted to fit him into the sequel, but his character died in the original. So they invented a twin brother, and I can remember how we all laughed with delight in the theater at this corny way to get Chow into the action. Since Tsui's movie was a prequel, he was able to use Chow as the same character as the one who died in the first movie, meaning Chow is in all three. (There was also a Korean remake of the first movie in 2010, and a Chinese remake in 2018.)

So, to Royal Warriors. This gets complicated. In 1985, Yes, Madam! was released, starring Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. Rothrock was an American newcomer and a champion martial artist ... Yeoh had a dance background but no martial arts training. She busted her ass because she wanted to do her own stunts, plus she saw martial arts scenes as just another form of choreography. Anyway, Yes, Madam! was a hit, and so, just as A Better Tomorrow had done for Heroic Bloodshed, Yes, Madam! inspired imitators. Royal Warriors was a (unofficial?) sequel to Yes, Madam!, with Yeoh (as Michelle Khan) returning, although she doesn't seem to be playing the same character, nor is the plot clearly connected to the first movie. That's when it gets confusing. There was a third film in the series ... not sure what exactly it was called at first, but today it is known as In the Line of Duty III. To make the connections clearer (yeah, right), Royal Warriors was renamed In the Line of Duty (I don't think Yes, Madam! was ever renamed). The series continued with In the Line of Duty 4, and on and on, finally leading to Yes Madam 5 (!).

This may not interest most people, but at the least, it will help you find Royal Warriors if you want to watch it, since as far as I can tell, it's called In the Line of Duty more often than it's called Royal Warriors.

Is it any good. Yep. Yeoh is terrific (and very young, still in her early-20s). The action is well done and often over-the-top in true HK style. Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada (a "hey, it's that guy" for American audiences) is excellent as one of the leads. The plot is goofy, but it hardly matters when Yeoh is doing her thing. If you like this, there are plenty more. Try Wing Chun, where she is the star, or Police Story 3 (known as Super Cop ... here we go again), where she shows herself to be the best partner Jackie Chan ever had.