Review for Royal Warriors
It’s another Condor or the egg situation. There are two Jackie Chan movies, The Armour of God: Operation Condor II, and The Armour of God II: Operation Condor. The Armour of God came first, but you’ll be forgiven for being confused. The In The Line of Duty Films adds another dimension, although this time they are loosely connected films rather than genuine sequels. Royal Warriors is the ‘first’ In the Line of Duty movie. It was made in 1986. In the Line of Duty II is actually the film that Eureka released first, also known as Yes, Madam! It was made in 1985. To make matters worse, Royal Warriors is also known as Yes, Madam! II. At this point my brain is out to lunch. All that you really need to know is that Golden Globes winner Michelle Yeoh kicks ass in these two early films from her career... and that criminally Everything, Everywhere All At Once still hasn’t had a UK home video release!
A criminal is being extradited on a flight from Japan to Hong Kong, when a hijacker wreaks havoc, killing the cops in order to free him. But the hijack is thwarted by three passengers; an Air Marshall named Michael Wong, a Hong Kong cop returning from vacation named Michelle Yip, and a Japanese ex-cop named Yamamoto. The hijacker and the criminal are killed in the process, and the three are lauded as heroes when they arrive in Hong Kong. Their actions provoke a violent response, however. The dead men had friends, friends who swore a pact, and now they seek vengeance.
Royal Warriors gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p presentation on this disc, and you have the choice of PCM 1.0 Mono Theatrical Cantonese, Home Video Cantonese, and classic English dub. There is a newer DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English track as well, and you get English subtitles to go with the Cantonese audio. Note that there is a fair bit of Japanese dialogue as well. This was from that era when Jackie Chan was big in Japan, and other Hong Kong films were courting that market as well. The image is clear and sharp, colours are consistent, if a little muted (it could just be the 80s pastel fashions), and there is a nice level of grain. The film is stable and free of age and signs of print damage. It’s all very watchable. I was happy with the Home Video Cantonese mono track, the dialogue is clear throughout, the action comes across well, and other than an audible pop at 1:06:23 in both Cantonese audio tracks, the sound came across well. The music too is worthy of the genre, channelling no little Miami Vice in its action pace and beats. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos.
The first run release of 2000 will come with an o-card slipcover and a 24-page collector’s booklet with writing from James Oliver. The disc boots to a static menu page where all of the audio options and extras are listed as follows.
Audio commentary with Frank Djeng
Audio commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
A Conversation with John Sham [2018 Far East Film Festival] (33:26)
Royal Warriors and Yes, Madam! Locations (10:22)
Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer (4:39)
I’m actually having a hard time figuring out how to react to Royal Warriors. On the one hand, I had an absolute blast watching this film, action packed and the usual uncomfortable and often odd blend of action, drama and comedy, which in any other genre just wouldn’t work. But then again, and as mentioned in the booklet with this release, Royal Warriors isn’t exactly an extraordinary or noteworthy film. It’s no classic of the genre, and not the film you’d immediately point to if you want to recommend a kung-fu police procedural.
For me, the immediate selling point is the starring role that Michelle Yeoh has in the film, and the stunning action sequences she not only carries, but really shines in. That’s on me, as I’ve somehow managed to avoid Hong Kong action movies led by female actors. There are plenty of them out there, and it’s only relatively recently that the boutique labels have started filling that Blu-ray gap. I’m certainly looking forward to the next two In The Line of Duty films, and Magnificent Warriors as well. I suppose that there will come a point where such female led action movies will start feeling mundane also.
The film certainly kicks off with style and impact, with an opening scene set in Tokyo, with Michelle dealing with some yakuza shenanigans, Hong Kong police style, with some stunning acrobatic martial arts. It’s almost a different movie, before the action shifts to the flight back to Hong Kong, which introduces the other main characters. Yamamoto is a former Japanese cop, who has quit his job for a safer salaryman role, for the sake of his wife and child. He’s more closed and tense. Michael is the Air Marshall who is a more happy-go-lucky chap, who takes a shine to Michelle, and is on constant flirt mode around her. And the three of them wind up working together to thwart the plane hijacking.
Once back in Hong Kong, the cat and mouse begins, with barely enough time for the new friends to celebrate before someone shows up looking to avenge the fallen criminals, and begins in the most shocking and dark way possible, leaving Yamamoto thirsting for revenge. It’s here that the atonality of the film is at its most blatant, with a deplorable and grief inducing incident, yet Michael is still intent on goofy flirting with Michelle, even while there is someone trying to kill them.
This action and comedy and drama atonality continues through the end of the film, again with some amazing stunts and effective fight sequences. It’s all building to this climax in a quarry, where the villain has taken a hostage and has laid traps for the heroes. And in the ultimate goofiness, Michelle shows up in an armoured vehicle that looks to all intents and purposes like a Citroen 2CV tank. By turns daft, moving and thrilling, Royal Warriors is a great 90-odd minutes of entertainment, but it is disposable as well. Eureka’s presentation is top notch as usual, but extras are a little light in comparison to their usual kung fu back catalogue titles.