Royal Warriors – Blu-Ray Review

Royal Warriors is a Hong Kong action film from the mid-‘80s with Michelle Yeo. It’s the second on a very, very loose series of nine films known as “In the Line of Duty.” It follows on from Yes, Madam!, but there is no continuous story—the films are connected by their focus on cops, and Yeoh’s presence in the first two.

These were the films that really made Yeoh an action star in Hong Kong. In Royal Warriors, she is a CID offer who, along with a Japanese Interpol agent and a security guard, foils a plane hijacking. That comes at the beginning, and is followed by even more eye-boggling action sequences. The plot is really basic—they end up incurring the wrath of a gang of Vietnamese ex-soldiers who are associates of the hijackers.

An extraordinary scene on top of a skyscraper, amazing high-speed car chases, a nightclub shooting in a venue called “California” that is 90-percent glass, and lots of other action stuff is what it’s all about. There’s a big finale involving a casket. The action is jaw-dropping, and that’s the reason to see these films. The Western title makes no sense, by the way, as there’s no royalty and no warriors in sight—the original title was (in Chinese) In the Line of Duty, giving rise to the “series” name.

One of the big flaws is a weak romantic sub-plot with Michael Wong, which was really unnecessary. The plot in general is the weak link—as with many of these films, it just acts as a bridge from action scene to action scene, and soon loses your interest. But there is an insane amount of death and destruction and everything else you want from this kind of movie. It’s a bit of a gender-reversal version of the Jackie Chan film Police Story, which had been a huge hit. The first 10 minutes alone has better action that 99 percent of current “action movies.”

Of course, Yeoh is absolutely fantastic. With the success of Everything Everywhere All at Once, it’s great to see her earlier work find a market again in the West after being out of print for a long time. She’s perfectly good as an actress, with loads of charisma, but as she said at the Golden Globes when they tried to cut her off with piano music, she can also beat you up, and that’s serious.

This release comes with a limited edition collectors booklet with new writing by James Oliver, and a reversable sleeve. Extras include a new commentaries from Asian film expert Frank Djeng, and from action-film aficionados Mike Leeder and Arne Venema; an archival interview with producer/actor John Sham; a new locations featurette by Arne Venema; original trailer, and both Cantonese audio with subtitles and English dubbed audio.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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