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Friday, 1 September 2017

Retro Review: Yes, Madam! (1985) #Hongkongcinema

Yes, Madam! aka Police Assassins (Wong ka si Jie)
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock, John Shum, Tsui Hark
Genre: Action
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $10 million

Plot: A relentless inspector and Scotland Yard detective investigate a murder linked to a microfilm 

'Double The Martial Arts Girls Action'

Released in the same year as Police Story, Yes, Madam! is a female buddy cop action movie from Hong Kong starring Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock as two cops Inspector Ng & British-based Carrie Morris, who don't see eye to eye working together and who try to retrieve a piece of microfilm (whatever that is and does) that contains incriminating evidence against a crime syndicate. It was one of the early 'Girls With Guns' films that were later preceded by the likes of She Shoots Straight and the other subsequent In The Line Of Duty movies and is considered as one of the most groundbreaking for the Hong Kong action genre and opened the gates for more female-led action films.

Far from Lethal Weapon, despite the serious looking poster, Yes, Madam is more in the vein of My Lucky Stars and Jackie Chan's Police Story as a contemporary action comedy, or be it a Hong Kong martial arts-based action flick with added comedy. Whilst I expected this to be much like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon, this offering is far from it with some light scenes accompanied by John Sham, Mang Noi and Tsui Hark, who are very much like the buffoonish comedy characters of the Lucky Stars movies. Speaking of the Lucky Stars films, two of the actors from it, Sammo Hung and Richard Ng play two elderly patients with grey hair. Some of the fight scenes are a little goofy and on the slapstick side with silly music playing in the background. But the fight choreography itself is as good as in any Hong Kong action flick and the action level is similar to that of many other Asian action flicks of the 1980s and 1990s. With Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung making their movie breakthroughs in modern day Hong Kong settings, the Hong Kong or be it Chinese movie movement was moving away from the Shaw Bros Qing Dynasty-style films and more towards a style that was equivalent to the Hollywood American offerings with added guns and ammo, alongside the Kung Fu fighting. 

One of the villains looks plain ridiculous with a terrible moustache that Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck would be proud of and really bushy eyebrows.

Corey Yuen Kwai may not be a worldwide name outside of Hong Kong cinema, but in the 1980s and 1990s, as the chief fight choreographer, he was prolific and was responsible for some of the amazing action choreography in a number of Action martial arts movies. & here with Yes, Madam!, he doesn't disappoint. There are scenes that include Yeoh drop-kicking a suspect, in addition to arresting a naked guy & slamming his penis in between the pages of a book! & Rothrock pole-vaulting onto a wall and landing with her legs split apart, whilst at the same time using the same pole to beat up the baddies. 

Despite little acting and story on show, this is an action movie after all, and almost all of it is pretty amazing to watch. Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock make for a formidable duo and when they fight alongside each other, it is spectacular. Yeoh was initially discovered by none other than Jackie Chan when they were working on a TV commercial, whilst martial arts champion Rothrock caught the eyes of Sammo Hung. The film also marks as Yeoh's first leading role and she was equally impressive as Rothrock in the fight scenes, which makes it more interesting to know that she had had no prior martial arts training before this movie, nor was she a certified martial artist. I actually found myself drawn to Yeoh's character and her character arc and less so towards Rothrock's character. The somersault flip through a balcony window pane of glass and then grabbing both of the foe's legs and thrusting them through the glass is my favourite scene from this film. 

The Lucky Stars comedic aspect of the film is a weak point, however; it's nowhere as funny and amusing as My Lucky Stars & Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars and I didn't find most of it amusing, anyhow and the Sammo Hung and Richard Ng's cameos are hollow as well. 

What I do like is how in an action film, the two female protagonists are able to beat up the baddies, without some man coming to their rescue and where they aren't damsels in distress and rendered useless. Unlike say in Police Story when the female characters get beaten up badly & don't possess the skills to fend off their attackers, Rothrock and Yeoh's characters take no prisoners and don't mess about; they get stuck in and their kicks are deadly as heck. They literately carry this film and are the main reasons for watching it. The bad guys that include Dick Wei are good, but then he is always good at playing a villain. The ending was not what I was expecting and thus, it was odd. Still, I'm not going to take anything else away from Yes, Madam! and the quality of the martial arts action is still ace. 

Final Verdict:

Yes, Madam! is at its high when it comes to the action and stunts, but the weakest aspect is the comedy that doesn't really pay off dividends. This film, like many other Hong Kong action flicks, won't be remembered or known for its acting or script, which is a tad patchy, insofar as the comedy goes. The ending wasn't to my taste also and should have been a lot better. But everything else is highly enjoyable and entertaining. 

If you are a fan of Jackie Chan's movies and are in the mood for something a little similar, both in terms of action, style and tone, Yes Madam! is a more than adequate option. & if you are curious into knowing a little bit more about Corey Yuen's work, this film and 1990s She Shoots Straight are, in my opinion, two of his best examples to date. 


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