Royal Warriors

tn_royalwarriorsROYAL WARRIORS is a pretty good 1986 Michelle Yeoh vehicle directed by David Chung (cinematographer of ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA) with action choreography by Hoi Mang (YES, MADAM!, NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER).

Michelle, called Michelle Khan at the time, plays Michelle Yip, who at the beginning is visiting Japan and enjoying one of those things where Japanese youths dress up rockabilly style and dance in the street. She happens to be in the way watching a guy play barrels as drums when some gangsters come by chasing a fleeing kid. So when she sees what’s happening she goes after them, stickfighting, climbing on statues and kung fu-ing them before she whips out her badge and we learn that she’s a Hong Kong cop.
On her flight home there’s a little problem: a major criminal is being extradited, and his associates get guns and a grenade onto the plane to free him. Luckily there are two other badasses on the plane: Michael Wong (Michael Wong, KNOCK OFF), an air marshal who was hitting on her when the action started, and Yamamoto (Hiroyuki Sanada, RINGU, SPEED RACER, THE WOLVERINE), a Japanese guy across the aisle from her. So they put up a fight, which plays out as a major martial arts sequence and shootout in the extra-wide, two story aircraft. Michelle uses the snack cart and a fire extinguisher as improvised weapons…


and nearly brings the plane down when she smashes a guy’s fist through a window. Next thing you know he’s got his head hanging out like a dog in a car.


She actually feels bad about that one and tries to pull him back in, but as you can see it doesn’t work out.

Michael Wong is a very familiar type, a basically nice guy who is super dorky and way too confident that if he keeps insisting that he’s charming it will become true. He starts following Michelle around, buying her flowers, showing up wherever she does, trying to exhaust her into a date, his shit-eating grin growing stronger the more she turns him down.

Look at this dork. If he was an American he would be the president of a young Republicans club.

Michelle tries to brush him off, but because of media attention on these three for their heroism they end up spending time together. They have an uncomfortable dinner with Yamamoto and his wife, who doesn’t want him to be a cop anymore. It was too dangerous even before fighting hijackers mid-air (which to be fair was done in his free time and not necessarily part of the job).

Anyway he’s going to retire for the sake of his wife and adorable young daughter. So of course this cruel fucking movie pulls one of these:

Ouch. Well, to be fair the movie is starting to drag at this point with all the marriage tension and badass reluctance, and the family’s fiery death sends Yamamoto on a mission of vengeance that begins with a crazy car chase with the vehicles (both those involved and random bystanders) seeming to be extra light, just flying and flipping all over the place.

The further we get into the digital age the more I appreciate seeing a movie like this, that has actual stunts in it. It’s the movies of this era and especially those of Hong Kong, they got the real shit in them. You don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I mean, look at that picture above… that car goes up into a huge fireball, and you have the three main characters in the same shot – quite possibly the lead actors themselves, but I don’t know for sure – and one of them is sprinting toward the explosion.

That car went pop because the surviving hijackers are after our three royal warriors. It seems the guy they killed on the plane was a member of a band of brothers who made a “fight together, die together” pact when they were in the shit together. We get to see a flashback. A landmine is involved. Usually a backstory like this adds humanity to the characters, or implies a sense of honor. But it doesn’t come off that way in this case. These motherfuckers are crazy and they will not give up. They are gonna be a problem. Somebody tell Yamamoto’s dead wife that. The real danger didn’t even come from work. It came from him coming to see you on the same plane as these assholes.

mp_royalwarriorsIt’s not exactly a non-stop action machine, but there are a bunch of good fights and a good variety of locations. There’s a fight on a boat, there’s Michelle vs. chain saw, there’s a huge shootout in a neon-decorated night club. That one gets pretty vicious, especially when Peter just breaks a huge aquarium over a guy. I thought he was going for an electrocution, but it’s nothing that fancy. He just recognizes the value in following up glass-shattering-over-head with dunked-in-cold-water. Way better than a bottle.

Eventually it becomes a face-off with the last vengeful military guy (Tiger?), who sets some devious traps. He hangs Michael off the side of a building where Michelle can see him. The idea is that she’ll run up to save him and then he’ll detonate some bombs he set up. Michael knows this, so he heroically unties himself and falls to his death. (Yet another cool stunt.)

But a little thing like death won’t stop this guy from holding Michael hostage. He digs up Michael’s grave and makes a video of it to send to Michelle and Yamamoto! He hangs the coffin from a crane at a quarry, again to trick her into getting close to his bombs. Of course she feels guilty about Michael sacrificing himself for her, and she also has strong views about grave desecration. But instead of just stepping into his trap again she goes to a Q type inventor guy who gives her a souped up tank to drive there with. Some shots look like a small remote control version, but I think they also built a full sized tank. It just doesn’t work that well so it gets blown up right away. Then there’s a big scene of riding on a speeding mine cart away from a series of explosions. Honestly a scene like that should be reason enough to watch any movie.

Wong mostly uses guns, but Sanada is a good screen fighter and also has a good broody James Dean type of presence. Yeoh is excellent doing all the choreographed dancer kicks that made us fall in love with her. And it’s cool to see the young baby-faced Yeoh. She doesn’t really have the womanly dignity she’s been known for for so many years, but she’s highly respected by the other police and everything. No sexism problems. The movie is on the same page as the world, it knows she’s awesome.

Apparently this is either first or second in the IN THE LINE OF DUTY series, depending on who you ask. The series doesn’t continue the same characters, they’re just different cop movies, so it’s up to interpretation. In my opinion the LETHAL WEAPONs and some of the POLICE ACADEMYs are also in the series. And certain episodes of Cagney and Lacey.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 at 2:46 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Royal Warriors”

  1. I had no idea this one was considered part of the IN THE LINE OF DUTY franchise. It might not have escaped my notice this long if I’d known. My favorite of the series is the fourth one. Yeun Woo Ping directing, Donnie Yen and Cynthia Khan co-starring. You really can’t go wrong.

  2. I agree. the Yuen Woo Ping one is excellent. However, my HKL copy states it as IN THE LINE OF DUTY without any numbering.

  3. The saddest example of CGI overkill that I saw recently was BADGES OF FURY. They were probably going for a cartoonish effect (which would explain the Looney Toons sound effects), but the film was rendered with such lazy CGI that it made KUNG FU HUSTLE look like kitchen sink realism. The whole sad spectacle was topped off by Jet Li officially entering his Jackie Chan mugging phase (though he debased himself with more dignity than Mr. Chan).

    It really underscores Vern’s point about the charms of practical effects and stuntwork.

  4. That airplane fight is well above average for entertainment value & props usage. I believe our hero weaponizes no fewer than 3 separate fire extinguishers & 2 rolling snack carts, and of course the bad guys have firearms, knives, *and* explosives. The titular warriors sit in coach but they do “First Class” action, if you will. (sorry)
    Good use of the drinks cabinet to contain the grenade blast, too, but I always wish the filmatists had gone further with the setting. I wanna see someone jumping over the seats get tripped by a seatbelt, someone get choked by the flight attendant’s PA system mic cord, maybe Michelle Yeoh gets tangled up by one of those inflatable neck pillow float thingies somehow, maybe the fight ends up in the cockpit and the pilot gets hurt so Michelle has to whip-kick the steering rudder/joystick to keep the plane stable while she’s in the middle of also fighting a couple of terrorists.

    Airplane shootouts are always good cuz you know a window is gonna die, causing that cinematic suction that’s so fun to watch even if it worries me that airlines don’t make the windows more sturdy. Maybe double panes would help.
    It’s like when you have a movie fight in a kitchen, somehow there has to be multiple steak knives involved, preferably a pointy meat thermometer as well, and someone has to get his face pushed into a burning grease fryer.

  5. Oh shit she actually does get to do that “whip-kick the steering joystick to keep the plane stable while she’s in the middle of also fighting a couple of terrorists,” except it’s a construction site dirtdumper instead of an airplane, and she’s trying to spare her partner from getting a ton of dirt bulldozed onto him, and there’s just one bad guy.

    Again, if you’re gonna have a fight at a construction site, this is how you do it — the real stunts seriously look life-threatening in this sequence, holy shit —
    but I wish they’d had a little more mano-a-mano combat with picks & shovels and maybe if there were a part where the good guy uses a hardhat as a shield when the bad guy shoots a nail gun at him that would be excellent. C’mon, Hong Kong, don’t let Thailand continue to out-danger you in ridiculous action cinema.

  6. I know the next time I get on an airplane I’m going to check to see how many potential badasses are on the same flight.

  7. Mouth: One of the best uses of a carving knife in a kitchen fight I’ve seen was on CHUCK, of all places, in which Yvonne “Hottest Blonde Currently Walking Planet Earth” Strahovski uses the slotted wooden block the knife is stored in to disarm her opponent (putting the knife back where it belongs in the process), twists it to break his wrist, then cracks him in the head with the wood block. Both tidy and brutal.

    Don’t watch the show, though. The lack of proper protocol in an intelligence/military operation will drive you up the wall.

  8. If it has good knife fights and at least one hot blonde in most scenes, I could probably maybe enjoy it the same way a medical professional audience member is able to non-nitpickingly enjoy Scrubs, which is similar to the new Fox joint Enlisted, a show which should offend me but doesn’t. I’m growing soft.

    Vern does a good job conveying the direct meat-&-potatoes nature of the ROYAL WARRIOR’s simple story amidst the elaborate action pieces, but he should have mentioned that there are actual lines of dialogue like, “Michael, I will get your revenge!” and “I must kill him.” All pre-irony, non-winking stuff that’s pretty dumb as far as movie scripts go if you overthink it (like you would a Tarantino revenge scenario), yet it all happens within the flow of the narrative and it’s not stupid enough (like “Aveeennnnngggge meee!!!!” in RED DAWN) to detract from the overall film experience. It’s pure & beautiful.

  9. CHUCK is about as far removed from reality as a piece of filmed entertainment can get without becoming a literal cartoon. It’s the kind of show where the price of admission is agreeing to believe that three people can stop 90% of the terrorist threats facing America today because they all occur within a 20 minute drive from Burbank. Sort of like BUFFY with all the apocalypses, except without the Hellmouth as a catch-all excuse. Better hand-to-hand combat, though, and the absolute best special guest stars of any television show ever. Linda Hamilton and Dolph Lundgren share scenes.

    It was very silly and often inexcusable. I liked it a lot.

  10. “CHUCK is about as far removed from reality as a piece of filmed entertainment can get without becoming a literal cartoon. It’s the kind of show where the price of admission is agreeing to believe that three people can stop 90% of the terrorist threats facing America today because they all occur within a 20 minute drive from Burbank”

    That sounds a lot like 24 if you ask me even though the tone from CHUCk seem completely different.

  11. Speaking of which: Yvonne Strahovski is currently shooting 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY so there you go.

  12. I heard. I’m actually going to have to watch that show (Movie? Miniseries?) now.

    I haven’t seen 24 since the first season. Did I miss anything?

  13. I think the series peaked with season two.They ratched up the stakes and the brutality of the show. It starts off with Jack executing a guy in an interrogation room and then ask for a hacksaw (why you´ll have to find out) and he is in a place where he feels he has nothing left to lose and as a result there is a more harder edge to him throughout the series. It is only too bad that the show just kept the “Tom Clancy-scenario” of season two and just stayed on that. A lot of repetition in terms of plot devices but I think the whole realtime format was restraining the writers a lot. Hopefully the 12 episode structure can shake up the narrative of 24 without the timerestraints and become exciting again.

    Also, I think 24 is the first time Kiefer Sutherland actually impressed me as an actor. He has a bad guy intensity to him that is very well used in the show. Bauer is certainly now more of a sociopathic one man army than just a normal guy trying to save his family so the absurdness of the show has also ramped up.

    Even the worst seasons of 24 (4,6 and the first half of season 8) are enjoyable , because every season is straightfaced lunacy where you´ll have to suspend your disbelief from a bridge to appreciate it.Once you get into it you start to appriciate its absurd logic and contrivances besides all the violence and mayhem.

  14. 24 was awesome, if you are into shows that shy away from no ridiculous twist to keep the story going. Even if they used the same plot devices in every single season. (The CTU must be the least secure special unit ever! Half of them were moles!)

  15. I also think 24 has had a stream of fantastic supporting actors which has helped it through the seasons: Peter Weller, Gregory Itzin, Kurtwood Smith, Tony Todd (!), Julian Sands, Arnold Vosloo,Jon Voight (!!) and Joaquim de Almeida to mention a few

  16. Oh, I straight-up loved “24”. The “24 Mole” thing got so ridiculous that they started to reverse it in later seasons: instead of having a good guy who turned out to be a mole, they had CTU moles who turned out to actually be working undercover for the good guys.

    Anyway, regarding the film, I will check this one out. I can always appreciate some Michelle Yeoh.

  17. They did not need to be a mole either. They only had to compromise the security of CTU (like Sean Astin, the stupid twat who got his ID stolen) or a love affair with fellow CTU workers, which is a complete breach of protocol. So much personal shit going on, you´d think they would start to clear up on all that unprofessional bullshit and have a complete lockdown of the place so they could sort it out.

  18. Heavy Miami Vice similarities/influences in ROYAL WARRIORS:

    -Michelle’s wardrobe (white pants, white shoes, purple top)

    -car bomb discovered & reacted to same way Sonny saw & reacted to car bomb that got Jimmy Smits

    -neon night club, duh

    -the music throughout the third act of ROYAL WARRIORS sounds Vice-ish

    Or maybe the MV crew borrowed some action-ambience cues from pre-MV Chinese action cinema.
    Or maybe most of this can be explained with a handwave & an explanatory “Hey it was the ’80s” shrug.

  19. Ah, the IN THE LINE OF DUTY SERIES. I thought I’d seen them all but this doesn’t sound familiar. To be honest they all blur into eachother a little bit. I have fond memories of watching these kinds of films growing up. When I was a teenager I moved interstate, and a friend of mine mailed me a giant box of VHS cassettes containing bootleg HK action films. What an awesome dude. I also taped a lot of movies off SBS (our PBS equivalent, I guess), which used to show HK action movies every Friday night in widescreen with proper subtitles (none of this white-on-white bullshit).

    All of the rolled-up sleeves and pastel suits and crazy shirts are half the fun of 80s HK action movies. Even Chow Yun-Fat, the coolest motherfucker on Earth, couldn’t pull off some of the shit in THE KILLER.

    24 is one of those pop-culture touchstones that just passed me by. Occasionally I get the urge to watch it but I look it up on Netflix but there’s like 8 seasons of this motherfucker and it seems like too big a time investment. I watched the first episode, which at the time was considered fast-paced action, and I found it pretty boring, on the level of a watchable DTV spy thriller. I fell asleep, although to be fair I was drunk.

    ENLISTED is a pretty good comedy. Hope it does well. You’d have to be kind of an insane pedant to reject it on authenticity grounds, as it has as much to do with soldiering as BROOKLYN NINE-NINE has to do with actual policework. Hey Mouth, what did you think of the recent episode about PTSD? I thought it was a little weird, kinda like SCRUBS, in that it didn’t really do much to earn such a heavy emotional coda.

  20. Crustacean- The pacing of 24 has definitely changed since season one. It got tightened up a lot more storywise and the whole show got faster paced as it went along. My recommendation is: stick with it. You will get rewarded with a lot of stunning performances from both people you have never heard of before and a lot of familiar faces that bring their A-game to 24. I am not gonna kid you that the show does not have it fair share of problems, but 24 is essential watching in my opinion.

  21. 24 also has a stronger narrative than your usual DTV spy thriller. I´m sorry, but I just had to mention that. I think it´s unfair to compare it to lowbudgetfare narratives. Whatever its faults, 24 is stronger than that.

  22. The problem with 24 is that they insisted on sticking with the “real time” bs instead of just throwing that out of the window. The reason why this new season of 24 is going to be great is because it’s half the episodes and it won’t be in real time. The appeal of 24 and why it lasted so long wasn’t the “real time” but Jack Bauer being one of the all time greatest badasses.

  23. Also, does this mean we’re getting reviews of all the In The line of Fire movies from Vern?

  24. Does anyone who isn’t a right winger actually stomach watching 24?

  25. Actually, yes. And this comes from a guy who can´t stomach FIRST BLOOD 2.

  26. Yeah, but RAMBO’s just a silly fairy tale. The producers behind 24 seems to work under the illusion that it takes place in the real world.

  27. Pegsman, I’m as liberal as they come and I totally not endorse torture or other illegal methods of crime fighting, but I love 24 to death. I also am against smoking weed (So maybe I’m not THAT liberal) but I love my Cheech & Chong movies! I also definitely would never try to hit on a woman by just pulling my dick out and tell her to suck it, but hey, I watch porn!

    Sometimes a work of fiction is just a work of fiction and the producers and actors of 24 spent so much time telling everybody that it’s just a TV show, that is more interested in making your adrenaline flow than spreading any questional political believes, that your argument about the writers doesn’t really hold up.

    I’m not saying the show does not feature some questionable views, but it isn’t exactly PREACHING it, although I can definitely see why its extensive and often unquestioned use (by the heroes nonetheless!) can leave a bad taste in some people’s mouth and I definitely don’t judge them for thinking like that.

  28. By the time of season 7 the questioning of the use of torture is adressed pretty heavily in the show. The only real gripe I have with the use of it on 24 is how often the script writers relied on it as a plot device for Bauer to gather information.

  29. Wouldn’t going on an unsanctioned vigilante vendetta be considered OUTSIDE the line of duty? Or are they doing all this with the blessing of the authorities?

  30. Just one more rethorical question; If it’s mostly about the adrenaline flow, why go down that political road at all? A show like STRIKE BACK manage to operate in the same world as 24, without ever relying on soap box politics. But then again it’s English.

  31. pegsman – FIRST BLOOD 2 must be the strangest fairy tale I have ever heard of then, addressing real world atrocities non-allegorical.

  32. *24 SPOILERS* I also don´t agree with the supposed politics of 24. In season 7 Jon Voight was the villain and exactly the kind of right wing lunatic that as you claim this show supposedly is aiming at. And in many times they play with stereotypes and racial prejudices to throw the viewer off. It´s very hard to give specifics without spoiling the plot, but in season two it turns out that all the villains were never really the muslims but either white middleclass or corporate interests.

  33. Shoot, Rambo’s adventures in film #2 are so far removed from reality that they might as well have called the country Fantasy Island. I actually watched, and liked, the first three seasons of 24, but jumped ship a couple of episodes into season four. The tone had changed, and I didn’t like it.

  34. And Shoot, if you like 24 you REALLY should check out STRIKE BACK.

  35. It is a fair complaint. The fourth season is easily my least favourite especially how Amnesty International was portrayed in that season as a bureucratic assholish organization standing in the way of stopping the terrorist attack.That is the only occasion I seriously think the writers dropped the ball politically completely. It was a very bad season overall.

  36. Thanks for the recommendation,pegs.

  37. *That is the only occasion I seriously think the writers completely dropped the ball politically*

  38. I’m a massive liberal weiner, but I like a lot of right-wing action movies, vigilante movies etc. I guess I enjoy them on a different level to someone who genuinely thinks the world needs more Dirty Harrys and John Rambos. I guess I find it fascinating to watch the strings being pulled. They’re much easier to see when they’re attached to someone else.

    Yeah, I have watched some of STRIKE BACK and it’s pretty good TV action. BANSHEE is good too.

  39. Love the old Sanada movies like this one or Ninja in the Dragon’s Den …. Sonny Chiba protege goes on to play with the Royal Shakespear company in England … he should get more badass credit then he does atm!

  40. This was wackadoo fun. I’m glad that I forgot that I read this review years ago, coz I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen next, from moment to moment. I just got officially laid off, btw, so here’s hoping I can get Unemployment! Man oh man, tho, I cannot get enough ’80s Michelle Yeoh. I wasn’t even sure that was her at first, with her short hair.

  41. I saw the In the Line of Duty I-IV box set at like 40% off and had to get it even though I had only seen part 2 (Yes, Madam!). So, I just watched Royal Warriors for the first time!

    I enjoyed this movie a lot, but I liked Yes, Madam! more and I am trying to figure out why. I really don’t care for the three bumbling crooks in Yes, Madam!, and they take up a LOT of screentime. Royal Warriors’ plot and cast is leaner and more effective, but Jackass Michael was so ridiculously stupid and immature that it clashed with the more serious tone of RW (seriously, Michelle should have shoved every one of those flower bouquets down his throat). I am also a sucker for Corey Yuen’s direction on YM!, I love his style. No shade on RW director David Chung, his work just wasn’t as distinct. RW also feels like it peaks early, the climax is fun but despite the scale of the stunts I didn’t find it as exciting or entertaining as the earlier nightclub set piece. YM! might have a little less action throughout the film, but the big brawl at the end leaves you satisfied. I will definitely watch Royal Warriors again, though. The airplane and nightclub set pieces alone are worth revisiting. I already feel like I got my money’s worth from this set. Really looking forward to part IV with Donnie Yen and directed by Yuen Woo-ping!

    Vern only briefly mentioned the fight on a boat, I love that Peter/Kenji obtains a gun in a supremely Badass way: going to an illegal gun dealer at the docks, paying with fake money, then beating the shit out of everyone and taking the bullets they had (smartly for a movie criminal!) withheld. Awesome.
    That set piece in the club is brutal, civilians getting in the way and catching bullets etc. But what really stood out to me was the movie way it treated the breaking/falling glass as dangerous. Action and Hong Kong movies especially tend to smash people through endless amounts of glass and I love it, but it was interesting/disturbing to see people actually dying or seriously injured by those huge chunks of glass for once.
    I love that both Peter (after his family dies) and Michelle (after Michael dies) get cooler Grief Mode variant outfits to kick ass in.
    That “tank” looked like a PT Cruiser cheaply cosplaying as an armored vehicle. I didn’t mind the sped-up footage during the big car chase, but the “tank” is sped-up to Benny Hill levels just to move at a reasonable speed and do nothing.
    I can’t think of many other movies that climax with the heroes riding another hero’s casket through dozens of explosions, so that’s something. The more I think about it the more I like it, maybe it will play better on a second viewing where I am prepared for the darker tone and Michael’s jackassery. Link below for my excessively long full review:

  42. That’s a major problem with Hong Kong movies about badass women. The movies get sold on the backs of these absolutely legendary ladies with style, class, and world-class ass-kicking skills, but the filmmakers feel compelled to spend half the movie focusing on a couple of total goobers sexually harassing everyone in sight and being all smug and “Ain’t I a stinker?” about it. At least in YES, MADAM! the goobers are just comic relief. You’re not expected to suddenly see any of them as a viable love interest. That’s not always the case. I just watched one of Cynthia Rothrock’s HK joints (CITY COPS, I think? I watched a few in quick succession and they started running together) and most of the movie is about this absolute tool of a cop (lazy, sexist, dishonest, unfunny, not even good at fighting–just complete garbage) and then we’re supposed to be happy that Cynthia gets charmed by him in the end. It makes you want to puke. You got these goddess-tier female icons and we’re supposed to buy that a character on a “Dirty Balls in ONG BAK” level of coolness is worthy of laying a finger on them. There’s a lot of stuff about classic HK cinema that I miss but that bullshit is not one of them.

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