Yes, Madam!

(a.k.a. POLICE ASSASSINS on the DVD I watched)

YES, MADAM! is a 1985 Hong Kong action classic starring the one and only Michelle Yeoh as Senior Inspector Ng, hard working cop who should be on vacation and instead ends up searching for some damn microfilm.

She ends up on the case due to a crazy pile-up of coincidences. Her old instructor Richard Nordon (Michael Harry, AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE) is meeting in his hotel room with a thug named Mr. Dick (Dick Wei, EASTERN CONDORS), who ends up killing him. Immediately after that, two thieves disguised as bellboys happen to break into the room. They happen to steal Nordon’s passport, which happens to contain the microfilm of a forged contract that Mr. Dick was after in the first place. And then Inspector Ng happens to come to the room to meet with her old mentor, just in time to see the fake bellboy fleeing the scene and try to chase him.

There’s a dramatic moment in the lobby when Mr. Dick thinks she’s made him and is ready to shoot her.

She’s actually talking to the bellboy behind him and doesn’t notice.

The thieves, Asprin (Hoi Mang, WAY OF THE BLACK DRAGON) and Strepsil (John Shum, BODYGUARDS AND ASSSASSINS) decide to bring the passport to their friend Panadol, a quirky dude who makes fake IDs (and fake documents, fake guns, fake grenades…) Amazingly, Panadol is played by DOUBLE TEAM director Tsui Hark, already a veteran director at that point. It’s billed as a “special appearance,” but it’s not at all a cameo, he’s actually one of the main characters. He lives and works in a cluttered apartment that has a prominently displayed (though poorly maintained) RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II poster.

It becomes a major action location because of a series of gates and contraptions he has built into the place.

Even before Panadol finds the microfilm (and hides it under a rubber boob inside a disconnected toilet) they’re all mixed up with this murder because they have the stolen passport. They go to check in with their master, played by none other than Sammo Hung. He’s supposed to be old, so his hair is spray-colored grey, and he hides out in a retirement home, which I didn’t really understand.

There’s a part I don’t get where it makes you think he and his roommates are planning to gang rape a nurs,e but actually they just grab the full chicken she’s carrying in and start eating it and then she says “You mustn’t eat chicken! You’re on a special diet” and I don’t understand why she was bringing it in in the first place.

An exciting moment in both YES, MADAM! and in cinema history is when Inspector Ng gets a tip that the person who bought the stolen passport (Eddie Maher) is going to fly out of the country. Assuming he’s involved in the murder she stops him at the airport, which turns into a big fight and foot chase. And then – oh no! – he grabs a random woman. He has a hostage!

Ha ha! Poor choice of hostage, dumbass.

I knew she was gonna do that kick. She also runs up a wall for a flying kick to the face. Knowing that Cynthia Rothrock was in the movie, we’d already predicted she’d be Carrie Morris, the Scotland Yard inspector we were told was flying in to help with the case. I was concerned “Is Cynthia gonna have to do an accent? But, duh, she’s not even speaking English, she’s dubbed. And yes, they make that joke where some dudes are saying sexist shit about her thinking she doesn’t understand and then she speaks to them in Cantonese and they go “wh-wh-whut?

She gets to be the bad cop, taking the thug into an interrogation room and then beating up on him. Like everyone in this movie he has a poor attitude toward women: “I think you’re too tough. You’ll never find a husband.”

Other sexism directed toward them: “Miss, you’re very polite and pretty.” “If you want to show off, do it in the kitchen.” There’s a great part where their opponent calls them “Typical women. Always talking.” Ng says, “Don’t forget, among those women are your mothers.”

None of this makes Carrie any less Riggs. When she catches somebody dangling Panadol off a roof she threatens to shoot him. He’s thinking come on lady, obviously you’re not gonna shoot me because I’d drop this guy. And then she shoots him and he drops the guy.

And I don’t think she knew that he would get tangled in some ropes. Even this almost kills him – he’s hanging by the neck a few feet above the ground until she shoots the rope. Back at headquarters she brags that she’s only been there a few days but already has a nickname. Panadol correctly guesses that it’s “White Bitch.” (Well, she says it’s actually “Nasty White Bitch.”)

Meanwhile the other thieves are running around getting into unrelated trouble with a pool shark – fortunately a thug coming after them beats up everybody in the pool hall for them. The police won’t protect them so they try to get locked up by beating up a cop. He’s too embarrassed to admit that they beat him up, so he won’t arrest them. Out of desperation they decide they can get arrested by trying to tear Inspector Ng’s clothes off – but she just punches them in the face.

By the way, the main villain’s henchman is named Mad Dog, played by Fat Chung (CHINESE HERCULES, SHANGHAI EXPRESS), the master of the fake mustache. In my opinion, the Mad Dog in HARD BOILED and the Mad Dog in THE RAID should sue this Mad Dog for defamation. As you can see, his colleague here is most likely a little embarrassed to be seen with him.

One of the top moments in a movie packed with top moments happens after the boss (Melvin Wong, ABOVE THE LAW) takes them off the case and buys Ng a plane ticket for some other assignment. She tears up the ticket and turns in her gun and badge.

What she does not see is that after she leaves the room Carrie, impressed by her integrity, turns hers in too. She catches up as Ng is pulling out in her car. And there is an equivalent to one of my all time favorite tropes, the Badass Nod (see: VIGILANTE, EASTERN CONDORS).

Of course it would be disappointing if a movie like this didn’t have a wide variety of crazy action. It is not disappointing. The action choreography is by Corey Yuen (THE TRANSPORTER 2, RED CLIFF, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS) and Hoi Mang (ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN). There’s falling out windows, hanging onto things on the side of the building, motorcycles drive over cars and things, and there’s a huge climactic brawl in a mansion. Both Ng and Carrie have parts where they use umbrellas as weapons. Carrie breaks the bamboo handle off and uses it to stick fight, then pole vault. Ng swings on a chandelier, goes head first through glass. There’s a fancy glass fountain that exists solely for a guy to fall on.

And as great as all this fighting is, the preamble is even better. The Oh Shit It’s On moment. The bonding moment. The sequel to the Badass Nod. They’re surrounded by about ten dudes trying to kill them and they smile and slap each other five. They’re into it.

The only thing stopping this from leaving everybody in giant smiles at the end is that it has one of those suddenly, weirdly depressing endings they sometimes do in Hong Kong action. The bad guy is gonna get away with it and Asprin and Seprin are going to jail so Asprin steals a gun to shoot him, sacrificing himself. Freeze frame. The end.

(I guess a picture of two watches means “The End”?)

But, other than the cynical “the world is shit and unfair” ending this is a ridiculously fun and unpretentious movie that’s also very important in the history of Hong Kong action cinema. It’s the first starring role for both Yeoh and Rothrock, and its popularity kicked off both the IN THE LINE OF DUTY series and an entire subgenre of female cop movies (see also SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT, SATIN STEEL, ROYAL WARRIORS). It’s only the second movie directed by Yuen, and the one he did before NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER.

I spent way too much of my life not having seen YES, MADAM!. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

If possible, that is. This is only the latest example I’ve come across of a Hong Kong movie that was widely known in the ’80s and ’90s that doesn’t even have adequate representation in expensive out-of-print DVD form, as those were made for analog TVs and would look much better if made now. Maybe there’s a good streaming service for Asian cinema that I don’t know about, but even if there is I’d love to see one of the trusted boutique labels, whether or it’s Arrow, Criterion, Shout Factory, Vinegar Syndrome or whoever, dig into some of these for Blu-Ray and DVD. I believe Arrow has done the first DRUNKEN MASTER, and I’ve heard rumors of another seminal Jackie Chan coming from another label, so maybe they’re on it. Somebody go buy the Weinstein library, okay?

P.S. You know how sometimes Hong Kong movies steal pieces of soundtracks from other movies? This one uses some of John Carpenter’s score for HALLOWEEN! Not the main theme, but come on, man. Did you think we wouldn’t notice that shit?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 at 10:29 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.

33 Responses to “Yes, Madam!”

  1. The first time I saw this it was called IN THE LINE OF DUTY 2, and it was released a year earlier than IN THE LINE OF DUTY (of course!). Great movie no matter what it’s called.

    The are som really great stuff coming out on blu in this genre right now. I just bought a box with some of Jackie Chan’s best work. Original extended versions I haven’t seen in years in really great quality.

  2. I really like this movie but the ending and three thieves bother me a bit. It almost feels kinda sexist, like they didn’t trust audiences to be into two female action leads so they shoehorn in the plot line with the thieves so there’s some male comedic relief. And the way they don’t actually catch the bad guy bothers me, like there are numerous generic movies with two male leads and they’ll win every time but the one movie with two badass female leads is also the one where they fail. The thief stealing the cops gun though is totally absurd and hilarious and absolutely would not be found in a modern film though.

  3. Speaking of, Julie Estelle in The Night Comes For Us continues the tradition of great bad ass women. The other two girls in it are also bad ass. Women who kick ass are the best.

  4. Funny you should say that, I’m watching THE NIGHT COMES FOR US this very moment…There are something wrong with Indonesians!

  5. I love this crazy movie. The only modern lady kung fu movie that does it better is ANGEL (aka IRON ANGELS).

  6. The Undefeated Gaul

    November 14th, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    THE NIGHT COMES FOR US really is something special, although I wish the story made at least a tiny bit of sense, was a little more focused and streamlined and damn, it’s minor, but I wish the climactic fight had one guy killing the other. One of my biggest pet peeves in action films is any confrontation between hero and opponent that gets decided by a third party coming in at the last second (or afterwards). Same thing with the bathroom fight in FALLOUT, which was otherwise amazing (at least that wasn’t the final fight of the film though). Anyways, I keep coming back to THE NIGHT and rewatching the fight scenes – they are a joy to behold. Harry Knowles would have written a review comparing them to rimjobs I bet

  7. Hey Vern, was the R2 DVD you watched the Hong Kong Legends version? That’s the version I had until it went missing when I moved house. They were a fantastic label but the Police Assassins wasn’t one of their better releases, if I remember correctly. Picture looked washed out and features were lacking (no commentary track).

    Anyway, this is a quality HK movie. Probably the best showcase of Cynthia Rothrock’s talents and the climactic brawl in the mansion is an all-timer. There are always comedy bits in HK films that go over my head, but I do know that in Cantonese “chicken” is slang for prostitute, so the chicken-eating gag probably has something to do with that. Part of the dumb sexist comedy you have to suffer through to get to the awesome fight scenes.

    Also, one of my favourite things from these 80s HK action movies are all the crazy fashions. Check out those stills from the mansion battle; Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Yeoh’s jacket game is on point.

  8. I like their ’80s tough girl hair too. They pull it off.

  9. Michelle Yeoh came to Norway during the PR tour for TOMORROW NEVER DIES, and some newspaper wanted the readers to send in questions for her to answer live online. I of course sent in a bunch about her early career, the motorcycle jump in POLICE STORY 3 in particular. But no way, Bond questions only my friend! And during that whole tour at was as if no journalist in the world knew anything about her earlier movies, and she herself seemed reluctant to talk about stuff she did when her last name was Khan.

  10. I kinda hope that this is the first in a series of Michelle Yeoh reviews, leading up to Vern’s review of CRAZY RICH ASIANS. I am guessing not, but just in case: HEROIC TRIO.

    Dennis Chan, of KICKBOXER fame, is in YES, MADAM! too, but he only has like three lines, as a bartender, and his narrative role is to slow things down before the bathroom fight.

    Tsui is the best thing in this after Rothrock and Yeoh, and I’m glad he still acts from time to time. For a big change of pace – I know people here are open minded – I’d recommend Ann Hui’s A SIMPLE LIFE. Andy Lau plays a Hong Kong film producer trying to nurse the ageing maid who raised him, but incidentally we get to see a bunch of HK legends, including Hark, Hung, Dennis Chan and Raymond Chow. Anthony Wong shows up as the owner of an old peoples’ home.

  11. This is an outstanding film and a special shout out to SBS in Australia (the Special Broadcasting Service) which along with the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) is funded by our taxes. SBS would show foreign films all the time from all over the world including this one which is where I saw it – on free to air TV. They also had their own subtitles department who both did a good job with excellent spelling and grammar as well as having the sense to use yellow text instead of white so you could always easily read it.

  12. Shan: Hell, yeah! I used to have a big collection of HK movies I taped from the SBS Friday/Saturday night cult movies, complete with the Des Mangan intros. They showed SO many great foreign/cult movies, which were usually much better presented than what you could find at the rental store or from shitty import tapes.

  13. Cynthia Rothrock’s early Hong Kong films are so much fun. She was also in a crazy Wong Jing joint called MAGIC CRYSTAL which somehow manages to rip off both E.T. and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

    The blatant use of stolen music in Hong Kong films is pretty fascinating. If I remember correctly Tsui Hark’s first film DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS OF THE FIRST KIND uses the score from DAWN OF THE DEAD.

  14. Help me out, which In the Line of Dutys have I seen? IV and V have Donnie Yen, right? And this is different from The Inspector Wears Skirts?

    Never stop naming your films this way, Hong Kong!

  15. Come on, the IN THE LINE OF DUTY franchise makes perfect sense: Part I has Michelle Khan, Part II has Cynthia Rothrock (and Michelle Khan, but now she’s Michelle Yeoh), therefore Part III, IV and V have Cynthia Khan.

  16. Fred, III, IV and V has Cynthia Khan with various leading men. Donnie Yen’s only in IV. THE INSPECTOR WEARS SKIRTS I, II and III stars Sibelle Hu, before Cynthia Khan takes over in IV.

  17. Michelle Yeoh will be in the upcoming IP MAN: LEGACY as well. Along with Dave Bautista and Tony Jaa.

  18. Borg9: That is a much better idea, I figured Vern was reviewing this one to celebrate the new SHE-RA coming out on Netflix and volume 2 of SAILOR MOON SUPERS coming out on Blu-ray Tuesday.

    Anyways this is a movie that is good.

  19. Anyone know where I can get this for a little less that $75? Not sure if the region 2 dvd I found will play on blu ray? Anyone?

  20. I think the German DVD is region 0, it should work in all regions. It has an English audio track and uses the title ULTRA FORCE 2 and costs 15€ on amazon.de.

  21. So I wait for the whole review for Vern to get it. Then I go to the comments. Nobody? Nobody got that: asprin = aspirin, strepsil = strepsils , panadol = panadol meaning all of them are names of drugs/medicine?

    All very well known in my country. Maybe the US doesn’t have strepsils and panadol? That’s why?

  22. Thanks, Krautsalat. Just bought it.

  23. The Dean: well seems you already got situated and I don’t know what country you are in but it’s both shockingly on (US) iTunes and even more shockingly it’s in it’s original language and the HD transfer is real good.

    Petrosmt: I wont speak for anyone else but I’m so used to the ‘odd’ English names in HK action movies that they all seem pretty normal to me while watching.

  24. Thanks geoffreyjar. I actually found it through an HK company under the German title. If for some reason I never receive it it’s good to know it’s on iTunes.

  25. @ CrustaceanLove

    Des Mangan’s cult movies was the only way I was able to see “Dellamorte Dellamore” (also known in the US as the more anodyne title “Cemetery Man”) for a long time. After I accidentally taped over the first fifteen minutes with soccer of all things when I trod on the VCR remote, I even tried ringing him up to try and find out how I could get the film. Didn’t end up speaking to him but whoever I did reach at SBS actually suggested taping it again when they repeated it. Which I ended up doing as I was lucky to catch the repeat and be able to do so at the time but that was hardly my point when I called them in the first place (!).

  26. There was a hot-minute where I swear this was on Netflix along with a bunch of other Hong Kong flicks from the late 80’s to the early 90’s and I was like, “You’re finally pulling your weight, Netflix”, but then they disappeared right after.

    But now that we’re on it, I’d like to recommend Full Contact (I can’t remember right away if you’ve reviewed that one) and a little flick called Too Many Ways to Be No. 1. If the Cohen Bros. made a HK flick after watching Run Lola Run. Can’t recommend it enough.

  27. Holy Creeping Jesus! This is where I rented it from and this is THE guy who recommended it to me when he caught me stalking the HK section. My world is that much smaller now.

  28. Just got this in the mail. Vern, I love the subtitles on your copy of the DVD. The title in the beginning was Yes, Madam on mine, and the subtitle’s are the direct translation of Cantonese, so I got the gist of most everything, but a lot of the wording was hard to follow sometimes. Thanks for making me aware of this one. It’s a shame I hadn’t seen it. So, I’m going to confess as a child of the 80’s I never gave Cynthia Rothrock a chance, I’m going to start to remedy that. Any suggestions to put at the top of my list?

  29. Besides No Retreat No Surrender 2 which I own on VHS.

  30. ABOVE THE LAW (aka RIGHTING WRONGS) with Yuen Biao!! As good as it gets for movies where is (a) lead!

    I’m also pretty partial to SWORN TO JUSTICE, about the only one of her’s where they ask her to do more acting and also the only one to play up her as a woman guys want to f***. Did I mention the JOHN WICK-style awesome supporting cast?: Brad Douriff, Mako, Walter Koenig

    GUARDIAN ANGEL is gender-swapped THE BODYGUARD.

    The CHINA O’BRIENs are fun in that directed by Robert Clouse way.

  31. Rothrock plays one of the villains in Sammo Hung’s SHANGHAI EXPRESS and gets to fight Sammo in the finale. It’s only a small part, but it’s a great film.

    Godfrey Ho’s UNDEFEATABLE is also a ton of fun and I remember RAGE AND HONOR being pretty good as well.

  32. Thanks for the recommendations!

  33. I was lucky enough to find this on a whim (I had never heard of it before) from a dvd/vinyl reseller in my hometown just few years ago. It was definitely a great blind purchase.
    I also recommend Michelle Yeoh’s ‘Magnificent Warriors,’ which is a mix of HK action, Selleck’s ‘High Road to China,’ and of course ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

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