Hong Kong action cinema has had its share of female warriors from Cheng Pei-Pei in the late 60’s to Angela Mao in the 70’s. With this Corey Yuen-directed action feature, two names became synonymous with action. However, one of the ladies broke the mold and became one of the first foreigners to have a lead role in Hong Kong action cinema. The ladies are none other than former Miss Malaysia Michelle Yeoh and American martial arts champion Cynthia Rothrock.
Inspector Michelle Ng is a Royal Hong Kong police officer who was readying herself for a vacation to Scotland with her longtime boyfriend, Richard. Richard is in possession of a microfilm which contains forged documents for a top business. Wanting to get his hands on the microfilm for a price is crime boss Henry Tin. Tin sends his top hitman, Dick, to make the price. When Richard refuses, Dick kills him and escapes. Michelle gets on the case but soon learns she will have a partner direct from Scotland Yard to assist her. Carrie Morris, played by Rothrock, is a policewoman who resorts to more unorthodox methods while Ng is more by-the-book. Meanwhile, the microfilm has accidentally ended up in the hands of a trio of small time crooks, Panadol, Aspirin, and Stresil. Now, it becomes an all-out war with the microfilm as the prize.
One of the first true “girls with guns” action films from first time producer Dickson Poon and Hong Kong legends Sammo Hung and Corey Yuen, this film provides some ample action thanks to a healthy combination of firepower and martial arts action. Truly following in the vein of the classic Police Story, the film became a breakthrough not only for Michelle Yeoh, but was also the launching pad for Cynthia Rothrock. Poon and director Corey Yuen clearly made a wise choice by casting Yeoh, a ballet dancer, and Rothrock, a five-time martial arts champion, in the lead roles. Their relationship of sorts can be seen as a precursor to some of the great “buddy cop” action films of Hollywood, such as the Lethal Weapon series and the Rush Hour series as they are complete opposites yet join together to take down a common foe.
While most of the drive of the film is brought by Yeoh’s Inspector Ng and Rothrock’s Inspector Morris, more important characters come in the form of the medicine-named trio of crooks. As played by comedian John Shum, martial arts choreographer and longtime Yuen cohort Mang Hoi, and “the Steven Spielberg of Hong Kong” himself, Tsui Hark, the fact these three will do anything to make it to the big time leads to them getting in the worst of times and eventually having to help Ng and Morris with the investigation.
On the side of the bad guys, lead villain James Tien isn’t seen until more near the climatic finale, but it is his two henchmen, played by Dick Wei and Chung Fat, staples of Sammo Hung’s Lucky Stars films, that do most of the action. Wei plays the atypical hitman who has no remorse when it comes to killing while Chung is more of the moustached-looking perhaps ex-military vet that like his cohort, has no remorse or regret. Seeing James Tien in a villain role is a welcome turnaround from his days as a good guy in Bruce Lee’s The Big Boss and Fist of Fury. However, he had been playing villains for most of the mid to late-70’s, mostly in some of Jackie Chan’s early work with schlock director Lo Wei. Bringing the time to modern days, Tien still brings that tenacity that makes him a worthy villain actor, even though he gets no action on screen like the good old days.
Director Yuen and co-star Mang Hoi collaborated as action choreographers and they provide some top notch kickboxing style action mixed in with some heavy duty arsenal. While Yeoh would get her martial arts training from stuntman turned actor Lam Ching-Ying, Rothrock seems to have the upper hand in the martial arts department with her experience. However, both women look impressive when it comes to their fight scenes on screen and while they were doubled for some of the more complicated acrobatic moves, they hold their own when it comes to the more kicking and punching. Yeoh, on the other hand, brings in a value of shock when she performed a very insane stunt herself in which she evades two of Tin’s thugs by flipping through a pane of glass and grabbing the ankles of the thugs. Normally for a novice action star, this type of stunt would require a double but Yeoh proved her mettle here and this is clearly the beginning of what would be at first, a short lived career careening into a major comeback since 1992, beginning with Police Story 3: Supercop.
The movie would be known in territories as the second installment of Hong Kong’s famous In the Line of Duty films, yet it was made before the official first installment, Royal Warriors. Nevertheless, Yes Madam! is definitely not only an action film for men, but women as well as this film alone shows that women can not only be as tough as men, but sometimes, even go as far as being tougher.
WFG RATING: A-
A D&B Films Ltd. Production. Director: Corey Yuen. Producer: Sammo Hung. Writer: Barry Wong. Cinematography: Bill Wong. Editing: Sek Chi-Kong, Keung Chuen-Tak, and Peter Cheung.
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock, John Shum, Mang Hoi, Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung, Richard Ng, Billy Ching, Chung Fat, Kong Lung, Dick Wei, James Tien, Chan King, Ma Kei, Ka Lee, Tai Bo, Eddie Maher, Melvin Wong, Dennis Chan, Michael Harry.