Yes, Madam

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“Early HK girls-with-guns flick sets high standard.”

Purely on a historical level, this 1985 film merits attention since it started the whole action-heroine genre in Hong Kong cinema, which thrived for the next decade, producing some of the finest entries ever made. It also was, effectively, the start of the careers of Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. Interesting to see how they’ve since headed in opposite directions: Rothrock to low-budget erotic thrillers, Yeoh to the Academy Awards.

But even on its own terms, and despite a few mis-steps (forgivable in any pioneer), this is still greatly entertaining. It’s classic good-cop/bad-cop material, with Rothrock playing Carrie Morris, a Scotland Yard officer send to help Yeoh find a microfilm which incriminates the manically laughing chief villain (James Tien), and is in the unwitting possession of three shysters.

For some reason these are named, in the subbed version, Strepsil, Panadol and Aspirin – one is played by famous HK director Tsui Hark. The subbed version also includes some very goofy comedy (including a cameo by Sammo Hung) that, frankly, I could have done without; score one for the dubbed version which excises this, and also treats you to a dubbed Rothrock, sounding more like the Princess of Wales. On the other hand, her nickname in the subtitles is – and I wrote this down – “nasty foreign chick”. Something lost in translation there, I reckon.

It all builds to a fabulous, extended brawl in which our heroines take on the bad guys in a plate-glass showroom (er…perhaps it just seems that way). This remains one of the finest showcases of female martial arts on the screen. Up until then, it’s been solidly entertaining, pacey and with some thought apparently having gone into the plot and characters. It’s a classic, in more ways than one.

Dir: (Corey) Yuen Kwei
Star: Michelle Yeoh (as Michelle Khan), Cynthia Rothrock, John Sham, Man Hoi

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