Michelle Yeoh has recently become a fan and critic favourite with her starring role in the fabulous Everything Everywhere All at Once, but she will always be fondly remembered as one of the first stars of the Battling Babes genre of action films coming out of Hong Kong in the 1980s.
Magnificent Warriors was made in 1987 and starred Yeoh (then billed as Michelle Khan) as well as Derek Yee and Richard Ng in a story where she portrays a wisecracking mercenary pilot with a leather jacket, rope dart and bullwhip who sets aside personal greed to defend a small town and free its leader from the clutches of the invading Japanese army!
Along the way, she meets and befriends another freedom fighter (Derek Yee) and a Con man (Richard Ng) who together try to save a town where the Japanese plan to build a chemical weapons factory. Many battles ensue, with some great fistfight action and stunt work.
Michelle Yeoh is having a ball with this role, fun and cocky she knows how to look after herself, which we witness when she rescues her dad (a cameo from veteran Shaw actor Ku Feng) from bandits. Full marks to the choreography and stunt teams who really show us some great action which is very ground-based, not much wire work to see here, and it works better because of it.
The Taiwanese location makes for a refreshing change from the usual scenery seen in these films, and the short running time flies by. Look out for small roles by Chang Yi and super kicker Hwang Jang Lee. Comedy is left to Richard Ng, but it does not detract from the action and works OK within the plot.
The film is not as well known as some of Michelle’s other work as it did not do as well on its initial release, but in retrospect, it is a fun action romp with great fights and stunts and stands up very well with other action films of the time.
The film has been released onto Blu-ray in the USA by 88 Films (Eureka are releasing it soon in the UK) and it has a good solid HD transfer, a big upgrade from the old DVD release. Extras include an audio commentary from Frank Djeng, vintage interviews with Michelle Yeoh and Tung Wei and trailers. You also get a good booklet and poster in the package.
FILM – 7.5 OUT OF 10