Saturday, October 17, 2009

In short: Royal Warriors (1986)

aka In the Line of Duty 2 (or 1? My sources contradict each other on that point)

When a group of gangsters hijacks a passenger plane that is transporting a Japanese gangster boss to his new home in a Hong Kong jail, their plan of freeing the boss is thwarted by three law enforcers who are sharing the same flight.

CID Inspector Michelle Yip (Michelle Yeoh, definitely not stupid enough not to have a different first name than her character), the pea-brained sky marshal Michael Wong (Michael Wong, very possibly stupid enough to need to share his name with his character, and the worst actor this side of Keanu Reeves) and Japanese cop Peter Yamamoto (good old Hiroyuki Sanada) take the gangsters out with aplomb and a disturbing lack of surviving perpetrators. Still, the three are the heroes of the day. But their hijackers have a few surviving friends, two old war buddies, who are less than willing to forgive the death of their old friends and start a rather rude campaign of vengeance on the cops.

If I tell you that Yamamoto has a wife and a small child and is just in the process of giving up his police job to have more time for his family, you know what will happen next.

Royal Warriors is a very typical mid-80s Hong Kong action film. This of course means the characters are flat as cardboard cutouts and the plot is as thin as India-paper, but the action is so furious and ruthless that I don't find myself caring about the film's weak script.

Hong Kong films from (one of the Golden Ages of HK cinema) like this had a sense of absolute and wild abandon about them, milking the willingness of (probably mad) actors and stuntmen to do the damndest things (very much like some Thai action productions do today) without a care for anyone's health, good taste or realism. You can just watch your last hopes for the latter go up in flames with the homemade tank Yeoh drives into the finale.

Royal Warriors is also a wonderful showcase for the young Michelle Yeoh (at that time often billed as Michelle Khan), who is throwing herself into her role and the action sequences with the mix of athleticism, charisma, kicks to the face and plain talent that would make her famous. Of course she's just waltzing over her co-stars here, which isn't much of a surprise when it comes to Wong (who just can't act at all), but needs more of an effort with Sanada, who never was a Sonny Chiba to be sure, yet alright enough in his mere mortal way.

There really isn't more to say about this one. It is a movie as far from anything cerebral as possible, yet it is a fine choice if you crave some very Hong Kong adrenaline kicks in an 80s stylee.


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