Michelle Yeoh stars in a rousing and well-mounted historical action picture, playing a female Indiana Jones roaming a early 1940s rendition of a spaghetti western landscape.
In a Japanese-occupied province of China in 1938, mercenary gun-running pilot Fok Ming-ming (Michelle Yeoh) is hired to retrieve Youda (Lowell Lo), leader of the city of Kaal, who has information about a poison gas plant the Japanese are planning to build. After shooting down a pursuing Japanese
plane, Fok arrives in time to rescue a person she thinks is her local contact, but is in fact a self-interested drifter (Richard Ng). The pair of them are then caught by Japanese agents and saved by Fok's real contact, Paula Wong (Derek Yee). Together they spirit Youda away, along with his
sort-of-girlfriend, Chin-chin (Chindy Lau).
But they need fuel for Fok's plane, and Wong has sworn to kill the Japanese leader, General Toga (Tetsuya Matsui). Heading back into town, they are ambushed and, despite a valiant fight, are captured and sentenced for execution. The townspeople rally to save them and drive Toga from Kaal; he soon
returns with troops and besieges the town. With guns, spears, arrows and rocks the townspeople defend themselves, capturing Toga, then mercifully set him free. He returns the favor by warning them of a huge incoming army, and the locals burn their town to keep it from Japanese hands.
Director David Chung (who helmed Yeoh's previous picture, ROYAL WARRIORS), delivers a modern swashbuckler, filling the wide screen with strong compositions and high production values (model planes notwithstanding), matched by an appropriately epic orchestral score. The script not only includes an
overload of visceral action but a genuine emotional payoff, building to a crescendo when the townspeople rebel, followed by a bloody climax when they defend their homeland. Rousing moments abound, as when comic relief Richard Ng and Lowell Lo (better known for his many film soundtracks, including
one for John Woo s trendsetting THE KILLER) separately graduate from cowards to heroes, and when a jeep full of the leads fight their way past the enemy and promptly turn around to rescue a fallen comrade. Even the aggressive Japanese leader develops a twinge of conscience at the end, an anomalous
occurrence for a Chinese film.
Filmed in Taiwan on a three-week shoot that stretched to three grueling and expensive months, it was released in Asia in 1987 and on US video in 1998. Michelle Yeoh (billed as Michelle Kheng, distilled from her given Malaysian name) would star in only one more non-action role before a short-lived
marriage and temporary retirement. Co-star Derek Yee had starred in a series of elaborate swordplay fantasies for the Shaw Brothers studio starting in the late 1970s, going on to become a more serious actor and, beginning in 1986 with THE LUNATICS, a highly respected director. Never overly skilled
in combat, he was nonetheless terrifically charismatic, and shines as a romantic lead. (Violence, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1987
- Rating: NR
- Review: Michelle Yeoh stars in a rousing and well-mounted historical action picture, playing a female Indiana Jones roaming a early 1940s rendition of a spaghetti western landscape. In a Japanese-occupied province of China in 1938, mercenary gun-running pilot Fok… (more)