A dramatic showcase for action star Michelle Yeoh, THE STUNT WOMAN (aka AH KAM) offers a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking in Hong Kong while telling the story of a stuntwoman's trials and tribulations both on camera and off. While of interest to Hong Kong buffs for its strong cast
and offbeat subject matter, the film lacks both a substantial storyline and comprehensible character development.
Ah Kam (Michelle Yeoh), a young woman from mainland China with expertise in kung fu and film acting, gets a job for a Hong Kong film company as a stuntwoman in action films with a unit headed by Tung (Sammo Hung), a gruff director nicknamed "the Chief." Having no family of her own, Ah Kam warms to
the tight-knit film crew, becoming an integral member of the unit by doing difficult stunts, weathering injury, and not complaining. When Tung is hospitalized after an attack by Triad (organized crime) members, he assigns Ah Kam to direct the next few action scenes.
One night, tired from overwork, Ah Kam stumbles doing a skating stunt and is shown up when a visitor, Sam (Jimmy Wong), a handsome young businessman and former skating champ, performs the stunt flawlessly. Sam is attracted to Ah Kam and begins courting her persistently until she sleeps with him.
He announces his plan to open a bar across the border in Shenzhen and invites her to come work with him. She takes the job but is disillusioned by the hard work and the disrespect shown her by Sam, his partners, and the rude customers. When she finds Sam with another woman, she quits and returns
to Hong Kong.
Tung is attacked again by Triad members and this time killed. One of the crew witnessed the attack and testifies, but charges against the gang leader fail to stick. When the Chief's orphaned son Ah Long (Ken Lo) is kidnapped by the Triad and held in an amusement park, Ah Kam rescues him and
arranges to take the boy to mainland China to his grandfather. Only after they get across the border is she told just how far away the grandfather's province is.
One of a handful of Hong Kong directors specializing in serious drama and ensemble casts, Ann Hui (BOAT PEOPLE, SUMMER SNOW, EIGHTEEN SPRINGS) chooses as her subject here a solitary female figure--a mainland Chinese woman who seeks employment and a family structure within a Hong Kong film crew.
Thanks to Yeoh's expressive portrayal, we get a sense of the character's loneliness, vulnerability, emotional neediness and inner resources in times of crisis; unfortunately, the script never gives us much information about her or the other characters, so we remain detached from the proceedings.
Done in a three-act structure, the last act--a melodramatic burst of crime, violence, chase scenes, and flight across the border--undermines what had previously been emerging as a less-than-penetrating but still intriguing character study.
In this, her last Hong Kong film before TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997), Yeoh was seriously injured doing a stunt, so this may be the last chance for fans of the star of THE HEROIC TRIO, SUPERCOP (both 1992), and WING CHUN (1994) to see her do the foolhardy stunts that have helped make her the world's
reigning female action star. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: NR
- Review: A dramatic showcase for action star Michelle Yeoh, THE STUNT WOMAN (aka AH KAM) offers a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking in Hong Kong while telling the story of a stuntwoman's trials and tribulations both on camera and off. While of interest to Hong K… (more)