Film Review: Magnificent Warriors (1987)

It’s amazing what one film can do to for an actors exposure. Michelle Yeoh will be on the Oscars campaign trail with Everything Everywhere At Once. Unless you were already a fan, many people are now discovering what film’s she has been in. Eureka Entertainments Magnificent Warriors showcases one of those early incarnation and why she is one of Hong Kong’s superstars.

Even before the Daniel’s Oscar nominated film, Yeoh was already an established actress in Hollywood. From eccentric Mother in laws in Crazy Rich Asians, Botanist on a spaceship in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. Even tipped her toe in the Marvel universe in Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. Possibly her Hollywood breakthrough was as Chinese Super Spy Wai Lin in James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies. In between these films the actress has also appeared in many films in Asian Cinema too.

When the 25 year old Yeoh starred in Magnificent Warriors in 1987, it was her fifth film. Teaming up once again with director David Chung, whom she worked with in her previous film Royal Warriors (1986, Wong ga jin si). Once again showcasing her Martial Arts abilities all thanks to her Ballerina skills. Five years later in Super Cop she would show Jackie Chan she was a force to be reckon with.

Once again another Chinese Japanese connection this time to the second Sino-Japanese war. We find ourselves in late 1930’s China, Yeoh is Fok Ming-ming. When we meet her she arrives in a plane, sporting aviator leather jacket involved as gunrunner. However as the exchange of goods happen things go wrong when her contact is killed.

Thanks to her bravery, Ming-ming’s grandfather (played by Feng Ku) who recruits her as a secret agent. Assigning her to assist Secret Agent 001 (Derek Yee) whom she meets to learn about the possible poison gas plant the Japanese want to build. They cross path’s in a small town with drifting conman Paulina Wong (Richard Ng) and three go on a rescue mission. To free the small town Mayor and defend the town against the Japanese invaders.

When Magnificent Warriors was released in Hong Kong it wasn’t a box office success. For fans of Michelle Yeoh’s early films it’s considered one of her most popular. Police Story III: Super Cop probably her biggest and most popular.

There is no hiding, this has a big Indiana Jones inspiration. 1980’s Harrison Ford’s Dr Henry Jones was cinemas big draw including Hong Kong and China. The film ironically set during 1930’s which was the same decade as the first three Indiana Jones films.

Our heroine has the iconic leather jacket and whip which she uses with great effect. Like in the opening scenes, Indy was always outnumbered. Ming-Ming is too outnumbered and the whip become her great leveller. The special effects are practical instead the usual overblown green screen fakery . What makes Magnificent Warriorsstand out from the Hollywood blockbusters is the stunts. Yeoh done many of her own stunts in the way Jackie Chan and many other actors did in their own films. If we to look at Hollywood films today, only Tom Cruise comes to close.

Theaction is impressive and Hong Kong-Chinese cinema knows how to do it so well. Mixing hard sitting moves with comedy which is wonderfully choreographed with great precision. Simple and effective, you wonder why none of the actors came close to injuring themselves. Richard Ng provides the comedic moments of the film, he is ironically a comedian. He does have one of the funnier moments with Chindy Lau, trying to talk his way out of trouble only find himself deeper in trouble.

Magnificent Warriors may not be the strongest of the Hong Kong action comedy films. Script wise the film does feel at times all over the place and threatens to spoil things. Michelle Yeoh’s charisma, Ng’s comedic chops and the exciting action make this a worthy addition.

Eureka Entertainment have released a 1080 HD that’s solid, very sharp presentation. A little grainy but that’s part of the nostalgic charm of Hong Kong films from the decade. The audio comes with a Cantonese and English that’s a well balanced mono. The extras come from Asian experts Frank Djeng , Michael Worth and Arne Venema. All unearth endless fountain of information and knowledge. The interviews with Yeoh, Ng are worth a listen and a fun TV advert Yeoh and Chan star in for watches.


Action, Comedy | Hong Kong, 1987 | 12 | Blu-ray | 20th February 2023 (UK) | Eureka Entertainment | Dir.David Chung | Michelle Yeoh, Richard Ng, Tung-Shing Yee, Chindy Lau, Lowell Lo

Originally posted at The Peoples Movies on 22nd February 2023 | Original review link

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