When I decided to watch a bunch of movies from the 1980s this month I was thinking about all of the stereotypical films from that decade that I knew of as a kid. I was thinking about dumb comedies, big action flicks, slashers, and low-budget B-movies. Lots of other movies were made in the 1980s, of course, but my plan was to stick to the kinds of movies that made me think of the ’80s. I wasn’t interested in foreign language films, or art-house movies.
I’ve mostly stuck to that, but the Criterion Channel is running a series of films starring Michelle Yeoh and I just “had” to watch at least one. Yes, Madam! is the film that made her a star in Hong Kong and is at least partially responsible for a slate of action films starring women that became popular at the time.
Yeoh stars as Senior Inspector Ng, a Hong Kong detective who teams up with Senior Inspector Morris (Cynthia Rothrock in her first big role) from London. They are after some secret microfilm stolen by some gangsters.
Well, actually it was accidentally stolen by a couple of bumbling crooks, but the gangsters want it so you get the cops and the gangsters chasing the dimwits, and the gangsters doing everything they can to keep the cops from getting it first.
It is very similar to a lot of American action movies made in the 1980s. The plot is pretty silly, and the acting is not always great, but the action is a lot of fun. American films tend to involve a lot of gunplay, but Hong Kong films eschew the bang bang for the kung pow. Both types of films usually involve some comedy, but American films tend to have a wise-cracking lead hero, and their Hong Kong counterparts are more slapstick, and more physical with the comedy.
So it is with Yes, Madam! Yeoh and Rothrock kick some serious ass. There are a lot of fight scenes and all of them are fun to watch. The comedy doesn’t fare as well, but I’ve never been a fan of slapstick silliness. It is big, goofy fun, and well worth the watching.