Michelle Yeoh and director David Chung reteamed following their 1986 martial arts hit Royal Warriors with another banger of an action epic in Magnificent Warriors, a rollicking spy movie that takes place in 1931 following the invasion of Manchuria. Yeoh cracks a whip and a ton of necks, and 88 Films’ new Blu-ray release of the film sports a good HD presentation and comes with a handful of extras to dig through, plus a fold-out poster and essay booklet. This release comes Recommended!
The massive success of Corey Yuen’s 1985 martial arts classic Yes, Madam! cemented the act of Michelle Yeoh kicking ass in cinema history forever, though filmmaker David Chung certainly got to show audiences the reflexive comical side of Yeoh with Magnificent Warriors. Produced to be an international hit, the film mashes notes of James Bond and Indiana Jones together with a dollop of high-flying martial arts action that we come to adore from Hong Kong cinema. The result is unsurprisingly broad despite many, many huge set pieces that are way more rollicking than anything you’d catch in American filmmaking lately.
Magnificent Warriors takes place in 1931-era China after the Japanese invaded Manchuria. Japanese Army General Toga has his sights set on building a chemical weapons factory, to which the government hires Chinese patriot and highly-skilled fighter Fok Ming-Ming (Yeoh) to intervene and assassinate the general. She flies to Northern China and teams up with Agent 001 (Derek Yee) to rescue Lord Youda (Lowell Yo), return him back to his city of Kaal, and rally the city’s denizens for a big, bloody battle against Japanese soldiers.
While David Chung’s directing credits are few, he proved himself to be a key contributor to the look and feel of many Hong Kong-produced classics from the 80s and 90s. Hell, he was the cinematographer on Once Upon A Time in China. If that doesn’t prove your skill at filmmaking, then you needn’t look far down the filmmaker’s resume for further convincing. Michelle Yeoh has spoken multiple times about how Magnificent Warriors was the most difficult physical shoot for her, as the action was filming on day one and throughout the production. Action that relied on her to carry, in addition to meting out any narrative texture the broad script may not have to offer. So, she plays the Indiana Jones-inspired character with the self-effacing, proud, and wily personality that dominates each scene with some bonafide ass-kicking.
Magnificent Warriors offers clear comparisons to Sammo Hung’s school of ham-fisted, hard-hitting martial arts and adds some gun-toting and explosive flair to the proceedings. It can often feel rudderless and driven by motion more than narrative need, but dear god everything on display here is so breathlessly realized. As if watching Yeoh take down a group of people with a whip wasn’t enough, the spear-fighting skills she shows off in the climax damn near approaches cinematic poetry. It may not be the most original entry from that era of Hong Kong cinema, yet it offers distinct martial arts and action pleasures in grand abundance.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Magnificent Warriors arrives on Blu-ray with a single-disc (BD50) release from 88 Films that is Region A locked. The disc is housed in a blue Elite case, with the attached essay booklet and fold-out poster inside as well. The case has reversible cover art and comes with a slipcover. The disc boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio and subtitles, explore special features and select scenes.
NOTE - At press time we weren't able to rip the disc to source fresh images and the ones available publicly were a bit sketchy to virtually unusable. When we can we'll try to double back and update with pics and video if possible.
As with many of 88 Film’s Asian releases, information about the provided transfer is a bit spare, but the back cover states this 1080p presentation was sourced from a brand-new 2K restoration. This causes me to believe that Fortune Star did the restoration, so my expectations were adjusted accordingly. That being said, I was actually impressed multiple times by this 2.39:1-framed, AVC-encoded presentation despite some clear drops in visual fidelity in various sequences. Contrast is strong and so are details in general, two areas that often look flat in Fortune Star transfers. Film grain looks good, although not too thick unless there are some anamorphic effects on the screen. I did notice some clear drops in quality during some action scenes, like a couple instances where grain gets really thick and clarity drops. Those moments don’t do much to harm the presentation as a whole, luckily. This is clearly the best the film has looked at home.
Magnificent Warriors is presented here with two 2.0 DTS-HD MA mono tracks, the original Cantonese track and English dub. Both tracks are free of damage and bring the most out of the limited range offered by the film’s sound effects. Dialogue and music are nicely balanced in both tracks, although I give the slight edge to the Cantonese track for being full-bodied in the lower range when compared to the English dub. All in all, great audio offerings here!
While no newly produced features are included outside of the audio commentary, 88 Films provides some archival interviews and a couple of original trailers to round out things nicely. And as always, they’ve provided a nice fold-out poster with art on both sides, as well as a nicely appointed 35-page essay booklet with writing by author Matthew Edwards and a great collection of original promo art.
The female-led martial arts films from Hong Kong in the 1980s were among some of the international powerhouse’s most rollicking and bewilderingly fun offerings, and David Chung’s Magnificent Warriors with Michelle Yeoh is no exception. Pick up this Recommended release for a great HD presentation of this action epic, keep it on the shelf for whenever you need a good dose of Yeoh-dealt ass-whooping.