After the huge success of the Michelle Yeoh-starring martial arts actioner Yes, Madam! in 1985, D&B Films moved swiftly to recreate that success with the 1986 Yeoh-starring follow-up Royal Warriors. This entry in the loosely connected In the Line of Duty series capitalizes much more on Yeoh’s starring power with a much tighter script and even stronger martial arts direction. Eureka presents the film on Blu-ray with a decent 2K restoration from Fortune Star, a bounty of audio options and some extras to enjoy. This release comes Recommended!
Although the Hong Kong girls-with-guns genre saw a new lease on life after the smash success Yes, Madam!, that film was anything but the straightforward female-led action movie it’s been celebrated as. Producers John Sham and Sammo Hung didn’t foresee a lot of return from a female-led buddy cop comedy, so they retooled the script and turned it into a rollicking action comedy that takes much of the main narrative focus away from stars Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. Luckily, though, that success must have meant something to John Sham, as Royal Warriors puts Yeoh front and center with a tighter script and even wilder martial arts action courtesy of Hoi Mang (one of Sammo Hung’s frequent collaborators). That doesn’t even speak to the level of technical talent behind the production, as filmmaker Johnnie To was the 2nd unit director.
Alright, down to business. Royal Warriors follows CID agent Michelle Yip (Yeoh, credited as Michelle Khan) as she teams up with mild-mannered Japanese Interpol agent Peter Yamamoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) and goofy Air Marshall named Michael Wong (Michael Wong) to take down a ruthless mercenary set on revenge. This beginning of the film is classic Hong Kong action, with a jazzy synth score introducing us to our beautiful and hard-fisted hero in the midst of a local celebration. But then, danger occurs nearby and Michelle Yip is sent into fleet-footed action to catch a couple of Japanese mob figures from attacking a local. Yeoh takes the center stage and sweeps the floor with everyone she fights in that opening sequence, seemingly taking joy from doling out a holy amount of ass-kicking, then the film really takes off in an attempted plane hijacking sequence that’s like a shot of adrenaline.
Royal Warriors plays its usual broad-stroke narrative rather well, subverting expectations in all of the ways that matter, like how the film slyly sets up a character to be a love interest of Yip’s, only to discard the character and have Yip deal with the emotional fall-out. In some other Hong Kong actioners, notes like this may come off as silly, but there’s a wily surefootedness that separates Royal Warriors distinctly from Yes, Madam!. And when you have a ton of rollicking action sequences tied together, such subversion speaks to the genuine interest this plot has in its characters rather than its proceedings.
Come for the incredible plane hijacking sequence, stay for the various car chases that fling cars around with the kind of poetry through movement you expect most from the bust martial arts films. Michelle Yeoh proves in Royal Warriors that not only can she take on a leading role that’s so physically and comedically demanding, she can do it with attention to grounding that broad moral sense of justice in her own confidence as a performer. It’s no wonder she became such a huge international superstar.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
Strap yourselves in for the high-flying action of Royal Warriors, presented on Blu-ray with a single-disc (BD50) release from Eureka Entertainment that comes locked to Region B. The disc is housed in a clear Elite case with reversible artwork, and a 23-page booklet with writing from film critic James Oliver is included in the case as well. A slipcover showcasing artwork by Darren Wheeling goes over the Elite case. The Blu-ray disc boots up to a standard menu screen with all audio, video options and special features presented in one long list.
Royal Warriors arrives in 1080p with a 1.85:1-framed, AVC-encoded presentation that certainly pulls the most out of the 2K restoration supplied by Fortune Star. Although I expected a bit of softness to the image because of the production value for a film of that era and location, I was quite impressed by the really well-balanced contrast and light layer of grain over everything. Optical titles and effects drop in clarity a bit, though not nearly as much as I expected. Colors are rich and resolved well during brighter sequences, like a neon-riddled nightclub filled with smoke that easily obfuscates what’s going on in the frame. I didn’t notice any black crush in the darker scenes and the source looks to be in really good condition, with very few notes of print damage found throughout. Even comparing this release to the German Blu-ray from late 2022 reveals the Eureka to be a true winner.
This Blu-ray release of Royal Warriors comes absolutely stacked with audio options to choose from. You can choose from the Cantonese mono theatrical mix, Cantonese mono home video mix, original English mono dub and an English 5.1 surround track produced for the home video market. The winner here, for me at least, is the Cantonese mono theatrical mix, which is presented as a DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track. This track faithfully presents all of its post-dub glory. I did notice a pretty audible pop about an hour in, but other than that this track is in really good condition.
The collection of special features here is a bit disappointing in terms of newly produced extras, but the 33-minute interview with producer John Sham is worth the watch. Sham describes how he got into the industry and his relationship with Michelle Yeoh, who he initially discovered. The 24-page booklet is a nice addition as well and includes great writing by James Oliver.
The girls-with-guns genre in Hong Kong was given remarkable depth with David Chung’s Royal Warriors, available now on Region B-locked Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment. The 1080p presentation is nice and lightly filmic with few damage notes, plus there’s a nice trio of special features to dig through. This release comes Recommended!