Magnificent Warriors (1987)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-08-21
Summary: Magnificent Michelle or....
Mrs. Dickson Poon defeats the Japanese Army. I may be wrong—not at all unusual—but the pawprints of some cultural bureaucrats of the People’s Republic of China may be all over this movie. While Michelle Yeoh is most definitely the star and the main reason to see “Magnificent Warriors” it is the Chinese people (one might even say Chinese workers and peasants) who ultimately triumph over the forces of Imperial Japan. And it is through total self-sacrifice—destroying the town and their own homes—that they are able to win. That this fits very well with the (at that time) official view/myth/history of the Chinese struggle to keep from being incorporated into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere may be coincidental. Or it may not be, given that the producers would have needed permission to shoot on the endless plains of the western part of the People’s Republic.

While there may have been political give and take in order to secure the locations, the result is a perfect vehicle for Michelle Yeoh and an excellent action movie. The good guys are very good; the bad guys are very bad; the forces of brotherhood and justice prevail over those who would enslave the peace-loving citizens of China. And not only enslave them but put them to work in a poison gas factory they plan to build at the isolated city of Kaal—at least have those work who are survive the poison gas experiments.

Michelle looks great in full “Smilin’ Jack” drag—leather helmet, goggles, even a long silk scarf—as she pilots her biplane over the trackless waste. Her action scenes—which occur every few minutes—are terrific. Some of us may take the Michelle Yeoh of the mid to late 1980s for granted. She did everything so well that it looked effortless. Which is, of course, one of the marks of a true professional—hard stuff looks easy. But she needed a very high level of fitness, flexibility and strength needed for this role, something that one acquires only through constant work. This is where here ballet training may have been most important—not so much the ability to move gracefully but the background of taking class six days a week for years. Just about everyone in ballet takes class every day, some several times a day. It is an excellent way to instill the discipline needed to be a marital arts movie star.

“Magnificent Warriors” has plenty of flaws. Structurally it is a mess. It is basically a long string of well done action scenes—Michelle kicking, Michelle with a whip, Michelle laying waste to thieves who made the mistake of trying to cheat her on an arms deal, Michelle in air to air combat with a Mitsubishi Zero. Occasionally there are interruptions so we can get to know the characters which seem tacked on. The worst is a scene in which Ming (Michelle), Wong (Richard Ng) and Agent Number One (Derek Yee) are tied up awaiting execution by the Japanese. They take the time to get to know one another, talking about their past, how they got where they are, etc. There may as well have been a red light flashing in the corner of the screen and the word “Exposition” in a crawl under the subtitles.

“Magnificent Warriors” is due to the almost constant presence onscreen of the Magnificent Michelle and the almost wall to wall action scenes.
Reviewer Score: 7