“Magnificent Warriors” Now on an Amazing Blu-ray from 88 Films! Click The Poster to Purchase!
Ming-Ming is an adventurous, mercenary pilot unafraid to herself mixed up in the worst of trouble and against the tremendous odds. When her patriotic grandfather and military uncle present Ming-Ming a mission of resistance against the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, the odds, again, will be stacked up against her as she must track down China’s top-secret agent to extract the City Lord of Kayi City, a fortified Chinese city on the outskirts under Japanese control with ambitions to build a strategic, poisonous gas plant. When Ming-Ming’s is shot down by a Japanese fighter pilot and the mission proves to be more difficult than expected, a small band of unlikely heroes become resistance fighters that inspire Kayi City to rise up against an oppressive, super nation threat to take back their home. The city of spears and arrows must defend its people from an overwhelming army of rifles, mortars, and tanks in a fight to the death.
Michelle Yeoh is so hot right now. The Malaysian-born, long-time actress has been under the U.S. mainstream radar for decades up until recently. Before now, she was well enough for her roles in Ang Lee’s four-time Academy Award winner “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” without Yeoh receiving a nomination. Twenty-two years later, Yeoh receives her first Academy Award nomination for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but we all knew she deserved the coveted U.S. award well before now. U.S. audience never got to experience Yeoh earlier in her career as an Asian action star that rivals the likes of male counterparts Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat. In “Magnificent Warriors,” Yeoh’s diligence to the demanding workload foretells a superstar in the making. The David Chung directed Hong Kong picture is relentless and action-packed with stunning and intense choreographed martial arts and having a large-scale showmanship of numerous grand explosions and a vast production pocket that include countless background actors. The script is penned by frequent Stephen Chow collaborator Kan-Cheung Tsang who has wrote many of Chow’s directorial films, such as “Kung Fu Hustle,” “Shaolin Soccer,” and “The Mermaid.” “Munificent Warriors,” also known as “Dynamite Warriors” is produced by Linda Kuk (“Hard Boiled”) and David Chung’s “Royal Warriors” producer John Sham and executive producer Dickson Poon under the D&B Films banner.
In a career that spans decades plotted by a number of strong female characters, Michelle Yeoh has embodied strength, intelligence, and beauty for this generation. Under her early credited name of Michelle Kahn, the actress, who in the last five years has entered the Marvel Universe, the Star Trek Universe, and is slated to be in the upcoming James Cameron “Avatar” sequels,” is the driving force behind what makes “Magnificent Warriors” so engrossingly magnetic. Trained to use a bullwhip and able to accomplish major stunts, unsafely I might add, on her own, Yeoh pulls off the demanding role with sheer confidence radiating from her performance. So much confidence that the quality beams from her eyes to the point that her gaze nearly appears to be a sadistic grin of her own masochism. Yeoh seizes Ming-Ming’s adventurous spirit, fully embraces it even, and stands out, but meshes well, amongst the mix of characters, including a hapless and bumbling drifter played by Richard Ng. The “Mr. Vampire Part 3” star has a recognizable and distinguishable face as a well-known Hong Kong actor from China. In “Magnificent Warriors,” Ng’s character is clearly the odd man out with zero ambitions and zero fighting skills, providing roughhouse comedic relief with lucky escapes with his life, but as far as character arcs go, the drifter, who cheats and scams gamblers for money and thinks about saving his own skin, succumbs to the resistance call of helping China and becomes one of the leaders of the core Kayi City defenders. There are three others in this band of five with the City Lord (Lowell Lo, “Spider Woman”) who has a similar character arc as the drifter in being a bit of a scaredy-cat as a traitor against the Japanese Imperial Army but sees the light of his people needing his boiled down bravery and leadership, and his involvement with Shin-Shin (Cindy Lau), a daughter of a Japan loyalist who is obsessed romantically with the City Lord and can kick ass as well that surmises a feminism theme that women are just as strong as men and can have a better moral compass, especially compared to the bumbling man in power, the City Lord, and the drifter con artist. The weakest fifth character, with an equally weak performance, in the group is Secret Agent No.1, as he’s described in the subtitles, played by Derek Yee (“Black Lizard”). Though pivotal to the resistance operations to succeed, Secret Agent No. 1 fails to make his impact like the others, character divulging a vague history of his climbing to be China’s best secret agent and also teetering on the supposedly feelings for Ming-Ming that doesn’t ever come despite blatant suggestions to the contrary. Matsui Tetsuya, Hwang Jan Lee (“The Drunken Master”), Meng Lo, Fung Hak-on, Jing Chen, and Ku Feng round out the “Magnificent Warrior’s” cast.
With extraordinary martial arts choreography, the impossible become possible in what can be experienced as an epic ballet of fists, kicks, and dueling weapons. Every battling moment translates perfectly on screen without the flinch of error, though I’m sure many takes were took. Back when outside Hollywood film studios relied on their determination and skill, with a pinch of luck, to get them through tough and rigorous stunts without the aid of wire, pads, or any union approved safety measures for that matter in what feels remarkably alien, like being on a whole other world where the rules of physics and safety do not apply. “Magnificent Warriors” is truly a magnificent stunt-driven, wartime story revolving around revolutionism, a contemplation of the relationship between a home and its people, and a principled life of standing up for what’s right. Director David Chung manages to massage out the numerous themes under the façade of a great thrust of nonstop action. The set pieces, locations, and wardrobe are all fitting for the late 1930s-1940s era, especially with the Japanese uniforms that extend into their armored vehicles, such as in the brief, for show, scenes of its war plane and handful of Type 95 Ha-Go tanks. It’s refreshing to see an older film have a different angle on the overplayed World War II narrative; instead of the typical European or Asian Pacific campaigns involving American troops, “Magnificent Warriors” goes granular into The Second Sino-Japanese War during the Second Great War the world has ever experienced. Japanese implemented chemical warfare into their strategy of expanding their dominating military advances and establishing a footprint in China. “Magnificent Warriors” embellishes the poisonous gas narrative with the imperial army seeking to use Kayi City as a chemical producing plant, steering the film’s epic grapple over the city from out of underlying truth of the actual conflict. Every stage of story progresses into a larger scale of the previous skirmish which bottles up the grossing pressure between the imperial army, the resistance fighters, and the collateral damaged city folk caught in the middle. Sprinkled with comedy and charisma, and an ever so delicate dark tone, “Magnificent Warriors” is impeccable Hong Kong cinema and exposes the world to an underrated performance by Michelle Yeoh who kicked ass then in this film and still kicks ass today.
UK distributor 88 Films releases the “Magnificent Warriors” onto an AVE encoded, 1080p, high-definition Blu-ray, presented in a 2K restored transfer of the original theatrical cut on the company’s USA line. Exhibited in the original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the anamorphic picture can appear globular at times, resulting in a packed image but more on so on pan shots than anything else. The overall picture quality suggests a pristine original print of the theatrical cut with a clean presentation from start-to-finish. Mostly warm with a flaxen degree of a desert background within a Mongolian Mountain valley, when the story does transition to a night shot or to interiors, the grain roughly sustains the change to keep a unified picture consistency that lives in a low contrast field without any deep shadow work or hard lined delineation. Compression issues are non-existent and there’s not obvious, unwanted touchups here to note. The release comes with two audio options: A Cantonese DTS-HD Mono and an English dub DTS-HD Mono. Preferrable choice is always the original intended language; however, this film’s audio options are both dubs but the Cantonese synchs better with grammatically suitable English subtitles albeit their breakneck speed to keep pace. Dialogue is clean, clear, and the action sound design is audibly potent with pinpoint precision on the homogenous strike. There are moments I thought the quick editing, especially during the plane chase, would hinder the ambient effects to keep up but I was pleasantly surprised, and the prop and gunfire intensity presents a nice exchange of open aired depth, range, and dynamisms. Software bonus features an archive interview with Michelle Yeoh (circa early 2000s), an archive interview with stunt coordinator Tung Wai, an English credits opener, the Hong Kong and International trailer, and still gallery. The hardware features are a tad better with a double-sided A3 poster, a 35-page color picture booklet with historical and filmic essay by Matthew Edwards, a limited cardboard slipcase featuring new art by Sean Longmore, and a reversible cover art in which shares its illustration with the booklet. The case isn’t the traditional slim Blu-ray snapper as it’s thicker to handle the booklet and poster. The release comes not rated, region A coded, and has a runtime of 92 minutes. Drawn into a big war shieled and overlooked by a bigger war, “Magnificent Warriors” not only time capsules a piece of Asian history but does it with fantastical fight and character that delivers one Hell of a timeless film with Michelle Yeoh at the helm.