Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Yes, Madam! (Blu-Ray Review)

4 min read

With rightly receiving critical acclaim for her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once, it's the perfect time time to look back to her first leading role: as Senior Inspector NG in 1985 crimefighting classic Yes, Madam! This re-release features a new 2K restoration, giving us the best way to dive back into the action from the comfort of home.

Yes, Madam! Is a highly influential film directed by action guru and credited with starting the “girls with guns” subgenre of action films. Two hapless thieves Aspirin (Mang Hoi) and Strepsil (John Shum) break into a freshly murdered man's hotel room and steal his passport. Unknown to them, the occupant was just stylishly murdered by an assassin and that wallet includes the microfilm of a forged contract that crooked businessman Mr Tin will kill for.

It soon falls to Senior Inspector NG (Michelle Yeoh) and Inspector Carrie Morris () to track down the microfilm and solve the murder. However, we soon find that the film is one of two unequal halves: excellently choreographed action with the two inspectors and a funny yet bumbling crime caper with Aspirin, Strepsil, and their passport forging friend Panadol (Tsui Hark). It's in the half where we see the inspectors kicking bad guys down stairs that Yes, Madam! shines.

Yeoh and Rothrock light up the screen with well choreographed fight scenes full of kicks, rolls, and wild displays of athleticism. The action is kinetic and so tightly scripted that it allows it to feel unscripted. It's everything 80s action cinema should be and it is of no surprise that their performances managed to springboard both of their careers in action cinema.

However, the plot feels like nothing more than a vehicle for these action sequences. Despite appearing simple, it quickly becomes convoluted, bogging us down in the dynamic of the three thieves when our time would be much better spent with the inspectors testing the breaking points of local windows. This trio are amusing and combined with cartoon baddie Mr Tin deliver their own action and laughs but it all feels at odds with the rest of the film.

Eureka Entertainment

It also manages to leave central plot points out to wither. The man murdered in the hotel room was Richard Nornen (Michael Harry), a romantic interest for Inspector NG that seems forgotten about for the rest of the film. The hunt for the microfilm with Hong Kong's answer to the Chuckle Brothers fails to properly acknowledge an important early death. We're left struggling to remember when they were last trying to solve a murder and it jars.

If you're here for Michelle Yeoh, you're in the right place. Yeoh bursts onto the scene from the very first minute. She tackles a flasher, single-handedly stops a hold up, and is back in the station receiving cheers before we even know it. In one excellent sequence, she runs alongside a car, using it as cover before literally rolling into a gunfight. Bodies fly, windows break, and Yeoh stares down a robber shotgun in hand. It alone combines humour with action in a way that the two sub-films never quite manage when put together.

Eureka Entertainment

It all leads to a sensational final 15 minutes which brings the cast together for a huge multi-level fight in Mr Tin's lair. When Inspector NG and Inspector Carrie Moss hand in their badges and guns you know their version of justice is going to be as creative as it is brutal. It's a delight to watch and brings together all the great elements of Yes, Madam!  into a single sequence.

While the plot often flounders, the closing scene still resonates four decades later. The petty crooks are the ones in handcuffs while white collar criminal Mr Tin smugly gets away with it all with the help of a subordinate police force and destroyed evidence. The film's final freeze frame is so powerful because it shows forces usually kept in separation by geography, class, and the police combining in a single moment. Bullets are all that connects the lives of Mr Tin and Aspirin. When given a chance, he makes sure not to miss.

The restoration work results in an excellent, clear picture. The colourful streets of Hong Kong pop and it makes the action unfolding on screen all the more of a joy to watch. Unfortunately, it's a release that is badly let down by audio quality. We're given the original Cantonese mono audio with only the English dub being delivered in a 5.1 audio format. The entire film was shot with no sound with all dialogue being dubbed which makes the difference between the language versions not as stark as you would have expected. However, it still means if you want to listen to the original Cantonese audio, which I would always recommend, it's not going to do much for your ears. It's passable on a front-facing soundbar but terribly tinny on a 5.1 setup. Your back speakers will want to shrivel up and die and your front speakers won't enjoy it much either.

An included interview with Cynthia Rothrock gives us some interesting insights, particularly how little she knew first coming into the role until she went through her first “brutal” action scene. It makes her performance all the more incredible when we learn that she didn't speak Cantonese and so couldn't properly understand other's dialogues during scenes. Similarly, the included featurette Battling Babes gives a wide-ranging look at the level of preparation required for a range of actresses to prepare for action films. 

Yes, Madam! is a flawed but at times fantastic film. Put simply, this is the best way to see Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock kick people down the stairs, and you will want to see that.

Yes, Madam! is on Blu-Ray 12 December from Eureka Entertainment