Sunday, 8 August 2010



It was a scratch over twenty years ago, at the Scala in Kings Cross, that I first heard of Cynthia Rothrock when they showed a trailer for what looked like a fantastic action film called City Cops. As I'd only just got into watching martial arts movies I was probably very easily impressed, as a glance at the IMDb reviews suggests it's not that good a movie. But the title stuck with me and, given the multitude of alternate titles a lot of Hong Kong action movies have (kind of like Italian zombie films), I wondered whether this was the same movie when it arrived the other day.

Police Assassins is indeed retitled, but it's not City Cops so that's a VHS-only release I've yet to track down. This was originally called Yes Madam and has two female cops (Rothrock and Michelle Yeoh, both very early in their careers) trying to bring down a corrupt businessman after the murder of a British police officer, and the hunt for the incriminating piece of microfilm that will bring down his evil empire. Or something. It doesn't really matter because the plot details are just there to connect half a dozen sequences of crunching unarmed combat, gun battles and lunatic stuntwork. They're the real joy of the Hong Kong kickabout genre and it has to be said that the climactic confrontation in the villain's mansion is pretty damned impressive as Rothrock and Yeoh take on the army of henchmen in an extensive and genuinely painful-looking fight scene.

The downside to the genre, at least at the time (Police Assassins was made in 1985) is the awful comedy which has either dated very badly or just didn't travel well. In this instance much of it is down to the three petty criminals (named Aspirin, Panadol and Strepsil - one of them played by legendary HK director Tsui Hark) who've accidentally acquired the McGuffin microfilm: there's a lot of mugging and pulling faces and it really doesn't work in a completely different Western culture a quarter of a century later. There's also, for me, the mysterious use of soundtrack music from other films - in this case part of the Halloween score is used as a general suspense cue; many probably wouldn't notice but as I'm a film music follower it can sometimes be a distraction. But if you can get past that, the simplistic and silly plotting and the non-funny comedy stuff, there's some enjoyably thudding entertainment to be had. It's not a classic of the genre and it takes a bit too long to warm up, but if you're in the mood for women beating people up, it's worth a look.


No comments: