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David Chung
Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michael Wong
Writing Credits:
Kan-Cheung Tsang

Three law enforcement officers foil a hijacking and find themselves the targets of revenge on the part of mobsters involved.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Cantonese DTS-HD MA Monaural (Theatrical)
Cantonese DTS-HD MA Monaural (Alternate)
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $99.95
Release Date: 5/16/2023
Available As Part of In the Line of Duty I-IV Collection

• Audio Commentary from Hong Kong Film Expert Frank Djeng
• Missing Aeroplane Inserts
• Trailers
• English Title Sequence


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Royal Warriors (In the Line of Duty I) [Blu-Ray] (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 8, 2023)

1985’s Yes, Madam! offered our first look at Michelle Yeoh as an action film lead. This trend continued the following year with 1986’s Royal Warriors.

When a plane flies a high-profile mob prisoner named Lee Chung-Ching (Michael Chan) from Tokyo to Hong Kong, his partner Wong Hung (Hing-Yin Kam) attempts to hijack it. A law enforcement trio made up of Michelle Yip (Yeoh), air marshal Michael Wong (Michael Wong) and Interpol agent Peter Yamamoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) stops them.

When Lee and Wong die during this escapade, the criminals’ associates embark on a mission of revenge. They become the targets of the mobsters and need to fight to stay alive.

In the category of “well, that’s confusing”, both Madam and Warriors exist as part of the In the Line of Duty franchise. Two subsequent entries would formally use that title, but it appears nowhere with the 1985-86 films.

Even weirder, the 1985 movie got rebranded as Duty II and Warriors turned into Duty I despite their reverse order of creation and original release. To add to the oddness, Yeoh plays a different character in the first two films – and is nowhere to be found in the third and fourth entries.

I guess Duty should be viewed more as a loose “butt-kicking female cops” franchise than a truly connected series of films. It still seems bizarre to me, but I’ll get over it.

I liked the female-centric concept behind Madam, as its use of two tough and capable women as the leads seemed unusual and provocative for 1985. However, the film failed to take good advantage of this notion, and the flick itself ended up as an inconsistent, erratically-told piece.

Warriors loses the “female partners” premise, so it doesn’t stand out as compelling in that regard. However, it gives her more screentime and also develops her role better than in the sketchy Madam.

Here we get Yeoh as the firm lead, not just one of a crowd. While she clearly shares the spotlight with her male co-stars, at least Yeoh becomes the general focal point.

Warriors betters Madam in other ways as well, mainly because it feels like a more coherent – and darker – tale. Madam lacked real coherence, but Warriors tends to follow a more direct plot.

That gives us greater impact, even if – like its predecessor – it engages in clumsy comedy a little too often. In this case, Michael’s cutesy attempts to woo Michelle become a distraction.

This feels especially true after we encounter some shocking deaths around the end of the first act. These send the movie down a more serious path in general, so the light laughs feel out of place.

Even so, Warriors manages a fairly solid story line, and it boasts better action than we got in Madam as well. A hijacking sequence early in the movie works really nicely, even if the casual gunfire in the pressurized cabin feels pretty ridiculous since it causes no problems.

As with many movies of this sort, Warriors works best when it sticks with action. Though the narrative elements do fare reasonably well – and easily top those of Madam - they can also become too hokey at times.

Nonetheless, Warriors does enough right to overcome occasional missteps. A more grim tale than anticipated, the movie’s stunts and fights give it charge and make it a generally exciting ride.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C-/ Bonus C+

Royal Warriors appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a solid presentation.

For the most part, the movie brought appealing delineation. Some softness crept into the image at times, but most of the movie felt accurate and well-defined.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to appear. Grain remained light but present, and no print flaws interfered.

Warriors opted for a low-key but natural palette that worked fine. While the colors rarely stood out as memorable, they became well-rendered.

Blacks felt dark and firm, and shadows showed nice smoothness and clarity. I found myself pleased with the transfer.

Unfortunately, the film’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack held up less well over the last 37 years. Though superior to the atrocious mix for Yes, Madam, this audio nonetheless seemed flawed.

Distortion remained the biggest concern. The awkwardly-looped dialogue consistently sounded dense and edgy.

Effects became rough and shrill. Music worked a bit better but still showed too much distortion. Expect a disappointing soundtrack.

Note that the disc also included a DTS-HD MA monaural “Cantonese Alternate Mix”. I’ll leave it to Warriors aficionados to find the differences, as I don’t know the film well enough to spot the changes.

Whereas a “Home Video Mix” for Madam proved higher quality than its abysmal theatrical track, that doesn’t hold true when I compare theatrical to “alternate” for Warriors. Audio quality felt identical for both.

The Blu-ray also offered a DTS-HD MA 5.1 English soundtrack. I don’t do dubs in non-native languages and skipped it, but I wanted to mention its inclusion.

When we shift to extras, we find an audio commentary from Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng. He presents a running, screen-specific view of story/characters, cast and crew, dubbing, stunts and action, sets and locations, genre domains and the movie’s release.

I thought Djeng’s discussion of Madam tended to feel more like a list of credits for the participants than a look at the movie’s creation, and some of that carries over here as well. However, Djeng manages to dig into the production better here, so this becomes a reasonably informative piece.

Under Missing Aeroplane Inserts (0:29), we see brief shots of an aircraft in flight. I assume these got cut from the movie because the airline involved didn’t agree to their usage.

They’re not exciting but they’re interesting to see given their conspicuous absence from the film. The final product fails to depict the airborne setting well, and these shots would’ve helped in that regard.

In addition to English and Cantonese trailers, we finish with an English In the Line of Duty Credit Sequence (2:57). It indeed alters the opening/closing to use the English title and text.

Note that this Blu-ray for Warriors comes as part of a four-movie In the Line of Duty I-IV collection. It also includes 1985’s Yes, Madam!, 1988’s In the Line of Duty III and 1989’s In the Line of Duty IV.

This means a mix of non-disc-based materials that apply to all four movies. Two double-sided posters emerge. One advertises Royal Warriors on both sides, while the other shows Yes, Madam! on one side and promotes all four films on the other.

A 100-page booklet comes packed with credits, photos, art and a mix of essays/interviews. It acts as a terrific complement to the package.

An early lead role for Michelle Yeoh, Royal Warriors - aka In the Line of Duty I - turns into a fairly effective action flick. Though it comes with some missteps due to iffy comedy, it nonetheless packs enough of a punch to work most of the time. The Blu-ray comes with strong visuals, problematic audio and a few bonus materials. Expect a pretty exciting tale here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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