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Chicks with kicks! When gangsters murder her friend, Inspector Ng (Michelle Yeoh, Tomorrow Never Dies) is drawn into a deadly search for the men who did it. Just as well she's got backup from British supercop Carrie Morris (the legendary Cynthia Rothrock, China O'Brien).
88 Films presents Corey Yuen’s Hong Kong cut of Yes, Madam! (aka In the Line of Duty II) on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 2K restoration performed by Fortune Star. The disc also includes the Export Cut as an extra feature, primarily sourced from the same restoration. The film is found on the second disc of 88 Films’ In the Line of Duty box set.
The Hong Kong version of Yes, Madam! looks very similar to Royal Warriors in many respects, namely in how the colors are rendered, but when all is said and done, this presentation looks noticeably better. Things come out stronger in the areas of overall detail and grain rendering. Some grain management is still evident in places, yet the image is less waxy overall, with a sharper film texture present. A few smokey interiors, like an early interrogation scene, can highlight that grain, but it looks natural and clean during these moments.
Colors are again the area where things can look a bit off, pushing more towards teal, which gives the film a washed and pasty look. It doesn’t appear to have affected black levels, which still manage to look rich and inky, and shadow delineation still looks excellent. That interrogation sequence in a darkened, smokey room (mentioned above) looks incredibly sharp here, with a broader range in the shadows, as do several darker interior shots.
The restoration has also cleaned the image up significantly, and I can’t recall any severe blemishes, just a handful of minor marks here and there. All around, it looks sharp.
88 Films includes three audio options in DTS-HD MA: two 2-channel Cantonese monaural soundtracks (one labeled as the “Original Theatrical Mix,” the other the “Home Video Mix with Original Effects”) and then a 5.1 English surround soundtrack. The Export Cut also includes a 2-channel monaural English soundtrack. For the Hong Kong Cut, I listened to the Theatrical Cantonese soundtrack and the English surround soundtrack in their entirety but only sampled the Home Video Mix.
Despite only sampling the Home Video Mix, it was the better of the two Cantonese soundtracks. It ends up sounding substantially sharper, with voices featuring better fidelity and depth. The Theatrical mix can sound distorted and shallow in comparison. The sound effects also sound stronger and louder in many cases. The menu listing makes an effort to point out that the track includes the “original effects,” so I have to assume that there is another track out there that rerecorded the effects. Still, in my comparisons, it was evident that the sound effects did at least sound to be the same, just sharper.
The English surround presentation does end up sounding better than the surround presentation offered for Royal Warriors, but that isn’t saying much when one considers the absolute disaster that track was. Still, this one ends up being a bit disappointing. It’s advertised as “new,” so I’m guessing it’s one that Fortune Star created for this new restoration. Oddly, it sounds significantly flatter compared to the two monaural soundtracks, with music and action sounding shockingly low. Voices also sound markedly detached from their environments, more so than the other dubs, which can at least pass as being present in the respective environments. The biggest surprise, though, is that the mix is still very front-heavy, and if there was any significant surround activity, I missed it. Still, even if the surround presentation was half decent, it lacks the James Tien laugh featured in the other tracks, so it’s a no-go for that reason alone.
88 Films includes several features, starting with a concise introduction by co-star Cynthia Rothrock. Frank Djeng also records a new audio commentary. In his track, after spending a bit of time talking about how the film was released in North America as the second in a series (despite being made before the movie that was released as the first one), Djeng does focus much attention on the new ground the film was breaking in Hong Kong cinema, like bringing “girls with guns” to the screen, introducing two little known action stars, Michelle Yeoh (with a background in ballet) and Cynthia Rothrock in the process, and how it highlights a shift towards action films featuring a heavier focus on comedy (which is a sharp tonal shift when compared to the far darker Royal Warriors). He also takes the opportunity to examine how Hong Kong films would blend multiple genres (romance, drama, and so on). This topic was touched on in the commentaries for Arrow’s/Eureka’s Knockabout. Still, Djeng expands on it here by explaining how it was an attempt to broaden the appeal of these films for a wider demographic to get as many butts in seats as possible. On top of all of that, he also touches on the heavy hitters that appear in the film (Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung) and has fun talking about some of the notable actors in bit parts (referring to Dennis Chan here as the “Stanley Tucci of Hong Kong”), their performances, and the dubs (like James Tien’s villainous laugh). And on top of all of this material, he not only provides some added context for Western audiences (as he usually and thankfully does), but he also covers the locations, pointing out where the geography in the film doesn’t add up. It’s another terrific track from Djeng.
The disc also features a couple of archival interviews, including a 15-minute one from around 2003 with Michelle Yeoh. This ends up being more like a career overview (up to that point), with Yeoh explaining her dance background and how that took her down the path of becoming an action star. She talks about some of her work, including this and her work with Jackie Chan, while also sharing stories about working on films outside of Hong Kong and how different an experience that can be. A 14-minute one Mang Hoi is also here, the actor offering up other details I don’t recall coming up in the other features, like how Sammo Hung was initially supposed to direct the film. He also talks a little about the stunt crew on this film (all Hung’s team, by the sounds of it) and working with his co-stars.
There is then some new content featuring martial arts star Cynthia Rothrock all of which appears to have been assembled by Djeng. This includes an 18-minute interview featuring her recounting being discovered and then being cast in the film, sharing her fish-out-of-water experience doing it. Interestingly, the discussion is constructed from the same footage used for the Rothrock interview on Eureka’s and Arrow’s respective editions of Millionaire’s Express, so much of the same material is covered again here.
On top of the interview, Djeng has also recorded a couple of select-scene commentaries with Rothrock, covering the early airport fight scene and then the film’s final fight sequence. In these tracks, Rothrock recalls what she can about filming them, covering the planning and choreography, with a mention of how Dick Wei doesn’t hold back punches, a topic that keeps coming up throughout the features.
After that, on top of the film’s trailer, the disc also features a 10-minute archival featurette (circa the early 2000s based on the titles and graphics) entitled Battling Babes, which features interviews with Sophie Crawford, Michiho Nishikawa, Yukari Oshima, Kathy Long and, of course, Cynthia Rothrock.
But the significant inclusion is a whole other version of the film, the alternate English-language Export Version of the film, running a few minutes shorter and featuring the alternate title In the Line of Duty II: The Supercops. It trims a handful of scenes to shorten its length, but the oddest difference is the film’s opening. Not only does it completely excise the introduction of Yeoh’s character (who now first appears after the opening robbery instead of before), but it also adds an entire action sequence from a completely different film, Where’s Officer Tuba? I have no clue as to why this was done (and I’m aware this was not a unique case with this film), but it leads to a whole sequence with entirely different characters, has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film, and then never comes up again. I can’t say I’ll ever revisit it, but I’m sure it will be a welcome offering for those who were introduced to the film in this manner. For everyone else, it’s more of a bizarre curiosity.
The presentation for this film version is fine enough but is ultimately hindered by how it’s been encoded. Surprisingly, despite using the same restoration (for the most part), the two versions are not presented via seamless branching, and the file for the Export cut ends up being one-third the size of the main presentation’s file. The Export Cut doesn’t look all that bad all around, but film grain isn’t rendered as cleanly. I also found some moments to be a bit waxier, and range and shadow delineation were not as impressive. The opening sequence also appears to come from a so-so source, so it ends up sticking out compared to the rest of the film. It’s okay, but considering how this version wasn’t granted the same level of care as the main version tells me this was just included as a curiosity.
In all, though, it’s a nicely packed disc. It gathers some great interviews and does a decent job covering its production, while Djeng offers a good Academic slant when it comes to covering the film’s impact.
Probably the best disc in the set, it features a good-looking presentation and an excellent selection of supplementary material.