Project S

I think this Michelle Yeoh vehicle (directed by Stanley Tong) is one of her most underrated films and I am not quite sure why. It has some ambitious action pieces, interesting well drawn out characters, a strong ensemble of actors and a story line that is fast paced and involving. Michelle once again takes on the character of Inspector Yang from Police Story III (a.k.a. Supercop) and perhaps in comparison to that wonderful film this one does suffer somewhat, but this film is still top notch on its own terms.

It jumps immediately into action when Michelle is called upon to impersonate a doctor and save a high-ranking official in a hostage situation. One of the other hostages is her boyfriend – Yu Rong Guang – and the two of them take on a group of terrorists from the Red Army (Yukari Oshima has a small cameo as one of them).  Both Michelle and Yu Rong Guang immediately establish their fighting credentials with a series of vicious roundhouse kicks and splits. In one insane stunt, someone (I assume it is not Yu Rong Guang) leaps from a window onto a tree far below.  I hope he was well paid for that bit of work, but I doubt it.

Afterwards, Yu Rong Guang tells Michelle that he must go to HK to make good – that China does not have any opportunities for a man with his skills. What skills does he possess? Killing, martial arts and precise planning that he acquired in the army. In fact as we all know, in HK there are lots of opportunities for a man like that! He puts together a group of other ex-military men from his former command and they plan to rob a bank – not just any bank – but the Central Bank of HK. Before that though, they steal the security codes in a bloody daylight shootout with the cops.

The HK police conclude that the robbers may be from the Mainland and so Bill Tung sends for Michelle to come help them out – though only to observe of course! She is teamed up with HK cops Emil Chow (Gorgeous) and Fan Siu-Wong (Story of Ricky and Stone Age Warriors) and they are soon on the track of the robbers. Soon she begins to realize that her old lover is very likely behind it.

Michelle, Yu Rong Guang, Fan Siu-Wong, Emil Chow
The film never really slows down except for some minimal romance between Michelle and Yu Rong Guang, but two action pieces stand out in particular. In one the three cops trail a suspect to the gang’s hideout and get involved in a terrific battle with the bad guys. Yu Rong Guang is about to kill the cops with a planted bomb when he realizes that Michelle is one of them and stops – but this action ends up causing the death of one of his men.
Later during the bank robbery Michelle has a classic confrontation with a giant gweilo that looks simply brutal as she is thrown across the room a few times and nearly choked to death. Some of the high kicks to the head that she performs though are simply astounding.

Everyone in this film is so good. Yu Rong Guang is such a strong presence here – still in love with Michelle, extremely loyal and honorable to his men – that a part of you is rooting for him. Mention should also be made of Fan Siu-Wong whose dazzling moves in a secondary role are very impressive and Dick Wei as one of the robbers who needs to revenge his brother’s death. Then of course there is Michelle. Though she doesn’t really perform the breathtaking stunts that she did in Police Story III or display the beguiling grace that she does in Wing Chun – she is still quite amazing whether running over the tops of cars or delivering a high flying kick.

Underlying all this action though is a good story – two lovers on different sides of the law – still in love with one another – but forced by duty and honor to go up against one another. That gives this action film an emotional resonance that makes it all very poignant and tragic.

Cameos are also made by Athena Chu as Emil Chow’s sister and of course the infamous scene with Jackie Chan and Eric Tsang dressed in drag.

Fan Sui-Wong, Bill Tung, Athena Chu, Emil Chow, Jackie and Eric, D. Wei
My rating for this film: 8.0

Reviewed by YTSL

The star of this 1993 spin-off from, or follow-up of sorts, to "Police Story III:  Supercop" is someone who has many admirers.  After watching her in this movie and most of the others in which she has made appearances, this (re)viewer cannot help but wholeheartedly agree with Stefan Hammond's assessment that Michelle "Yeoh combines a ballerina's grace with an athlete's power and intense charisma", and attendant assertion that "[i]nternational diplomats should carry themselves with the poise of this remarkable woman" (See the center section of "Hollywood East").

Rather, what ought to be more difficult to understand is why it has so frequently been the case in her career that the directors of works in which Michelle Yeoh has been the headlined performer have felt such a need for her to share the limelight with others.  Even in an ostensible vehicle for her like PROJECT S, it did not seem to have been enough for there to effectively be three leading men (Yu Rong Guang, Emil Chow and Fan Siu Wong) alongside this one woman.  Instead, there is the gained sense of her stated good friend, Stanley Tong (and/or whoever else comprised the powers behind the scenes), feeling compelled to also tack on a somewhat humorous but nonetheless unnecessary segment in which her "Police Story III:  Supercop" costar, Jackie Chan, together with Eric Tsang, appear in unbecoming drag and proceed to create a bit of havoc in a jewelry store.

Michelle and Yukari Oshima
A related question that comes to my mind is whether Michelle Yeoh's often very capable characters can somehow be either too threatening or asexual to certain portions of the Hong Kong movie audience?  If so, this might explain why the makers of PROJECT S decided that an (otherwise) consummate policewoman like Director Yang needed to be shown to deeply love a man (Contrary to widely held beliefs, it is Yu Rong Guang -- not Pierce Brosnan -- with whom this action goddess shares her first screen kiss) as well as be openly adjudged as attractive by others (including the Hong Kong policemen characters portrayed by Emil Chow and Bill Tung); and, in the process, consigned that which has been released to the American home video market as "Supercop 2" to being much less of a stunt extravaganza (like many a (newer) Jackie Chan film) than a romantic melodrama through which flows a steady -- but hardly rapid fire -- amount of action segments.
This is not to say that there isn't much chemistry between Michelle Yeoh and her male costars (neither am I suggesting that Messrs. Yu, Chow and Fan do not manage to distinctly display their considerable prowess and charms).  Fairly strong cases can be made too for PROJECT S containing a few nifty fight scenes (during which Yeoh, Yu and Fan get to showcase their martial artistic abilities).  Then there's a noteworthy jump from the roof of a multi-storey building by the ace actress:  Whose particular great "natural" look was accidentally achieved due to the stuntmen who had hold of the wires on the fighting femme slipping and falling, thereby majorly increasing the rate of her planned descent (See the Thunder magazine interview accessible via Jane Ding's Michelle Yeoh Web Theatre links page).
However, it seems that having so many characters with which viewers are supposed to have some affinity and sympathy caused PROJECT S' director, editor and fight choreographer to mix together and cross-cut action sequences in a less than effective manner.  More specifically, it might well be that in bidding to give ample screen time to an able group -- rather than just one or even a duo -- of able performers (BTW:  Yukari Oshima makes a brief early appearance), no one person ended up getting shown stringing together the kind of impressive combination or lengthy sequence of punches, kicks and other actions that could have made them -- and the film -- truly stand out.
PROJECT S' principal weakness though lies in the audience being asked to believe that someone with Director Yang's "Police Story III:  Supercop" personality could turn out to be so in love with an individual like Yu Rong Guang's character (who may be honorable in certain ways but still oh so critically flawed).  Perhaps my own particular biases are coming out here but I really have problems even with the idea that such a dedicated professional could fall that hard for anyone.  And it seems to me that even if she did, she would have elected to suppress her love for the greater good (in the manner that Michelle Yeoh's character in "Moonlight Express" did) rather than allow it to affect her detecting and other abilities.  The bottom line then, IMHO, is that if she had done so, it would have made for a very different and way better story and movie than this respectable enough -- but never really exciting, and consequently disappointing (for more than one fan of this Malaysian actress) -- offering.

My rating for the film:  7.



DVD Information

Buena Vista has released Project S under the title Supercop II.

The transfer is very clear – but there is no option for a subtitled track. So the viewer is stuck with a dubbed version – which is so-so. It’s nowhere near as irritating as many of the Tai Seng dubbed releases – and Michelle and Bill Tung do their own voices – but it is not synched all that well and the voices seem very subdued. Michelle sounds quite uncomfortable and hesitant at times and the chemistry between her and Yu Rong Guang seems less intimate than on the HK version.

Letterbox

The music has been changed of course (US distributors seem to think that American audiences can’t deal with Chinese music) and an internal narration from Michelle at the beginning and end of the film has been added.

There are no extras at all.

Since getting a clean copy of Project S is not the easiest thing in the world – I would recommend getting this. It could have been done better, it certainly should have included a subtitled track - but it is certainly very watchable though it is difficult getting used to her being called Jessica - that just doesn't have a Michelle Yeoh ring to it!