|Reviewed by Shelly Kraicer
The plot of Ah Kam is divided into three parts. The first and most interesting promises to be a behind-the-scenes look at a stunt company.We follow Michelle's rise from stunt extra to action director, under the tutelage of, and then with growing independence from Samo Hung (who plays essentially himself). This story could and should occupy an entire film, but it moves too quickly to chapter two, wherein Michelle falls for Ken-doll "Sam", a good-looking, rich yet shallow businessman. We can see the impending disillusion coming for a half an hour. It's painful to watch Michelle Yeoh, deflated, playing a fancy-coiffed club hostess and male adornment, until she figures out the obvious.
What feeble narrative energy remaining is completely expended in chapter three. A wild, aimless kidnapping plot brings Yeoh and a tough-but-adorable kid (Ah Long) together. Three parts of a woman's life: professional, girlfriend, mother-figure. A trite idea that may have been intended to serve Michelle Yeoh's career by reshaping her star persona. But she is much larger than the feeble scaffold erected here around her.
Given a story that fails to be interesting enough on its own, one could see the film as a form of double autobiography:
It is puzzling how badly Ann Hui and her talented crew (many of whom worked on the fine and subtle Josephine Siao showcase Summer Snow) serve the star in this would-be star vehicle.
Yeoh's most interesting roles have been variously and creatively gendered. In Wing Chun, her character plays with cross-dressing and homoeroticism before she settles into marriage. Heroic Trio casts her, in a form of parody, as one of a trio of hyper-feminized fighting glam-queens. And she out-stunted and out-manned the manliest action star of all, Jackie Chan, in Supercop (Police Story 3). But Ah Kam denies Yeoh's breadth. It ignores her breathtaking capacity simultaneously to span and inhabit such a wide range of gender-inflected personas. It attempts to squish her into a redefined and conventionalized all-around woman: professional/lover/nurturer. But this only manages to undermine the basis of her charisma.
Still, it's no small compliment to acknowledge that Yeoh emerges from this film with her dignity and star power (if not her body) pretty much unscathed.
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all content © 1996-2002 Shelly Kraicer