ŞüŞ÷ (1996)
Ah Kam


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 01/28/2007

This movie is the tale of a woman named Ah Kam (Michelle Yeoh), who emigrates from the Mainland to find work in the movie industry. She begins working with an action director (played by Sammo Hung) and her skill and determination soon win over the crew. Ah Kam begins to find some success in the film world, but a series of injuries and a lonely existence force her into marrying a rich playboy. The marriage does not go well and Ah Kam wants to go back to making movies, but after some shady on-set Triad involement, not only does Ah Kam's career come into jeopardy, but her life as well.

For the first two-thirds or so of its' running time, Ah Kam is a very interesting behind-the-scenes look at the world of Hong Kong film-making seen through the eyes of a bit player in the industry. A lot of the running time is devoted to how the cast and crew interact, and since many of the characters are based on actual people like the Heung brothers, the viewer also gets a nice bit of film history thrown in. Even though Ah Kam is not an action movie per se, there are quite a few solid sequences which should satisfy the action junkies out there. One notable scene takes place in an arcade and intercuts footage of the fighting games the crew was just playing with their real brawl.

Besides the guttral impact of the action scenes, Ah Kam offers a solid dramatic experience. This is probably Michelle Yeoh's most developed work as an actor; she creates a wonderful character, showcasing both the ecstasy of performing near-superhuman moves on the set and the downward spiral many people in the industry experience once the cameras stop rolling. She can kick the asses of a dozen guys on-screen, but can't even use the bathroom in her own small shoebox of an apartment. The other cast members also do well, particularly Sammo Hung, who puts out (pardon the pun) his most well-rounded acting role to date.

Disappointingly, though, the third act of Ah Kam takes a turn into your standard Hong Kong melodrama, complete with a cheeseball musical montage. The proceedings are by no means horrible, but the final half-hour of the movie just doesn't mesh very well with the first hour. It's a shame, because the film-makers had the ingredients for something truly special, but there seems to have been a percieved need to make the movie more "mainstream", and the result becomes a bit watered-down.

Note: Even though this was created as an "easy" project for Michelle Yeoh to do after her previous stunt-heavy films, she was actually severely injured during the production -- in typical Hong Kong style, this footage is actually shown during the end credits. At the behest of her then-husband, producer Dickson Poon, Yeoh "retired" from movies. After some serious rehab and a divorce from Poon, Yeoh would re-enter the film industry with Tomorrow Never Dies, a very successful picture that established Yeoh as an international star.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 10/18/2005
Summary: 7/10 - Good dramatic film for Michelle & Sammo

I'd avoided this one for years because nobody seemed to have a good word to say for it, which I think is quite unfair. I can't describe myself as an Ann Hui fan, but I'd say this is the film of hers that I enjoyed the most. I agree with other reviewers that the first half is the best, showing a nice insight into the lives of Hong Kong stuntmen in the later 90's, when the profession was starting to die and work was harder to come by. It's a fairly melancholy film, but seeing these actual stuntmen going about their (dramatised) work is a rare treat after seeing the end results so many times. The film also gives Michelle Yeoh and Sammo Hung a good chance to show off their acting abilities, which are sometimes under-appreciated.

When Ah Kam leaves the profession to manage a karaoke bar with her fiance, the film definitely drops in interest for a while, but it's a sad truth that many Chinese women with strong personalities and careers are required to retire when they marry, and it was certainly a part of Michelle Yeoh's own life that was worth reflecting on in the film.

The final third of the film changes tack again, with the introduction of some new characters and a shift away from the character study feel of the film. This part also seems a little bit rushed, with events sampled at intervals and not entirely in chronological order, which may be why it feels like the film was unfinished to some. Whether Michelle's on-set injury was the reason or it was a stylistic choice from Ann Hui, I couldn't say.

Whilst it's true that Ah Kam could have been a better film, I wouldn't say it's a bad film, and it's sufficiently unique as a semi-autobiographical portrait of the HK stunt profession that it certainly deserves to be seen by fans of the cinema that inspired it.

I suppose I should comment on the action, which was choreographed by Ching Siu-Tung (a strange choice since his style is so different from that of Sammo, who plays the action choreographer). Michelle gets to show some of her fluid grace a few times, but the camerawork & editing is not of a very high standard, so it can't be called a good showcase of her skills. It's not an action film, and will not satisfy if that's what you're looking for.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 09/13/2005
Summary: Great potential, poor follow-through

Ah Kam tells the story of a stuntwoman (Michelle Yeoh) and gives an inside look at the Hong Kong stunt industry, along with Kam's travails in life and love. A relative unknown, Ah Kam is selected to do a dangerous stunt while hanging out on a set and thus sets into motion her rise to the top of her profession. Along with Master Tung (Sammo Hung) and his group of talented coordinators (including Mang Hoi, Nick Cheung and Micheal Lam), Kam will do stunts no one else dares and earns the respect of her peers. Along the way, she meets Sam, a local karaoke bar owner, and they fall in love. When he opens a bar on mainland China and asks her to manage it for him, she reluctantly follows. After months of missing her friends and the industry, as well as a few run-ins with local triad members, Kam decides to return to Hong Kong and the business she loves. Later, when Master Tung goes missing and a pimp is implicated, things start to spiral downward after members of Tung's group decide to take revenge.

This could have been one of the best movies to come out of Hong Kong if it was finished correctly. Unfortunately, because of Michelle's accident, changes were made that ultimately doomed the movie. For the first half hour or so I couldn't believe it hadn't gotten more praise or attention as one of Michelle's best films. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of the goings-on behind the scenes in stunt work. Michelle looked fantastic and her acting was down to earth and real. Granted, she was basically playing herself in an autobiographical tale, but I still enjoyed her work. Sammo Hung was also great as Master Tung and his cohorts added good flavor with a variety of personalities. The story started to slip after Michelle falls in love with Sam (Jimmy Wong) and she moves to be the manager of his bar. Again, this could be seen as autobiographical with Michelle's marriage to Dickson Poon, their eventual divorce, and Michelle's return to films with 1992's Police Story III. In this film, Kam manages the bar but grows tired of the rude customers and Sam's lack of support. However, with Kam's return to stunt work, Ann Hui (the director) failed to have a feel-good final third by having Kam return to the top of her profession and retire happy. Instead, Tung's son Ah Long (Ken Lo Wing Han) is sought by police for what seems to be a minor infraction, but both decide to escape Hong Kong to avoid prosecution. Ah Long is an incredibly annoying character who hardly has one redeemable quality, making Kam's affection towards him seem out of place. The final 20 minutes of the movie are a mish-mash of situations that have no resolution and completely leave the viewer hanging. Unfortunately the film ends up as one that had huge potential, but for the most part is an overall disappointment.

6/10

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 05/26/2002
Summary: Starts good, but ends bad.

Well, like the majority of reviewers here, I didn’t find Ah Kam to offer very much more than simply a documentary about stunts. As the others said, it’s about a stunt women, Kam(Yeoh) who teams up with a stunt director, Lik (real life action director Sammo Hung), who also leads a triad life (like 50% of HK directors!) showing the ups and downs in the filming industry. For a drama, it’s not very good, it’s set at completely the wrong pace. The almost documentary look started off okay, but just when you expect something to build up, nothing happens. Well, a rather phoney romance happens, then a kidnapping, with little interest to the viewer as they are just getting into the film, it just jumps from story to story.

Still, both Michelle Yeoh and Sammo Hung appeared to act reasonably well, considering their thin plot for a script. Mang Hoi jokes around as usual, making it enjoyable at times, and some of the action is okay (though limited), but not a lot else is particularly interesting.

Some more serious thought should have been put into this film, to make the viewer more interested.

Rating: [2/5]

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 03/25/2002
Summary: Good !

I hesitated for quite awhile before I bought/saw this one. My loss. Yes Ann Hui's movies are hardly action packed but they usually are quite cogent and moving. Michelle's acting is very good. Just look at her eyes through out the movie..you'll see what I mean. Even Asian Cult Cinema admits this is worth repeated viewings to fully appreciate. Oh, and the kid in the film has a great line about women! Out of the mouths of babes.


Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/05/2002

The first part of the film is a very interesting behind the scenes look at HK action movies and the movie action teams that make it happen. Michelle Yeoh plays a female stunt woman joining a crew led by Samo Hung (who plays a character modeled after Ching Siu Tung). Lot's of wirefu action - only this time we see how it's done. Gives a good impression of the improvised nature of much of HK-style movie action in those days. Unfortunately, the movie starts to lose track after the first half and focuses too much on other aspects of Michelle's character such as a romance etc. The dramatic aspects are just too bloodless and disorganized - they leave the viewer pretty uninvolved. Michelle does a decent enough job, but is let down by the meandering plot. Oh and of course there's an extremely annoying kid in the movie...

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: meixner
Date: 04/10/2000
Summary: Horribly disjointed

Three events in the year of a stuntwoman.

Horribly disjointed, Ah Kam was marred by it's star's injury and was released uncompleted. The film shows some promise but the whole effort has a tired and depressive feel, it might not have been all that good if completed.


Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 12/09/1999

The plot 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. 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 around her. Yeoh's most interesting roles have been variously and creatively gendered. But Ah Kam denies Yeoh's breadth. 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.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: pablo
Date: 12/09/1999

The title says it all. A few years in the life of Ah Kam, startingwith her joining action director Tung's team of regulars, moving to her retirement after she meets the right man, and beyond. While the film gives a few brief interesting glimpses into what goes on behind the scenes in those action films, it never really draws the viewer in. The story goes nowhere, and plays more like a series of things that just 'happen'. Michelle, while not given much to work with, also doesn't do much with her role.


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

A good cast but a disappointing movie. Michelle Khan and Samo Hung do the best they can with what they have, which isn't much. They have good on-screen chemistry and and it was frustrating to see them wasted in such lack-luster scenes. A mish-mash of plots and situations make this a confusing and boring film to watch. The stunt sequences were few and far between and not all that exciting. I wouldn't even recommend this to Michelle Khan/Samo Hung fans.

[Reviewed by Lori Saltis]


Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

It's definitely worth seeing if you like Anne Hui's films. It's seems to be a fairly realistic portrait of the difficult life of a stuntwoman, Ah Kam (Michelle Khan), with Sammo Hung playing a small-time film director caught on the wrong side of a triad-run film company (sound relistic enough?) This movie proves once again that Michelle Khan is probably the best actress to date working in the Hong Kong film industry. If the story leaves you dangling, you're probably not interpreting it properly.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Herbster]


Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

This is more akin to a character study of the title character (Michelle Yeoh), a five-year veteran of Chinese action films now working as a stunt-double on director Master Tung's (Samo Hung) latest project. In general, the facts about HK filmmaking seem to be rendered accurately, so it's a fascinating look at an industry where performers may have to work many days with little or any sleep to bring a film in under budget. Treats include behind-the-camera shots of flying-fu action and the mechanics of wire work. One of Michelle's stunts -- a twenty-foot fall from a highway overpass -- injured her seriously (outtakes are provided at the end), galvanizing her reputation as one of HK's gutsiest performers. The subplots about triad vengeance (they wear ridiculous-looking purple suits -- and then worry about losing face!), and a romance (with womanizing Jimmy Wong) gone sour pale in comparison to Michelle's simple charisma; she's not just a good action actress -- she's a terrific actress, period, and her face and body just take over a scene (and in this case, a movie).

(2.5/4)



[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6