In Reign of Assassins Michelle Yeoh plays the sword wielding Drizzle, a woman who provokes the wrath of her mates by running off with half the mummified remains of a legendary Buddhist monk. To evade detection she has insects inserted into her nasal passages, the Ming Dynasty version of a facelift. If anyone can tell me why this character got such a dreary character name please speak up because Yeoh's Drizzle is both frighteningly dangerous and the epitome of elegance.
Reign of Assassins is a highly entertaining action-packed mind-twister of a story that keeps the audience guessing right up until the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle slots into place. The second film in SBS One's kung fu season, it screens this Saturday January 11 at 9.30pm.
Writer/director Su Chao-pin cast actors from across the region including Jung Woo-sung from Korea, Barbie Hsu and Kelly Lin from Taiwan, Wang Xuequi from China and Shawn Yue from Hong Kong – but Yeoh is the standout. She's been an action film star since her 20s after a spinal injury prevented her pursuing ballet and, serendipitously, her mother entered her into the Miss Malaysia beauty contest, which she won.
It was 15 years later that she was much lauded internationally for playing opposite Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies but, arguably, Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon brought her more attention. It won four of the 10 Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including best foreign language film, and which remains a perennial favourite of SBS viewers.
This excellent Yeoh fansite has comprehensive background info about her career generally, and her involvement in Reign of Assassins, the first martial arts films of any real substance that she'd made since Crouching Tiger. Credit where credit is due: this site is devoted to Yeoh and is highly recommended.
Reign of Assassins came about as a result of producer Terence Chang specifically seeking out an action vehicle for Yeoh. The more I read about Yeoh, the more I ask myself: “Who wouldn't look for a film for this actor?”