Ah Kam (HK 1996)

Rating: ***
Alternate Title: Stunt Woman
Director: Ann Hui
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Samo Hung, Mung Hoi, Rain Lau, cameos by Kent Cheng, Richard Ng, Damien Lau

Michelle Yeoh turns in a spectacular performance in this gritty and realistic docu-drama character study (that's a mouth full) about a struggling stunt woman (Ah Kam, played by Michelle Yeoh) trying to get by in a cruel and unforgiving world. She breaks into the stunt business by joining low-rent film director Samo Hung, who's got his own fair share of trouble with the local triads (art imitating life?). In the second chapter of the film, she meets a handsome businessman and runs off with him to China to manage a bar, but soon finds herself longing for the action and excitement of filmmaking. When she finds her lover cheating on her, she goes back to Hong Kong to work with Samo and his gang again. In the third chapter of the film, Samo gets killed by some gang members and Michelle smuggles herself and Samo's son back into China to escape further gang retribution. A different role for Ms. Yeoh, as she plays a common mousy girl dreaming of a better life. Her tragic performance is a complex combination of strength and determination wrapped in frailty and insecurity - very powerful stuff. (she also seriously hurt herself doing a stunt in the film - the outtake is pretty awful) Samo is also great as the tough, yet sensitive father and filmmaker, whose friends would follow him to hell. Not an action film, but the characters are wonderful and it moves at a good pace. It's just a little too depressing for me. And I must give director Ann Hui major bonus points for making the opening credits cyan and yellow - they're actually legible!