Monday, May 27, 2013

El Professore Movie Reviews: Righting Wrongs (aka Above the Law)

Director: Coey Yuen
Starring: Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Melvin Wong
* * * 1/2
Before lensing the international hit 'The Transporter', director and master fight choreographer Corey Yuen Kwai was responsible for two of the top action films of the '80s, both co-starring Pennsylvania-born action actress, Cynthia Rothrock. The first was the groundbreaking 'Girls With Guns' smackdown, 'Yes Madam (which marked the lead debut of one Michelle Yeoh - then known as Michelle Khan). The second was the blackhearted, 'Righting Wrongs'.

Full review after the break.

Yuen Biao stars as a lawyer who has given up on the legal system after watching a too many guilty parties walk, the latest being a contract killer who murdered the would be testifying witness and family. Taking matters into his own hands, our lawyer becomes a vigilante, hunting down and killing the gangsters responsible, only to find the ultimate kingpin revealed as the chief of police. All along, our hero finds his path dogged by a determined policewoman (Rothrock).

For those unfamiliar with the wild heyday of Hong Kong action cinema of the '80s, 'Righting Wrongs' is as hardcore as it gets. Though there is some unfortunate comedy relief that gets in the way, this is still a major sucker punch to the gut with cruel plot twists and some of the most incredible fights and stunts to ever appear in... well anything! Yuen Biao proves to be lead action hero material (stepping out from the giant shadow of 'big brother' Jackie Chan) and really cuts loose here. His brooding rage combined with his human rubberband-like punches, kicks and stunts are truly breathtaking. Cynthia Rothrock builds on her previous work in 'Yes Madam' and 'Shanghai Express' and manages to match Biao fist and foot... if not so much in the acting chops. Her late film battle with a hired female assassin (played by fellow American martial artist, Karen Sheppard) may actually be the highlight of the film and is certainly one of the best female mono-a-mono battles ever shot. Fans of Story of Ricky will be interested to see a young Siu-Wong Fan in a non-fighting supporting role, appearing decidedly un Riki Oh-like.

Cynical though it is, 'Righting Wrongs is one of the top Hong Kong action films and would make for a great b-side to Jackie Chan's more well known 'Police Story'.

***********************SPOILER ALERT***********************

When originally released in Hong Kong, the film flopped. Audiences reacted badly to both Yuen and Rothrock dying in the climax and it was decided to re-film and re-edit the finale to show both heroes surviving. Re-titled, 'Above the Law' (before the American film starring Steven Segal debuted), it was a hit oversees. It's well worth watching both versions to compare and contrast.

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