Review for In the Line of Duty III
We’re up to the third In The Line of Duty movie from Eureka Entertainment, but don’t go looking for the first two on UK shop shelves, as Eureka released the first two under their other names, Yes Madam and Royal Warriors. That’s the problem when films have multiple titles; it makes more sense to release them under the names that they are best known as in a particular territory. Besides, as often happens with Hong Kong films marketed overseas, even films loosely connected by cast and/or genre can be bundled as series. The first two films in this series starred Michelle Yeoh, a.k.a Michelle Khan, but for the third and fourth films, the star was newcomer Cynthia Khan. All four are police procedural action comedy dramas though. Actually, In the Line of Duty III’s tale of a vengeful Japanese cop seeking vigilante justice in Hong Kong might seem a little too familiar if you’ve just seen In The Line of Duty II, a.k.a. Royal Warriors.
In Hong Kong, Yeung Lai-Ching is a trainee cop who so impresses her superiors, dealing with an armed robber on the beat, that she immediately gets transferred to the Serious Crime Unit, much to the chagrin of her uncle, who is the easy going head of the unit. In Japan, a couple of thieves target a fashion show for the jewels, and unleash a massacre that among others takes the life of the young partner of veteran cop Fujioka. Fujioka realises it was an inside job for the insurance, but the jeweller Yamamoto is so connected in Japan that he’s practically untouchable. But he is touchable in Hong Kong, and Fujioka follows him there. But Yamamoto also double-crossed the thieves, who now want revenge. And to keep her out of trouble, Yeung’s uncle has put her in charge of baby-sitting the visiting Japanese cop, to prevent him from becoming a headache.
In the Line of Duty III gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer from a 2k restoration, with the choice between PCM 2.0 Mono Cantonese and English, with optional English subtitles. The quality of the visual restoration is apparent from the off, with an image that is clear and sharp, with strong, consistent colours and excellent detail, while maintaining an organic level of film grain. It certainly helps the action come across well. Alas, I can’t be as enthusiastic about the Cantonese audio, and once again I find myself lamenting the lack of a Home Video remix. The audio is mostly acceptable in the quieter moments, but it’s when it gets loud, in terms of music or action that the distortion becomes apparent. If you can remember as far back as VHS, it sounds like the raspberry that you’d hear when a VHS player’s tracking was slightly out of sync. Otherwise the dialogue is clear, and the subtitles are accurately time and are free of typos.
The disc boots to a static menu page, and the first 2000 copies will come with o-card packaging and a 24-page booklet with writing from James Oliver. The following extras are on the disc.
Audio commentary with Frank Djeng
Audio commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer (3:12)
UK Trailer (3:30)
They give with one hand and take with another. Hong Kong was well ahead of the gender equality curve in the eighties, making action movies with kick-ass female leads, decades before Hollywood would get behind the idea. But then again, this was a society where a woman was expected to give up their career and become a homemaker once they were married. And after Royal Warriors, Michelle Yeoh got married and quit acting. Thankfully for film fans, that retirement ended along with her first marriage, but at the time they were looking to make In The Line of Duty III, they needed a new female lead. Enter Cynthia Khan, who turns out to be just as effective and impressive leading an action film.
It’s when it comes to the action that this film really impresses, with some pulse-pounding fight sequences, and some thrilling stunts. There is some really well choreographed kung-fu here, set in the kind of present day vernacular that is rough, ready and improvisational, as opposed to the regimented and dance like action that was more common in period kung fu films. Once again, the eighties imperative for Hong Kong action movies to court Japanese audiences continues just as in Royal Warriors with shared locations and cast. The themes of the story are similar too, with a Japanese cop seeking vengeance in Hong Kong, and a Hong Kong police force more accustomed to bureaucracy than actual police work, much to the annoyance of the idealistic protagonist.
If you’ve read some of my recent Hong Kong action reviews, you might have read a familiar lament about disjointed tones, where goofy comedy seems out of place against the brutality and violence. In The Line of Duty III reaches new heights of disjointedness. Early on the film really plays on the comedy side of things, especially with Yeung trying to make a difference as a police woman, but coming up against the daft bureaucracy of the department, and an uncle who wants to keep her away from all of the action.
Then we switch to Tokyo, where we get a little comedic byplay between Fujioka and his partner Ken. And then all hell breaks loose, and the thieves pull out Uzis, firing indiscriminately into the crowd of police and audience alike, resulting in a slaughter. And that is the understated moment when it comes to the violence in the film. It gets progressively more brutal as the film unfolds, at points getting as gory as an eighties video nasty. Throw in a bit of softcore Cat III style hank-panky between the thieves, one of whom is dying from some fatal disease, as they plot to fund some revolution, and the intermittent attempts to deliver more comedy seems more and more out of step.
I can always appreciate a good kung-fu action movie, especially one in a contemporary setting, even if I have plenty of nits to pick with the story as I do with In The Line of Duty III. The thrills in a thrill ride mean more than the scenery after all. Cynthia Khan is just as impressive as Michelle Yeoh when it comes to carrying a movie, and delivering some stunning action. It’s actually the technical side of the release which is disappointing here, with the distorted Cantonese audio bad enough to be a distraction.
In The Line of Duty III is available from Terracotta, direct from Eureka Entertainment and the usual mainstream e-tailers.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to post a comment!