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Above the Law (Righting Wrongs)

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Posted 7th July 2009 at 08:25 AM by Philleh

80’s Hong Kong cinema holds a very special place in my heart. If it weren’t for this little Island my love for Asian cinema would likely be non-existent today. Back in ‘the day’ of my sweet, sweet childhood (early 90’s, which probably isn’t most peoples ‘day’ to be fair), discovering the joys of Way of the Dragon and Dragons Forever are truly some of the highlights of my younger days. Then came John Woo and the heroic bloodshed scene, I remember being blown away by Bullet in the Head, A Better Tomorrow and Hard Boiled, but there was always one title that seemed to have been elusive on the UK video shelves, Above the Law (a.k.a. Righting Wrongs), starring my favourite little fortune, Yuen Biao, the trailer (on the old Super Cop VHS) made this look like the greatest action-fest I had never seen.

Fast forward fifteen or so years and I finally find out that those bloody Weinstein’s had released this through their Dragon Dynasty label, imagine my joy; knowing that I was finally able to check out that long lost treasure of my youth and experience the action-fest I had dreamt about – finally! I had done everything in my power to avoid reviews and this no doubt hindered my discovery of the DVD (not to mention the region 3 DVD that was released awhile back) so all I had in my mind when I popped this disc in was the images from that trailer (which I still remember to this day), could it live up to my hype?

Yuen Biao plays prosecutor, Hsia Ling-cheng, on a mission to bring down a couple of Triad bosses who ordered a hit on a judge, who also happened to be his mentor. News reaches the court that the persecutions only witness, and his whole family has been wiped out in an explosion, the judge can do nothing but let the Triads leave, scot-free. Disgruntled, Hsia takes the law into his own hands and becomes a vigilante, in the name of justice, and sets out to take the two bosses out. Once he’s snuffed out the first boss the police are quick to launch an investigation into his death, Cindy Si (Cynthia Rothrock) is in charge of the hunt and with the help of bone headed cop, Bad Egg (Cory Yuen), they proceed with the case.

When petty thief Wen (Siu Wong Fan) tries robbing the wrong car, he finds himself a witness to the murder of the second Triad boss, only this time it’s at the hands of a corrupt Police Sargent Wong (Melvin Wong). As luck would have it, Hsia was just on his way there to whack the guy as well, not to mention the fact that Cynthia is already hot on his tail and catches him at the crime scene; the two duke it out and he escapes. Wen approaches Hsia and states he knows who killed the other boss, only to be interrupted by Cynthia who finally nabs Hsia. At the station Wen cuts a deal with Wong, who later snuffs out Wen’s grandpa and fails killing Wen, who is saved by Bad Egg. Wen sets a double bluff and arranges to meet Wong, and Cynthia, at the same time; exposing the Sarge for whom he really is.

When the truth is finally revealed, Cynthia and Hsia set aside their difference and try to bring Sargent Wong down, once and for all.

So, can fifteen years of dreaming and imaging be lived up to? Of course not. Was I happy with the outcome? Like a pig in shit folks, like a pig in shit. The action scenes were truly outstanding, be it Yuen Biao’s 4,000 foot dangle from an aeroplane or Cynthia Rothrock jumping across a lobby and onto some poor stunt man, dressed as a woman in leotards, and an ugly ass wig. It has that 80’s Hong Kong vibe that didn’t fail, for a second, in hitting me upside the head with sweet, sweet nostalgia. Even the crappy library music was a pleasant cliché that left me blurry eyed. As you can imagine, collaboration between Cory Yuen AND Yuen Biao, each fight scene has something special. Some of the fight scenes, including Rockrock and fellow martial artist Karen Sheppard, get a little ruined by Sheppard’s stunt stand-in; it’s obviously a Chinaman in drag! And the distraction takes you out of the movie for a second, same with the climatic fisty-cuffs between Biao and Melvin Wong, his stunt man has long hair, his is short?!
Another element I wasn’t expecting from the original trailer from yesteryear was all the slapstick comedy! Mostly from Cory Yuen’s character “Bad Egg” and his father. I’m no stranger to Hong Kong humour, but it just didn’t feel right for this film, the overall tone is dark and gritty, with a lawless society where innocents are killed and the guilty walk free, so when you have a character who can’t eat his food properly and acts like a genuine tit, it kind of has a surreal impact on the viewer: like we are watching a separate movie to the Yuen Biao vehicle!

For action fans that are, understandably, caught up in the current Tony Jaa frenzy; do yourselves a favour and track down more Yuen Biao flicks. This man was always my favourite of the Hong Kong action stars, the man could act his ass off, was the most acrobatic and, frankly, the ****ing craziest! If you’ve seen Shanghai Express (a.k.a. Millionaires Express) where he flips off a 4 story burning building in one take, hitting the ground and running off un-phased… you’ll know what I mean! Too bad that he didn’t have the desire of Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung to be an action star and found his love in action choreography instead.
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