Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cynthia Rothrock binge

Above The Law
(1986) * * * 1/2

Cast:Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Corey Yuen, Roy Chiao, Siu Wong-Fan, James Tien, Karen Shepherd

Directed by Corey Yuen

A kung fu lawyer (Biao) turns vigilante after being upset over how triads can buy the judge, however dogging him on the way is Interpol agent (Rothrock) who doesn’t want anyone to take the law into their own hands and who gives as good as she gets, Above The Law (AKA Righting Wrongs) is an excellent martial arts movie that features some of the best fight sequences ever staged, indeed where as Jackie Chan has the best stunts in Police Story and such, this has some of the best fight choreography as there is no shortage of suspense and the imagination in these fight sequences make this a must see for kung fu fans. The story is also developed and provides a narrative that doesn’t follow the predictable path (Especially the ending) and while the motivation for Biao is standard stuff, the actual investigation that features an honest cop (played by Yuen) actually provides some actual drama that makes you feel for the characters. I must repeat that the fight sequences are truly spectacular and thrilling, there is nothing you’ve seen before and it makes for a satisfying mix. Yuen Biao is one of the most underrated martial artists but he is also a very good actor as well, Rothrock too works extremely well and basically because we care about the characters we are actually involved in what happens to them. The biggest tragedy is that Above The Law was harder to find back in the day, where the typically lame Rothrock American made movies were always there. Above The Law though is an excellent movie, I really don’t know how to review it without turning such into repetitive compliments, but trust me this is one of the all time greats of the martial arts genre and if you haven’t seen this, you really should. Above The Law also ranks as Rothrock’s best movie to date.

Lady Dragon (1992) * *

Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Robert Ginty

Directed by David Worth

Rothrock plays an ex-CIA agent who goes looking for vengeance against the drug lord (Norton) who killed her husband and raped her while her ex-boss (Ginty) might have something to do with things in this uninspired Rothrock vengeance saga. The plot tells you all you need to know and you plug in a few fight sequences which are adequately staged but don’t really salvage this strictly formula kung fu flick. Indeed even the novel idea of a woman doing the avenging plays no part as the film makes no difference to the gender of the characters. The one thing Lady Dragon has in its favor is a charismatic leading lady who deserves better material to work with, and a cast of decent actors such as Richard Norton and Robert Ginty who are clearly wasted by Lady Dragon’s completely lame story. Ginty’s appearance is ultimately disappointing because he doesn’t really get to much of anything and his character is a stock role that is bland and forgettable. Lady Dragon aside from the nifty title, a few moments of decent (low rent) action and the three actors make this film tolerable but not very memorable. The Indonesian locations are poorly shot and the film looks really cheap as well making this film one for Rothrock die hards only.

Lady Dragon 2 (1994) *

Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Billy Drago, Sam J. Jones

Directed by David Worth

A remake of the original more than a sequel, only this time Rothrock avenges her soccer player husband and her own rape at the hands of Jewel thieves led by Billy Drago and goons. Once again everything that plagued the original is here in full effect, except this time it’s even duller around as the movie doesn’t even feature that good of action sequences. The Indonesian locale just looks ugly, I’m sure the country is beautiful and would make a great back drop for movies but here the film just looks repulsive. Completely dreary and devoid of life, indeed that’s Lady Dragon 2’s biggest flaw, it’s lifeless and completely unnecessary. Billy Drago gives yet another one of his over exaggerated performances that seems some
what sleepy, suggesting that Drago could care less about the role, Rothrock meanwhile is miscast in a role Bronson personified. Rothrock doesn’t do meaty drama very well and her motivation for vengeance is unconvincing and ungainly. Lady Dragon 2 just doesn’t have anything worthwhile about it, the fight sequences are indifferently choreographed while the film has all the excitement of televised golf, It’s truly hard to believe the director of this co-directed Kickboxer 1. Lady Dragon 2 is a low budget disaster that has the serious misfortune of also being a complete bore.

Undefeatable (1993) *
Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Don Niam, John Miller

Directed by Godfrey Ho

One of the greatest camp gems has Cynthia Rothrock as a street fighter who goes up against a serial killer martial artist named Sting Ray (Niam) who kills numerous women after being jilted by his fetching red headed wife, meanwhile a martial arts expert cop (Miller) on the case and it’s only a matter of time before cop and street fighter join forces to ice the sting ray. Unintentionally hilarious martial arts hijinks finds what is one of the most hysterical villain ever committed to celluloid, Sting Ray played by Don Niam is just extremely hilarious. Sting Ray just attacks at random sans rhyme and reason as he just attacks any random anonymous red head sometimes with a certain dress and sometimes not (the film makes so little sense) The film has no basis on credibility as the police instead of questioning sex offenders or rapists start with martial artists who practice a particular technique. Meanwhile there are incestuous overtones that drive Sting Ray to murder women. Lastly the ending is hilarious but the actual ending after the final dispatch is baffling. Undefeatable is an awesomely bad kung fu movie, I mean the quality doesn’t even match Bruce Le’s Greatest Revenge, the choreography is decent and the fight sequences have their moments but overall this is strictly for comic value. If anything else the finale and the groan inducing Schwarzenegger-esque clips are worth the price of admission, in other words if you like really hilariously inept and utterly incompetent kung fu terribleness, keep your eyes peeled for Undefeatable.


  1. I'm agreement with you on everything, only I'd give Undefeatable three stars. The only turn-off for me was how Niam gouged out women's eyes when he killed them. Otherwise, this was so funny it was a amazing.

  2. Here is where I have my dilema on films. See, this is what sucks about the star rating. For instance Cyborg and Showdown In Little Tokyo are actually well made movies, but Undefeatable isn't. It's like R.O.T.O.R, I'm thinking about bringing back the Guttenberg rating, and if so I will change it to such. Undefeatable is recommended highly for it is hilarious and the action is good. Indeed this is the true dilema I face whenever I venture out into camp territory. Indeed what makes matters worse is that this indicates that Undefeatable and Lady Dragon 2 are on par, but that's not the case. I have to come up with something, i'm still in transition. Another one will be American Kickboxer 2 and Live By The Fist, these are totally awful movies but yet they are so entertaining. I don't know maybe I should just bite the bullet and just give ratings based on entertainment. I'll think about it. So if you this jump to a three star rating you know what happened.

  3. You are completely right about 'Above the Law'- not only Yuen Biao's best film (and he made some great ones), but one of the greatest HK films of the 1980s. It's a shame that Biao didn't reach greater success away from Jackie or Sammo. Where Sammo gave him great leading roles in films like 'Dreadnaught' and'Prodigal Son,' he kind of floundered after the end of the 1980s after the three brothers collaborations. I always thought he did some quite good movies on his own (I remember fondly 'Iceman Cometh' for one), but the 90s were quite hard for me seeing him in so much lowbudget crap and bad movies. He did great in that 'Don't Give a Damn' movie with Sammo in 1995 or so, but don't really know what he's been up to since. Great reviews, and thanks for hilighting a true gem that deserves to be rediscovered.

  4. I would say Wheels On Meals or Dragons Forvever would be Biao's best to date. The Prodical Son and Iceman Cometh would be up there though. This though is his best movie to date without Chan or Sammo. Yuen Biao is always overlooked which is a shame. I sort of though am glad he never came to the U.S because he never had to sell out like Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Chow Yun Fat did. Even Sammo Hung sold out with that show he did with Aresenio Hall which was lame. That said the HK industry isn't that great off now, as the only last great movie I saw was Red Cliff and Exiled, which is few and far between in the seas of style over substance Triad gangster flicks with Ekin Cheng. Indeed U.S cinema is not the only one who has descended into mediocrity. Hong Kong was even dead for there's a pulse but all the life is still only from old talents like John Woo,Tsui Hark and Johnnie To.

  5. You had me at "kung fu lawyer".

  6. I just realized that now that you said it that you don't have the Gutenberg ratings anymore. You need those, they were a staple of your old site. That's why I don't do stars or thumbs up or anything like that. Mine is simply what I would pay for it, and why I would. It gives me much more wiggle room.

  7. Yes, Dragons Forever and Wheels On Meals are absolute classics, but I don't really consider those outside the context of the "three brothers" era of Jackie, Sammo, and Biao. Like, 'Project A' is a tricky one too, because it's obviously mostly a Jackie film, but something like 'Dragons Forever,' there's a more pronounced collaboration going on between the three that I take more into consideration. Here, with 'Above the Law,' (or something like 'Prodigal Son'), Biao is obviously carrying the picture as the lead (along with Rothrock), so I would classify it differently than a 'Wheels on Meals' or 'Twinkle Twinkle' film.

    As far as Hk's film industry being in the toilet now, you're right. That's why I had high hopes for the Thai movie industry and someone like Tony Jaa being the future- guess that didn't work out too well, what with him going crazy and joining a monastery (but I still love those films). I still think Johnny To does some phenomenal work. But yeah, the only movies I've really been wowed in the last few years have been the 'Triad Election' movies- as well as anything by Johnny To ('Running on Karma' was great too), 'SPL', the 'Infernal Affairs' trilogy and like two of Jackie's past, maybe 10, HK films. Even Wong Kar Wai has started to really slip. Honestly, I've been looking to Korea more and more the past 10 years- that's where the best stuff has been happening, dramatically, action-wise, and horror-wise as well.

  8. For me, HK film died in 1997 with the takeover- that's when movies started going in the toilet; but it was happening even before then in the mid-90s after the whole Wu Xia revival died down. After the exodus of people like Jackie and Chow and Jet Li (who all eventually came back), the movies really sucked bad; the rise of piracy affected it a bunch too. THere were flickers of hope for it with stuff like 'Infernal Affairs,' but they quickly died down too. And I know 'Martial Law' was cheesy, but I loved it when I was a teenager- I just thought it was awesome seeing Sammo on American tv- I was always a huge mark for him and thought he made the best overall films out of the three brothers anyway (I can watch something like 'The Victim' or 'Warriors Two' over and over again and still love it, but can barely watch some of Jackie's stuff nowadays).