2 April 2007 | chris_stoddard_78
An underrated modern martial arts classic
Famed martial arts choreographer Cory Yuen (THE TRANSPORTER 1 & 2, X-MEN and ROMEO MUST DIE) directed a Hong Kong film, loaded with bone-crushing stunts and masterful fight scenes with an assembled cast of martial arts masters from the East and West to cross paths.
ABOVE THE LAW (aka RIGHTING WRONGS) obtained a vigilante story with dark toned aspects that relies on police corruption and the righteous bending the law to seek their own justice. The stunning martial arts choreography by Cory Yuen kicks into high gear to help make this underrated cop-fu classic a fan favorite.
Acrobatic kung-fu genius Yuen Biao (ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, SHANGHAI EXPRESS (aka MILLIONAIRE'S EXPRESS), THE PRODIGAL SON) plays a court prosecutor whose relentless determination to do away with an untouchable gangster (James Tien- Bruce Lee's THE BIG BOSS, FIST OF FURY) has led him to employ a series of unethical tactics. His investigation becomes complicated by the arrival of a female inspector (played by 5-Time World Karate champion and weapons expert Cynthia Rothrock).
Out of all the '80s era fight flicks I have seen Yuen Biao perform in, ABOVE THE LAW was one of his better efforts as an actor and screen fight performer. He exchanges blows with undefeated kickboxing legend Peter "Sugarfoot" Cunningham in a (POLICE STORY-style) glass-shattering fight, he also battles Cynthia Rothrock in an engagement of traditional kung-fu, acrobatic fight moves and handcuffs. He has a Jackie Chan stunt moment where he uses his speed and flexibility to dodge speeding cars.
Cory Yuen staged these sequences wonderfully and the legendary fight between Cynthia and Biao shows their similarities in timing and skill, which makes their battle an all-time favorite. Karen Shepard, who is another skilled fighter from America and an expert in the mixed art form of Wun Hop Kuen Do kung fu, faces off against Cynthia with the lethal chain whip. Actor Melvin Wong (EASTERN CONDORS and DESCENDANT OF WING CHUN- the film referred in BULLETPROOF MONK-) also gets screen time to execute some martial arts against Yuen Biao. The results of the screen fights earned the film a nomination for Best Action Choreography at the 1987 Hong Kong Film Awards.
Of course, fans already know that Cynthia Rothrock is kung-fu's queen of action and a master in various forms of combat like Tae Kwon Do, Wushu, Northern Shaolin kung-fu and Tang Soo Do. Her skills made her a celebrated icon in the sport but unfortunately, she remains highly underrated and overshadowed by the mainstream success of Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Her roles in countless American movies suffer from bad plots and choreography but her presence in Hong Kong films shine like Jackie Chan, and Jet Li does internationally. Her capabilities give her the advantage over many of today's mainstream martial art stars and it is disappointing that her films in the East do not get the proper recognition.
For a film made in the '80s, ABOVE THE LAW was a great actioner in martial arts cinema, and all the skilled experts did a great job with their performance.
I hope the overshadowing of this classic in the West will end with the new Dragon Dynasty release and capture a wider audience to gain her the type of recognition she deserves as a star.
This film was also one of Cynthia and Biao's best performances in screen combat during that era but the praise goes to Cory Yuen because of his skillful direction and casting of martial arts action figures from both worlds to pull the strings. This film will remain a classic in the cinema of martial arts and an unforgettable clashing of two legends in martial arts that deserve the proper recognition.