Film: In The Line Of Duty (4)

Year of Release: 1989

Country: Hong Kong

Stars: Donnie Yen, Cynthia Khan, Sunny Yuen, Michael Wong

Dir: Yuen Woo Ping

Plot: A Chinese immigrant dockworker (Sunny Yuen) stumbles across a plot by the C.I.A and a criminal syndicate to sell drugs, he is forced to go on the run and fend for his life. Two maverick cops (Donnie Yen & Cynthia Khan) are hot on his trail, but so too are the bad guys, who have plenty of resources and fire power on their side. With the net closing in, the three must fight with everything they have to survive against the odds!

Well, it’s been a while since I dusted off these posts, but being a die hard fan of Martial Arts Movies means I have to show some love for the classics, and this movie absolutely ranks among them. With the Donnie Yen enjoying a pop-culture  resurgence thanks to the success of ‘Rogue One‘ and the recent release of ‘xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage‘, now is as good a time as any to brush up on some of his early work. He’s had a stellar career in martial arts movies, and he’s showing no sign of slowing down. ‘In The Line Of Duty’ is one of the finest examples you’ll find of all the things that make Hong Kong action movies great, wrapped up into one kick ass package of movie goodness!

Yuen Woo Ping makes his 3rd appearance on the Martial Arts Movie Madness list, and with good reason. The man and his choreography team completely revolutionised the way in which fight scenes were staged and filmed in Hong Kong, and his influence is visible all over the world. Here, he serves as director as well as martial arts choreographer, and he handles the plot and storytelling well. The script, written by Anthony Wong, Cheung Chi-sing and Kim Yip serves it’s function without offering anything particularly groundbreaking, but it gives plenty of opportunity for it’s stars to get in some cool dialogue, and even manages to throw in some topical (for the time period) references to US Intelligence community conduct in South America.

But of course, it’s the actors that shine the mostly brightly in this movie. The physical work they do to bring the gripping action scenes to life is outrageously good, and watching the set pieces again makes you have a new found respect for anybody who went to work in Hong Kong action movies in the 80’s and 90’s. Cynthia Khan is a high kicking Taekwondo legend, and she brings her ‘A’ game to this movie. She is certainly not spared the gruelling stunt work, but she pulls it all of with plenty grace and toughness. A stand out scene for her is the dramatic & brutal confrontation between her and fellow martial arts legend Farlie Ruth Kordick. It’s an absolute humdinger:

Joining Cynthia, Donnie Yen plays the type of hero only he can, with now typical amounts of panache and pathos. His eclectic fighting style means you never quite know what to expect from him, and here, he delivers furious high kicks and boxing smarts that bamboozle and batter the opposition. At a time when the likes of Jackie Chan was dominating the industry, Donnie brought a fresh look and character to the scene. His stand out moment comes from the now classic showdown he has with Michael Woods, a battle that throws in Kung-Fu, Kick Boxing and MMA for good measure!

There’s also stellar support from Sunny Yuen as the plucky dockworker, and a great turn from another legend of Hong Kong film, Michael Wong. Wong’s filmography reads like a greatest hits collection of martial arts movies, as well as some notable dramatic turns, and he brings much appreciated gravitas to the movie.

‘In The Line Of Duty’ is one of those movies that a fan who is just getting in to the genre has to absolutely see. It’s the best way to appreciate just what Hong Kong has given to martial arts movies, and the perfect chance to acquaint yourself with some of the giants of the cinema. You can find it at all good retailers, and i’m pretty sure you can find the whole movie on YouTube, but you didn’t hear that from me!  😉

If you liked this, you can read my previous Martial Arts Movie Madness posts here and here.  If you wanna hear me, Rich and Alvin talk junk about these kinds of movie and all other types of stuff, check out our podcast, which you can subscribe to here:

Jason P.