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Above The Law
cast: Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Roy Chiao, Melvin Wong, and Karen Sheperd

director: Corey Yuen

96 minutes (n/r) 1986
widescreen ratio 16:9
Dragon Dynasty DVD Region 1 retail


RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
Not to be confused with the US title of Steven Seagal's first movie, Nico (1988), Above The Law (aka: Zhi fa xian feng) is a Hong Kong martial arts adventure concerning a kung fu lawyer (it's a golden rule of Asian cinema that everyone is an expert in unarmed combat skills, regardless of their profession) played by Yuen Biao. This film has made appearances on video under the title Righting Wrongs and it's most notable, alongside the same year's Shanghai Express, for furthering the early career of American kickboxing champion Cynthia Rothrock, in the wake of her screen debut, super-cops thriller Yes, Madam (1985).

Conscience-stricken prosecutor Hsia (Yuen Biao) in driven into vigilante action by the casual flouting of the law and targets criminals who evade justice. Capable cop Cindy (Cynthia Rothrock) discovers the lawyer's extralegal activities and makes an arrest but with insufficient evidence and the magistrate (excellent character actor, Roy Chiao) throws her and the case out of court. Meanwhile, a corkscrew-crooked police superintendent Wong (Melvin Wong), sets out with the intentions of a one-man wrecking crew against witnesses and innocents who know too much, and his victims include Cindy's sleazy partner Bad Egg (played with verve by the director, Corey Yuen).

Vicious murders, first class unarmed combat, road rage scenes in multi-storey car parks and on the highway, combine with Miami Vice inspired d�cor and costumes to present a crime thriller with a particularly downbeat ending, which looks great, by any standards, and excels when its main stars get into superbly choreographed fighting sequences. Featuring an important early role for the young Fan Siu-wong, who later bulked up to star in Story Of Ricky, this movie also showcases Peter Cunningham (in a notable duel against Biao) and Karen Shepard (who fights Rothrock to the death) as kung fu assassins. If you are already a fan of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, and the rest of the Asian superstars, Above The Law is worth catching just for the undeniably charismatic presence of the underrated Yuen Biao.

DVD extras: a trio of separate interviews with Biao, Rothrock, and Cunningham; a hugely informative audio commentary track by the phenomenally knowledgeable genre expert Bey Logan; alternate endings with footage from the English dubbed cut (here's a full 20 minutes of the finale replayed with relatively happy-ever-after closure for the intrepid heroes), and the alternate jail-sentencing scenes from the Mandarin version; plus a couple of trailers.
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