Director: Arthur Wong, Brandy Yuen
Writer: Chan Kiu Ying, Law Daai Man
Cast: Cynthia Khan, Hiroshi Fujioka, Stuart Ong, Michiko Nishiwaki, Dick Wei, Paul Chun, Yueh Hua, Sandra Ng, Melvin Wong, Robin Shou, Stephan Berwick, Law Ching Ho, Chris Lee, Season Ma Si San, Bennett Pang, Mandy Chan, Stanley Fung, Richard Ng, Eric Tsang
Running Time: 83 min.
80’s action girl Cynthia Khan has long had the reputation of being a ‘replacement’ for Michelle Yeoh. After watching Khan in 1988’s “In the Line of Duty 3,” I have a newfound respect for this talented martial artist and actress. The truth is, she’s in nobody’s shadow.
Sure, Hong Kong movie studio D&B Group may have needed someone to fill Michelle Yeoh’s ass-kicking shoes after Yeoh married D&B head Dicksoon Poon and momentarily retired from acting in 1987. But Cynthia Khan proved she wasn’t in just a Yeoh stand-in with her very first outing for D&G, “In the Line of Duty 3.” Although I’m sure she was doubled in a few shots, Khan displays a tremendous amount of fighting ability in this film.
“In the Line of Duty 3” itself has always been overshadowed by the fourth installment in the series, seeing as how that one features “Ip Man” himself Donnie Yen in a starring role. Even so, anyone with an interest in vintage Hong Kong action would be wise to seek out Cynthia Khan’s debut. I dare say this film has just about anything a martial arts junkie could want.
The plot is your typical Eighties cop movie, with Cynthia Khan as a young police cadet who quickly kicks and punches her way up the ranks. The only problem is that her Uncle is the police captain and, in deference to Khan’s late mother, he loathes the idea of putting his niece in any danger. Khan has a way of attracting danger, however, and before long we’re introduced to two ruthless members of the Japanese Red Army who are in Hong Kong to buy arms. These two political terrorists, played by Stuart Ong and Michiko Nishiwaki, maintain a flagrant disregard for human life. In their opening scene, they perform a spectacular jewel heist in Tokyo where at least 80 civilians are mowed down by submachine gun fire.
“In the Line of Duty 3” is also one of those Eighties Hong Kong movies that’s all about the cultural clash between Hong Kong and Japan (much like Michelle Yeoh’s own “Royal Warriors”), so a Japanese cop played by Hiroshi Fujioka heads to Hong Kong on the trail of the Red Army. Fujioka is something like a Japanese Dirty Harry, and he continually butts heads with Khan and the local authorities. In the end, everyone has the same goal – to take down the Red Army – so cultural differences are set aside as the film builds to its final 20 minutes of blistering action.
This movie credits no less than five action directors and, surprisingly, the film actually lives up to the expectations set by having so many choreographers. The first act may be a bit light on hardcore action but “In the Line of Duty 3” manages to cram in a lot during its less-than-90 minute runtime, including several wince-inducing fight scenes and acrobatic shoot-outs.
The two stand-out match-ups include Hiroshi Fujioka and Stuart Ong’s clash in a shipping yard, which is as vicious a fight as I can remember seeing in some time. The viewer lierally gets the impression that these two men want to kill each other, and the stuntmen spare no injury in the way they hit the ground and one another. Later on, Cynthia Khan finally gets her bout against Michiko Nishiwaki, and while it’s a bit too brief for my tastes, it’s literally one of the best ‘woman on woman’ fight scenes in Hong Kong cinema. Again, the ferocity with which the two women attack each other is absolutely stunning. These are not your usual fights in which two skilled opponents respectfully test their martial arts abilities against each other – this is ‘kill or be killed.’
Inbetween all the action? “In the Lune of Duty 3” is almost intolerable. The scenes of comedy fall flat and Paul Chun, typically typecast as these police captain characters, becomes positively overbearing in the way he tries to shield Cynthia Khan from harm. Fortunately, the film has a nice sense of escalation and the third act consists of nothing but ultra-violence, even bringing the indomitable Dick Wei (“Dragons Forever“) into the fold.
“In the Line of Duty 3” is a shining example of why Hong Kong was the premiere destination for action movie fans during the 80’s and most of the 90’s. When it comes to the beloved ‘girls with guns genre,’ “She Shoots Straight” and “Yes Madam” may be better movies overall, but if you’ve already seen those then make “In the Line of Duty 3” next in your queue.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 8/10