Righting Wrongs | aka Above the Law (1986) Review

"Righting Wrongs" International Theatrical Poster

"Righting Wrongs" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Corey Yuen
Producer: Leonard Ho
Cast: Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Melvin Wong, Corey Yuen, Wu Ma, Fan Siu Wong, James Tien Chun, Sandy Chan Yuk Han, Karen Sheperd, Lau Siu Ming, Peter Cunningham
Running Time: 100 min.

By Numskull

I don’t know what to say.

Did you know…

DID, YOU, KNOW that the legal system protects the guilty, rather than the innocent? That it allows criminals to escape the consequences of their actions due to some trifling little thing called “lack of evidence”, rather than condemning them based on the testimony of a smelly old bum who washed the windshield of somebody whose next-door neighbor is good friends with a girl whose boyfriend thinks he saw them breaking the law? That it writes murderers, rapists, and thieves a ticket to roam the streets with impunity, rather than locking them up in a dank little 10’x12′ cell with a 300 lb. convict named Tiny whose favorite game is “Pack the Fudge”?

It’s true, my friends. Sad but true.

This movie changed me, oh yes it did. I used to be foolish and naive. I used to believe that Bill Clinton dropped bombs on Iraq when he did to protect our national interests and not to draw the public’s attention away from his affair with Monica Lewinsky. I used to believe that O.J. Simpson was innocent of any wrongdoing and that he was tracking down the real killer by searching every golf course in the country. I used to believe that Britney Spears was so successful because she has tremendous musical talent and not because some corporate executive reached the brilliant conclusion that millions of zit-faced teenage males with their hands permanently wrapped around their penises like to ogle girls with big tits.

But no more.



I have seen the light. I have seen the world for the sham it really is.

And I owe it all to this movie.

Here, let me tell you about it.

Yuen Biao is a prosecutor who doesn’t like it when criminals slip through the cracks in the justice system (“justice”, indeed! Hmph!). Cynthia Rothrock is a cop who doesn’t like it when guys like our boy Yuen take the law into their own hands. So when he starts dishing out HIS law to a group of murderous drug lords and the uppity Cynthia gets assigned to the case, sparks fly, people die and plans go awry. There’s impressive fighting, a high body count, an eye-popping stunt finale, and a plot that’s a little more complex than you may have come to expect from mid ’80s HK action films.

Mind you, that complexity isn’t always a good thing. While not devoid of cool surprises and some involving non-action scenes, Righting Wrongs is laughably overwritten in some ways and bafflingly underwritten in others. The diatribes about the true effectiveness of the Law (always capitalized) and the relative advisability, or lack thereof, of taking it into your own hands just eat up the time and trigger a “Well, DUH!” reaction from the viewer. At the same time, the movie suffers from a couple of really big-ass plot holes…but so what. Too much chatter gets in the way of the ass-kicking, and that is one respect in which Righting Wrongs is beyond reproach.

The fight scenes are all good, and they’re well spaced-out throughout the film. Yuen and Cynthia have a great outing against each other but, sadly, don’t do any team-up fighting. Also noteworthy is Cynthia’s duel with Karen Shephard. Interesting to see two Caucasian women given such a great showcase for their talents in a Hong Kong movie. A stunt double is used for some of Cynthia’s spots, but this isn’t as big a problem as it was in YES MADAM, another Corey Yuen flick in which she appeared (check out her miraculous color-changing hair in the chandelier bit).

The climax has a great bout between Yuen Biao and Melvin Wong, who I think makes a pretty good villain. It’s followed by one of the most impressive stunts I’ve yet seen, since we all know that HK movies from the 1980s don’t use computer effects to fill in for real people.

(SPOILER ALERT: skip this paragraph if you don’t want to find out what happens at the end.) Ah, that ending…what a kick in the nuts. Yes, I know there are TWO endings, and I’m actually talking about both of them. In the original, everybody dies. In the revised one, Cynthia lives but looks ready for eight weeks of physical therapy, and Yuen gets fucked over by the system he once served (although there’s no question that he brazenly violated the law…oops, I mean the Law…no matter how justified his actions were). I think a synthesis of the two endings would have worked best of all; I would have had Cynthia survive (but only just), and had Yuen sacrifice himself in his kamikaze-like quest to bring down the bad guy. If the audience finds it “too shocking”, I say fuck ’em.

It’s a very good action movie…maybe a little too harsh for some, but such is life. If nothing else, it proves that Yuen Biao is capable of carrying the lead role instead of playing second or third fiddle to Sammo Hung and/or Jackie Chan. RW is well deserving of a recommendation.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, there are some wrongs that need righting.

Britney Spears, I’m comin’ for YOU (no, not THAT kind of comin’).

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

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