Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Blu-ray Review: IN THE LINE OF DUTY (I-IV)

 by Anthony King

The Yeohnaissance Continues.

As Michelle Yeoh's moment continues (rightfully so!), 88 Films has put together the first four movies of the Hong Kong cop action series that she helped kick off. Full of the incredible stunts we've come to love from that region, and highlighting early performances from some of action's biggest stars, this set is an abyss of excitement.
We begin with the film that started it all: Yes Madam! (1985). Two thieves (John Sham, Hoi Mang) break into an Englishman's hotel room in Hong Kong, robbing him of his possessions while he's passed out. Unbeknownst to our thieves, the Englishman, a Scotland Yard detective, was actually assassinated, and they've inadvertently stolen a piece of microfilm that was going to be used to prosecute a HK crime syndicate led by James Tien. Yeoh plays CID Detective Ng, who teams up with another Scotland Yard Detective played by Cynthia Rothrock. Together, the two must track down the thieves to place them under protection in order to go after the crime boss. Along with Sham and Mang as our thieves, director Hark Tsui completes the trio of conmen being hunted down by the cops and the gangsters. Tsui is a forger who lives in a Pee-Wee Herman-style apartment where secret doors act as the bedrock for some hysterical and astonishing stunts. Sammo Hung also makes an appearance as the trio's “master.” But the teamwork of Yeoh and Rothrock is really where the reputation of this film was born. And deservedly so. The final battle between our two cops versus Dick Wei, Fat Chung, and Tien is one of the most incredible fight sequences I've ever seen.
The second film in the series is Royal Warriors (1986). Yeoh plays Detective Michelle Yip, part of the Hong Kong CID, and Michael Wong is part of the airport security team, both in charge of extraditing a prisoner from Tokyo to Hong Kong. The flight is momentarily hijacked as an accomplice to the prisoner attempts to free him. Unfortunately for them Hiroyuki Sanada is also on board, a recently-retired Interpol agent trying to get back to his family in HK. The three cops band together to stop the attempted hijack, killing the bad guys in the process. This then sets off a series of revenge-fueled acts carried out by disenchanted militia fanatics and friends of the deceased, forcing the three cops together once again to fight for their lives. While the action set pieces shine bright, Sanada's storyline about getting back to his wife and son-turned revenge tale is really the glue that brings everything together. Like his character, this plot point gives the story purpose and drive. We want to see the conclusion. Yeoh, of course, is charming as hell. As she puts her kung fu and amazing weapons training to use to fend off the baddies, she's also trying to worm herself out of Wong's desperate grasp for a romantic interlude.

The third film of the series sees the exit of Michelle Yeoh and the introduction of Cynthia Kahn, who would go on to star in the remaining six(!) films in the In the Line of Duty franchise. A pair of jewel thieves (Michiko Nishiwaki, Stuart Ong) working for the Japanese Red Army break into a building showcasing the latest line of diamonds from designer Yamamoto. The heist turns ultra violent killing the partner of Inspector Otaka (Hiroshi Fujioka). Vowing revenge and going on the hunt, Otaka trails the thieves to HK where Kahn is a rookie cop named Rachel Yeung assigned to the case. Together the two must track down the terroristic jewel thieves, with Yeung trying to reel in a renegade cop hellbent on vengeance. Brace yourselves for a sacrilegious statement: I prefer Cynthia Kahn in these movies to Michelle Yeoh. I love Yeoh so much, but watching Kahn set and reset over and over again during fight sequences is one of those moments that make you want to pump your fist in the air and scream expletives. The violence in In the Line of Duty III is also turned up compared to the first two entries. When the thieves commit the initial heist, it's not just a few cops and patrons who are killed in the process. It's an all out massacre with machine guns mowing down dozens upon dozen of people. And once again, while the action set pieces are thrilling and unforgettable, it's Fujioka's performance and the drive of his character to get justice – legal or otherwise – for his fallen partner that keeps the story going.
We wrap things up with In the Line of Duty IV, where Kahn returns as Inspector Yeung and is teamed with Donnie Yen to bring down a group of CIA operatives. An innocent dock worker in Seattle, Luk Wan-Ting (Simon Yeun Yat-Cho), becomes embroiled in the hunt for a roll of film that could bring down a drug ring operating in HK. When he's arrested and questioned about the whereabouts of the film, Yeung is convinced of his innocence while her colleagues think otherwise. Donnie Yen and Michael Wong are cops from Seattle in HK to extradite Luk back to the states. Yeung will protect Luk at all costs, convinced that there are dirty cops in her midst. Together with Yen, the two cops from either side of the Pacific work together to uncover a major government conspiracy, revealing who the real good guys are. Once again Cynthia Kahn kicks as much ass as possible, and it's a constant joy to watch. Other than Rogue One (2016), this is my first Donnie Yen movie. Consider me a fan, just as soon as I pick my jaw up off the floor. Between Kahn and Yen, one couldn't take much more charm than these two dish out. And like the duo of Yeoh and Rothrock, Kahn and Yen deliver a final action sequence that stands atop the podium with the final sequence in Yes Madam!
While Eureka premiered these stunning 2K restorations in the UK earlier this year, 88 Films collects these four films in an impressive box for the US. The set is housed in a sturdy and dazzling box featuring brand new artwork by Sean Longmore. Included in the box is a 100-page book by Matthew Edwards featuring interviews with Shan Tam, Michael Parker, Stephan Berwick, and Michael Woods, plus loads of beautiful stills from the films. Also included in the set are two 16x20 double-sided posters of Royal Warriors and Yes Madam! featuring original and new artwork, also featured on the reversible artwork on each disc. Hong Kong film expert Frank Djeng also provides a commentary for each film.

Yes Madam! comes with 2K restorations of the Hong Kong Cut and the Export Version with classic English dub, interviews with Rothrock and Mang Hoi, an archive interview with Yeoh, an archive featurette called “Battling Babes,” select scene commentary with Rothrock and Djeng, and a Hong Kong trailer. Royal Warriors comes with missing insert shots of the airplane sequence, and Cantonese and English trailers. In the Line of Duty III comes with an interview with John Sham by Frederic Ambrosine, and Hong Kong and English trailers. In the Line of Duty IV comes with 2K restorations of the Hong Kong cut and Export Version, archival commentary by Hong Kong expert Stefan Hammond and Michael Wong, an archive interview with Donnie Yen, and Hong Kong and English trailers.

For collectors, the In the Line of Duty I-IV box set from 88 Films will look gorgeous displayed on your shelf. For movie lovers, the fact that you will have these four films, in sensational-looking and sound quality, at your fingertips, is only one of many reasons to add this set to your library.

Blu-ray release date: May 16, 2023

Yes Madam!

93 minutes / 1985
1.85:1 (1080p)
PCM Mono & 5.1 Surround (Cantonese & English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)

Royal Warriors

96 minutes / 1986
1.85:1 (1080p)
PCM Mono & 5.1 Surround (Cantonese & English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)

In the Line of Duty III
84 minutes / 1988
1.85:1 (1080p)
PCM Mono (Cantonese & English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)

In the Line of Duty IV

95 minutes / 1989
1.85:1 (1080p)B PCM Mono (Cantonese & English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)


  1. Waaaaaaaait a second. First Donnie movie?

    Go get the Ip Man series already (just the ones he's in, not the prequels). Not all great, but a decent entry point in his filmography

  2. Niiiiiice, thanks for this. I watched the Police Story movies recently and they were amazing - esp. Yeoh in part III. So I'll def have to go watch these now that you've brought them to my attention.

  3. For Donnie Yen picks, Iron Monkey (1993) is one that will not disappoint. The final fight is one that only the Hong Kong directors of the time could have come up with.

    1. Seconded. Iron Monkey is one of my top 10 fav Martial Arts movies of all time. Actually i think im long overdue for a revisit! Thanks for bringining it up!

  4. Yes Madam is amazing, I saw that one in the last few months when it showed up on the Criterion Channel. I would love to watch the rest of these. Thanks for the write up, Anthony!