In The Line Of Duty III: Force Of The Dragon (1988): Breakdown by Kain424
Two murderous terrorists engage in a violent killing spree after a foiled jewelry heist. Only an ambitious Hong Kong policewoman and a hard-boiled Japanese detective on a mission of vengeance can stop them.
[THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THEIR BADASSITUDE]
THE GOOD GUYS:
Cynthia Khan as S.C.S Rachel Yeung
She may not have the flexible acting skills or fluid movements of Michelle Yeoh, but Cynthia’s got a burning fire in her eyes and a definite presence. I think she more than acquits herself in this film. Rachel is a scrappy and persistent pup, but one with quite a bite to her.
Hiroshi Fujioka as Hiroshi Fujioka
Fujioka is pure personality in a jar. He naturally exudes a strength and confidence reminiscent of Sonny Chiba without the cruelty. His cleverly named Hiroshi Fujioka works for the emotional weight of the narrative, as we can see his earnest desire to avenge his murdered partner.
THE BAD GUYS:
Michiko Nishiwaki as Michiko Nishiwaki
Sensual like a knife and ferocious like a shark, Michiko (also imaginitively named) is easily the most hardcore member of the In The Line Of Duty III cast. She is death shaped like a woman.
Stuart Ong as Nakamura Genji
Genji is dying of some disease, and will use every ounce of strength left in his dying body to kill or maim anyone who gets in his way. Nothing to lose and everything to gain, Genji is a heavily armed wounded animal.
[THE SEX AND VIOLENCE]
EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY:
While I will readily admit this film’s use of nudity is clearly an attempt at titillation bordering on exploitation, I have to applaud the film makers’s use of this to further their own storytelling ends. In a shortcut to characterization, we get a rather sweaty and intense sex scene, complete with hair pulling, bloodletting (with a knife, no less!), and Basic Instinct-like impossible positions. And though Michiko Nishiwaki spends much of the duration in somewhat of a submissive “taker” position, it is Michiko herself who initiates this moment and literally draws first blood.
In fact, Michiko Nishiwaki’s entire character is one who willingly will use her sexuality to catch her opponents off guard, as seen in the opening, wherein she begins kissing a guard who spots her. She then knifes the man to death, lips still locked onto the poor fellow, in order to silence his screams. So is this misogyny? I wouldn’t say so.
MURDER BY NUMBERS: 
For a film that is basically about two cops versus two criminals, this is one damn big violent movie. And it’s not just the large bodycount I’m talking about. People are repeatedly shot, ever after they’re dead. There are deaths by fire, explosions, car crashes, knifing, and more. People are beat to a bloody pulp, scalded with hot water, and stabbed with an assortment of devices. It’s a Jackie Chan routine gone horribly wrong. But it’s amazing to watch.
[THE BEST OF THE REST]
I would say the opening of the film, with its sudden burst of violence. Our two lead baddies come swinging off a balcony, firing their machine guns into an ever-panicking crowd, The movie starts on this high note and plays it to the end, but it begins here. Wow.
Speaking of wow, the fight between Hiroshi Fujioka and Stuart Ong is one for the ages. These two kick and punch each other into oblivion, use old boat equipment, ropes, fire, and everything in an old warehouse to destroy the body of the other. And all this while one of them is handcuffed. By the end of it they can both barely stand. It’s so gruesome it gets disgusting.
Ever been watching one of those films where the main bad guy treats his bodyguards like shit and you just start wondering why they even bother coming to work everyday? Why don’t they just quit? Well, we finally have a film where exactly that happens. After being bullied and yelled at for several minutes, two bodyguards literally quit. As bad timing would have it, our renegade Japanese cop is showing up to go after their former employer and he meets them at the doorway.
In The Line Of Duty III is a curious film, starting with its name. To be clear here, there is no In The Line Of Duty or In The Line Of Duty II. In 1985 the D & B Films Company (founded by Sammo Hung and Dickson Poon) released Yes, Madam, a breakout film for both Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh was going by the name Michelle Khan at the time. It was an impressive debut for both women, and kickstarted an entirely new genre featuring female protagonists kicking massive amounts of ass. The following year would see the release of Michelle Khan’s Royal Warriors, wherein a policewoman teams up with a vengeful Japanese cop and an airline sky marshal against renegade terrorists. While also a success, Michelle Khan went on to marry producer Dickson Poon, who apparently convinced her to “retire” from films. With Rothrock off doing her own thing and their other star out of the film making game, D & B Films pulled a move so scandalous and so bold I honestly can’t believe it worked.
First, they re-released Royal Warriors under the title In The Line Of Duty. Pushing Michelle Khan’s name into the foreground of their marketing, they then re-released Yes, Madam as a sequel to Royal Warriors, proudly putting new white person star Cynthia Rothrock right up there with Michelle. Then, they took Taiwanese actress Li-Tsing Yang and renamed her Cynthia Khan, and put In The Line Of Duty III into production. Now, we all know what sort of trickery hack film studio The Asylum is willing to do in order to gain a potential audience, but this really takes it to another level. It really shows what kind of faith the studio had in its audience, and I think this film would simply be relegated to a very curious historical anomaly, perhaps best long forgotten. But amazingly, In The Line Of Duty III is great. Like, seriously great.
When we speak of great Hong Kong films, the conversation can often be dominated by John Woo. This is really too bad, because there are so many other wonderful directors and so many truly awesome Action films from that era. In The Line Of Duty III, I believe, is absolutely one of them. The action beats bounce steadily from a contained, almost comedic rhythm to an epic intensity that easily rivals some of the more well-known Action flicks produced around the same time. The fight scenes are brutal and the gunfights are simply crazy violent.
But the thing that stood out to me upon my first viewing, and still stands out after repeated watching, is the movie’s incorporation of the more effective bits from other films. The casual eye may not spot it, but In The Line Of Duty III makes use of snippets from films like The Terminator, Nighthawks, Armour Of God, and more. Quentin Tarantino and The Wachowskis would go on to use the same technique to great success in the following decade, and here it is is equally effective, if not more because you almost don’t notice it. This isn’t a knock on the movie, of course, just an observation. I think what they’ve done here is a wonderful way to co-opt something they thought would work for their film. If it didn’t work, I might think otherwise, but joint directors Arthur Wong and Brandy Yuen make great use of what came before them. But the real highlight is what they bring to the table themselves.
Despite the usual tendencies of these kinds of films to be melodramatic to the point of soap, Wong and Yuen take the film almost preposterously serious. They move from what I’d at first thought was going to be a James Bond-style title sequence to a fast-paced heist scene, complete with out well-dressed, heavily armed antagonists causing panic at a jewelry expo by firing into the crowd with automatic weapons and tossing smoke grenades. Their heist of the jewels seems ludicrously simple, and their dispatching of an army of security guards is quick and insane, but the pacing is enough to keep you from overthinking what’s happening. It’s almost overwhelming.
All the more impressive is that the film manages to keep the pace for much of the (fairly short and sweet, at just about an hour and a half) running time. The introduction of several loaded Action scenes keeps the pace brisk, and the focus locked. But there is just enough breathing room to make for an interesting story. The villains of the picture aren’t out for financial gain. At least, not after they discover the jewels they stole were high-end fakes. In The Line Of Duty III quickly becomes a brutal tale of savagery, as Michiko Nishiwaki and her lover Stuart Ong go on to seek revenge for their betrayal. But violence only begets more violence, and with every attempt to fulfill a vendetta, more bodies hit the floor. One of our protagonists, played by Sega spokesman Hiroshi Fujioka, attempts to apprehend the two maniacs, only to have innocent civilians killed all around him.
And while I wouldn’t say the film is specifically misogynistic, it does have some things to say about the link between sex and violence. While Cynthia Khan entertains a romance with Melvin Wong, she is seemingly an asexual career-driven creature. Her femininity is never really used against her or for her. Hiroshi Fujioka, on the other hand, is completely sexual. Her and Stuart Ong’s relationship is passionate and lethal, even in death.
But let’s not forget this movie is still entertainment. In addition to the great martial arts fights and gun battles, we also get some cameos from Hong Kong staples like Eric Tsang, Richard Ng, and a late third act role for one of my personal favorites Dick Wei. Also worth noting is the bodyguard who leads the mutiny from their asshole boss is none other than future fighting game movie staple Robin Shou.
There is a point, once Fujioka reaches Hong Kong, where the movie briefly becomes a less comedic version of Red Heat, but In The Line Of Duty III is about twenty times more action-packed. It does basically take the final fight from the previous year’s Iron Angels almost wholesale, but there is just enough violent absurdity to make me get past it. Hong Kong films from this era were remarkable with what they achieved action-wise, and this may just be the best of them. Definitely, DEFINITELY, seek this one out.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Violence begets violence, revenge is masochistic, and crime only leads to suffering.
[THE AOBG ACTION CHECKLIST]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[ ] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel [In The Line Of Duty IV: Witness]
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
[TOTAL: 20 outta 25]