Martial Law (1991): Breakdown by Rutledal
A cop must bring down a new ruthless crime syndicate that he fears his brother might be involved with.
Being the kid of a famous person in Hollywood can be hard, you can become more successful than your parent (Jason Reitman), live up to them (Michael Douglas), live to almost up to them (Brandon Lee), or as in the case we have here try to be like them and fail miserably. Because rarely has the apple fallen further from the three than in the case of Chad McQueen. McQueen tried to become the next big martial arts star in the late 80s and early 90s, but his first screen appearance as “that bully in The Karate Kid that wasn’t Joey Lawrence” still remains his most memorable one. Movies like Martial Law are the reason why. The DVD cover for the movie doesn’t even feature the guy’s name, instead it makes it look as if the movie’s writer Richard Brandes is the star of the movie. It’s actually kind of sad when you think about it.
The plot seems like it was lifted out of a syndicated cop show: a gang of car thieves and drug dealers are stealing cars and dealing drugs on the streets of LA, and our hero, Sean, fears his kid brother might be involved somehow. Of course this turns out to be the case and this family conflict mixed with a couple of so-so fight scenes thrown in make up the entire first hour of the movie and not until his brother is killed does the movie really pick up. Well, it doesn’t as much pick up as it just drops the family aspect a bit in favor of Sean’s vengeance trip.
The movie has major pacing issues, as the first hour drags to a point where I almost turned it of, while the last 30 minutes is both entertaining and fun. McQueen is a rather bland hero lacking all the charisma and charm that made the other side of the pillow envy his father. Fortunately the supporting cast saves the movie. Cynthia Rothrock is good and puts up some good looking fights and is probably at her most attractive in this movie. Meanwhile, David Carradine steals the entire show as the villain in one of his better movies from 1991, he released 8.
At best, Martial Law is a mediocre action movie with a poor leading man and unimpressive fight scenes. Its two sequels with McQueen replaced by Jeff Wincott are both far superior movies, but more about that some other time. If you were a die hard fan of David Carradine then check it out, he’s done much worse movies, but this one is not a must for anyone.
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Chad McQueen is Sean “Martial Law” Thompson
Introduced as he interrupts a diamond heist by beating the crap out of the robbers, Thompson sets the bar high, and with a nickname like “Martial Law” he doesn’t lower it any. What he unfortunately doesn’t really do is pass it. Playing it up that he left his family to go and study martial arts in Hong Kong and then not really showing any impressive fighting makes Sean Thompson more bad-ass on paper than on screen.
Cynthia Rothrock is Billie Blake
Receiving way too little screen time Rothrock doesn’t really get to shine as Sean’s joint girlfriend and partner. However, since most of that screen time in spent kicking ass, literally, she convinces me she’s one bad-ass broad.
[THE BODY COUNT: 23]
It is David Carradine in his villainous turn that runs off with the majority of the kills, stacking up seven for himself and sharing nine with his Austrasian (he looks Asian and sounds Australian) partner Wu Han. The good guys only get one kill, but that’s because the Carradine has already whacked all the other bad guys so there will be more money for him (he’s greedy like that). It’s a fairly bloodless affair since Carradine’s heart stopping finishing movie stands for most of the kills.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
I know it’s a little wrong to go with the death of good guy character, but Sean’s brother Michael’s death is the most satisfying one. Not because it is great and not because I hated the character, but because the movie can finally move on from the “Michael gets arrested, Sean sets him free” loop that is the first sixty minutes of the movie.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
The movie has a couple of shirtless scenes, but other than that the movie offers nothing.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
There are three women here: Billie who kicks ass and looks good while doing it, Sean’s mom who probably only is there because Chad McQueen’s acting range doesn’t feature sadness and there was need for another character to grieve over his brother’s death so they could sell it. Finally, there is this woman who just walks up to Sean in a scene, kisses him and gives him a condom. This 100% slut come-on really knocks it out of the park as far as misogyny in this movie goes.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
During the end of the final double fight (McQueen-Carradine/Rothrock-Wu Han) Wu Han is setting in an attempt to finish of Billie when she drops down in a split and sends a series of blows straight in the guys balls. Ouch. I know he was a bad guy, but no man should have to suffer such a fate.
This hot shot kid is hanging around Carradine trying to get to work for him. Carrdine gets tired of him so he takes the kids nunchakus from him, smacks him across the face with them, and tells him:
“See you round here again and I’m gonna teach you how to use these.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Family is important, but also boring. And coolness does not run in the family, it must be earned.
[THE RULES OF ROTHROCK: 0 outta 3]
[ ] Asian Background
[ ] Performs A Scorpion Kick
[ ] Uses A Bowstaff
[THE CHECKLIST: 14 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] 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
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] 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)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
Generic Montage Shot #3