In the Line of Duty III (1988)

Rating: B+

Dir: Brandy Yuen/Arthur Wong
Star: Cynthia Khan (Yang Li Ching), Hiroshi Fujioka, Michiko Nishiwaki, Stuart Ong
a.k.a. Force of the Dragon

[12] After losing star Michelle Yeoh, who married studio head Dickson Poon, D&B Films sought a new lead for their popular series, and found her in another ex-dancer, whom they named Cynthia Khan. Despite her lack of martial-arts experience, she hit the ground running, and the results is a solid example of the “girls with guns” genre which Hong Kong took to in the mid-1980’s.

It’s largely revenge-based; the catalyst is a Japanese cop (Fujioka), whose partner is shot by a terrorist (Ong) during a jewel robbery. He reckons the jewel owner, Yamamoto, was doing an insurance scam, and follows him to Hong Kong. The terrorist and his partner (Nishiwaki) are also there, seeking to buy arms with their loot, but discover they too have been scammed: the jewels are fake, and want revenge on Yamamoto. Meanwhile, Madam Yeung (Khan) has joined the police squad run by her uncle; he doesn’t want her to do anything risky, despite her being the most talented officer on the roster, so makes her babysit the Japanese cop, to keep him out of mischief. Doesn’t work.

This is undeniably a fun time-passer, and a good example of the genre. Despite some mis-placed comedy, there’s a nice sense of escalation. It initially looks like light fluff, yet almost immediately, the body count starts, not least since the terrorists’ approach involves a startlingly reckless disregard for human life. While Khan’s acting talents are, perhaps wisely, hardly tested, Nishiwaki delivers a good performance of striking intensity, and it’s a shame she didn’t get many lead roles like this one. By the end it’s clear that anyone could die at any moment: something you’ll rarely see in a Western flick (outside the horror genre, at least). It’s perhaps a shame they didn’t do this earlier, since this ends up possessing a reckless, unpredictable attitude which ranks with the best action movies.