Sea Wolves (1991)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-09-09
The seventh entry (and the fifth starring Cynthia Khan) of the “In the Line of Duty” has some terrific action scenes and too many obviously labored attempts to wring laughs from situations that stopped being funny a long time ago. Cynthia Khan is Inspector Yeung, her usual no nonsense police sergeant who needs to stay a step ahead of the criminals she is pursuing and two steps ahead of her bumbling bureaucratic superiors. Wong Yuk-Hang is excellent as Yelia, a hooker with a heart of lead and Yeung’s best friend. There is some real brutality especially the murder at sea of a boatful of refugees from Vietnam in order to steal the money and jewels they are bringing with them to Hong Kong. Garry Chow Ging-Yeung was written and played as a cross between The Incredible Hulk and Spiderman. He was too big, too fast and too indestructible to be taken seriously for even a moment but Gary wasn’t there for comic relief. Nothing could stop him including being hit with a sledgehammer, smashed with a shovel, beaten with a policeman’s baton or dropped 20 feet down a hatch onto a steel floor.

Inspector Yeung is a very righteous cop, of course. She is loyal to her friend Yelia, even to the point of dropping in on “Stupidhead” to try to collect money he has taken from her. She doesn’t get it but Stupidhead and his pals make the usual big mistake of macho types when confronted by the Ms. Khan, attacking her with the tools of their trade—they are in the auto repair or perhaps auto stripping business. She barely works up a sweat in countering their amateurish attempts to clobber her with hammers, drills and big hunks of metal.

There a few flashes (literally in one case) of brilliant physical comedy. In one Yelia has just been awaked from a deep, post-coital slumber by the paperboy demanding to be paid for the last couple of week’s service. When he persists in his demands and refuses to let her close the door on him she opens the top of her robe telling him that this is his payment, taking advantage of his shock to push him out the door. The bell rings a few seconds later and she stalks to the door and pulls open her robe all the way, saying “Here, you can see the rest of it”, only to find that these callers are Inspector Yeung leading a large group of officers in search of Gary. Embarrassing.

Another one happens when John (Simon Yam) and Gary, having been arrested, are being beaten by the cops. John is handcuffed to a wall while the head cop punches him while wearing boxing gloves, the better to hide where and when John had been injured. Gary was hand cuffed to a file cabinet which kept him out of the way for about 90 seconds. He advances on Sergeant Sung, played by with irascible skill by Tai Bo, who pulls his gun but then tries to aim and shoot it while still wearing his boxing gloves. Painful and disastrous.

A third is at the very end of the film. After a pitched battle pitting Gary, John and Inspector Leung against the gang of murderous drug smugglers, fights that includes some convincingly brutal hand to hand combat they have finally cornered the ultra-evil Keung, played with real over the top abandon by veteran bad guy Norman Chu. Keung is entangled in a winch with a rope looped around his neck. Gary rotates the drum of the winch while John keeps the pressure steady on the rope, slowly strangling him. Inspector Yeung, after noting that as a member of the Royal Hong Kong Police she is prohibited from arresting anyone in international waters, turns and studies the horizon while John and Gary complete their task.

Much credit to action director Phillip Kwok Chun-Fung and to the actors and stuntmen who carried out is choreography. Many of the fights, particularly the last extended battle, took place at very close quarters—in the passageways and on the ladders of a ship—and they looked very convincing. One reason was that there was a lot of physical contact between the combatants. Watching in slow motion it was clear that while many punches were slipped and many kicks didn’t quite land, a lot of them did. It may have been a very rough shoot for some of the principals.

Cynthia Khan, as usual, was very fit and athletic with the ability to land kicks from almost any angle to almost any part of her opponent’s body or head. The costume department did a better job than usual with her, dressing her in tight but not clingy slacks with some stretchy fabric and short leather jackets, stylish but still appropriate for a waterfront brawl.

A decent enough movie for the legion of Ms. Khan’s fans.