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Above the Law (Righting Wrongs/Zhi fa xian feng) 
Written by: on April 14th, 2008

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1986
Director: Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Melvin Wong (Gam San), Corey Yuen Kwai, Fan Siu Wong, Wu Ma, Lau Siu Ming, Peter Lai (Bei Dak), Sandy Chan (Yuk Han), Tai Bo, James Tin Jun, Chung Faat, Karen Shepherd, Roy Chiao, Peter Cunningham, Paul Cheung (Wing Hung

DVD released: May 29th, 2007
Approximate running time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), Cantonese (Dolby Digital 1.0 – Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround) with English & Spanish subtitles
DVD Release: Dragon Dynasty
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95


Synopsis: After assorted acts of violence by organized crime and the resultant failure of the judicial system, a frustrated lawyer decides to administer justice himself, abetted by an equally disillusioned judge. A police detective investigating the murders is hot on his trail and seems to think laws should apply equally to everyone.
 
This vigilante film is not your typical Hong Kong martial arts film. It was obviously a determined attempt by director Corey Yuen to break through into the international market, something that he did achieve much later. The film features performances by three U.S. martial artists and locations were filmed in New Zealand giving this movie a truly international flavor.
 
Corey Yuen is an award winning action director who was martial arts choreographer for Jackie Chan’s first domestic hits Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master. He directed Yes, Madam! with Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock which is generally considered the genesis of the ‘girls with guns’ cycle. Corey was a member of the Peking Opera School with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao. He also performed as an actor (Eastern Condors) and plays the comedic relief role in Righting Wrongs, bringing Rothrock and Biao together as the primary leads.

The plot is very downbeat and bleak – so much so that Cynthia Rothrock was flown back to film an alternate ending acceptable to U.S. distributors (released as Above The Law).  This is a hard hitting and violent tale that revels in absurd twists. The fight scenes are incredible including Rothrock versus real-life tournament competitor Karen Shepherd, and Yuen Biao against kick boxing champion Peter Cunningham. Some of the stunts by Biao are absolutely stupefying (eat your heart out, Jackie Chan) and there is a minimum of ‘wire fu’.
 
Rothrock did one more film for Corey (Blonde Fury), then her Hong Kong career took a definite nosedive as she was offered little more than cameos.  Seems the international gambit was abandoned. This film is a highlight for Yuen Biao as well, as this is a showcase for his extraordinary abilities at their peak.  If you look close or hit the pause, you can see an instance where Biao stunt doubles for Rothrock wearing her dress!

The DVD:

This release as Above the Law actually contains the original [superior] HK Righting Wrongs version. It does exhibit grain, but is otherwise a very nice anamorphic letterboxed widescreen presentation (especially for a Hong Kong title).
 
Cantonese and English dub soundtracks are provided including the original mono, as well as English translation subtitles (not dub-titles). The humor has a decidedly different slant depending upon the language selected.
 
The best extra is the aforementioned alternate ending, and there are great interviews with Biao, Rothrock, and Peter Cunningham. Other extras include a audio commentary by Bey Logan and trailers. A superb entry into the vigilante sub-genre ala Death Wish or Ms. 45 this really delivers the goods in a high quality release.
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