Police Assassins Review
In an effort to confuse consumers Hong Kong films often get released under a number of titles and Police Assassins is one of them. The original title for this film is In the Line of Duty 2, which actually makes it a prequel to last years Hong Kong Legends DVD release In the Line of Duty (which is actually part 4 in the long running Hong Kong Action film series) but what was to be Michelle Yeoh's breakout film is best known here in the west as Yes Madam!. For reasons unknown to us HKL decided to adopt the lesser known moniker of Police Assassins for this UK DVD release, which while not causing much in the way of change to the film (apart from a new overlaid title graphic in the opening seconds) is worth explaining so you know a little about the films links to the In the Line of Duty series.
The story is quite simple. An old friend of Inspector Ng (Michelle Yeoh) is found murdered in his Hotel room over the possession of a piece of vital evidence that would put the local crime lord in prison for a very long time. The evidence falls into the hands of a trio of petty thieves who go by the delightful names of Asprin (Hoi Mang), Strepsil (John Sham) and Panadol (played here by Tsui Hark in a lengthy guest starring role) and it is through them that the majority of the story is told, while Yeoh is joined by a British cop (played by Cynthia Rothrock) to help solve the case. The trio of thieves and our two police-officers paths cross frequently and we eventually see them team up for a final showdown with the local crime lord who is played with much gusto by Bruce Lee regular, James Tien.
Sadly the story is rarely engaging which leaves it down to the onscreen characters to carry the film but for some bizarre reason rather than give the majority of screen time to the supposed leads, Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock, the film spends most of its time focusing on the trio of thieves. Considering this is a mismatched Cop buddy movie the choice to not develop the characters of Yeoh and Rothrock is a missed opportunity, as is the low use of their onscreen presence which (when they are onscreen) is undeniably high. Its not all bad though, the trio of thieves carry the story fairly well, and certainly feature in some relatively exciting sequences while they are also fortunate enough to introduce two superb cameos from Producer Sammo Hung and comedy veteran Richard Ng who put in scene stealing performances. Yeoh and Rothrock make a great pair and while their relationship is never fully explored (or even remotely touched upon if truth be told) there is not much need to as they both have a simple agenda, which is to solve the case. All of these story elements suggest a fast paced ride but this is where the film really trips up as weak storyline and characterisation aside, if we are given a swift pace that leads into the various action scenes without dragging then we could forgive those faults, but sadly Police Assassins often drags due to overly long sequences with our trio of thieves.
Going some way to make up for the films failings is the great presence of Yeoh and Rothrock who are always a delight to watch, although sometimes the fact that Police Assassins was a vehicle for Yeoh is a little too obvious with some (admittedly great) close up camera shots that make for perfect publicity photos! James Tien, as local crime-lord 'Tin' is devilishly maniacal and often appears to be straight out of a Bond film (or should that be Austin Powers?) with a laugh at the end of each sentence to rival that of Dr.Evil's! Of course what really carries the film and makes it somewhat more watchable are the fairly frequent but oft-brief action sequences that see both Yeoh, and particularly Rothrock show off an impressive array of moves. The finale is particularly exciting and is certainly worth sitting through the first hour for, as we are treated to a sequence which sees the stunt team attempt to dethrone Jackie Chan with a range of bone crunching falls that will leave you cringing. Most impressive of all though is the multi-layered fight sequence that sees Yeoh and Rothrock take on separate enemies with great flare and to finally stand off together against the final foe. The only slight complaint I have about this entire finale is the use of a stunt-double for Rothrock that while understandable, often leaves you with a grin on your face as you see an Asian stuntman, who has made no attempt to even look like Rothrock, taking all of her falls!
Before I close I must give a brief mention to the cheesy electronic eighties soundtrack, that while not particularly great does heavily borrow (steal is probably a better word) from the Halloween soundtrack which actually makes the score considerably more accomplished but it also made this Halloween fan expect Michael Myers to step into the fray!
This Hong Kong Legends DVD is a dual encoded R2/4 release.
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen and maintaining the original 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio this effort from Hong Kong Legends harks back to the days of their first In the Line of Duty release (of the same name) in that there is a noticeable level of grain present throughout the majority of the film (which is in stark contrast to recent titles). Fortunately the transfer itself is virtually free of any damage with only the occasional speck of grit and the odd white speck cropping up while detail levels are good (but not great) with strong colour and black level reproduction. Going back to the grain the levels vary throughout the film but it never becomes a major hindrance to your enjoyment of the onscreen action. The only other slight fault worth mentioning is the very rare occurrence of background shimmering, but neither this or the grain present on the print are reason enough to pass up this release which maintains the strong track record HKL have established for themselves.
Offering the choice of remixed Cantonese and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Soundtracks I am surprised to say that I cannot really offer my opinion on which Audio option is the clear winner. My personal choice is nearly always that of the original language, which in this case is the Cantonese DD5.1 Track that although remixed focuses its output solely on your Centre speaker. This of course leads to practically zero audio separation, but worst of all is that the audio elements for this track must have been in dire condition as it sounds overly harsh on the ears with neither dialogue or music coming across particularly clean and is on the whole best left heard at low volume levels. The remixed English Audio on the other hand makes far better use of the 5.1 Soundstage with the rears being employed for musical accompaniment (and the occasional sound effect) and the centre speaker outputting the dialogue clearly. Most importantly though we are actually treated to an English Dub that should be applauded as it features generally decent voice acting and a faithful script! Given the overall quality of the Cantonese track this English dub makes for a tempting alternative and will certainly test the resolve of any Original Language enthusiasts!
As for the subtitles you can expect the usual English and Dutch tracks that are presented with the level of quality we have come to expect from Hong Kong Legends.
Sadly this is quite a weak disc on the Extra Features front with only one segment (two if you include the obligatory Trailers) being unique to this release.
First up is a static text based biography for leading lady Michelle Yeoh. This 54-screen marathon is an enjoyable and highly comprehensive read but is also identical to that found on the Magnificent Warriors DVD, although that version was presented in Animated format with Narration from American Voice Over man. The presentation here though is on the whole preferable (although splitting it into small chunks would make navigating the text easier) while the content is superb and covers Yeoh’s careers many films in enough depth to urge you to see them while we also learn about her various injuries and of course the huge success Yeoh recently enjoyed with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and will hopefully enjoy with her forthcoming project (which is briefly covered), The Touch. Also featured is a 15-minute interview with Yeoh that is again identical to that found on the last HKL Michelle Yeoh disc, Magnificent Warriors. While it offers nothing new to collectors this interview is of a very high standard and is both highly informative and entertaining to the viewer.
On to the unique extras then we find a new featurette from the HKL team in the form of Battling Babes. Running for 10-minutes and presented in Anamorphic Widescreen this featurette contains interviews with several ladies of Action Cinema including a brief section with Cynthia Rothrock. The other ladies who will grace our screens with their presence are Sophia Crawford (Sarah Michelle Gellar's fight double for Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Michiko Nishiwaki (My Lucky Stars), Moon Lee (Mr. Vampire), Yukari Ôshima (Story Of Ricky) and Kathy Long (Batman Returns). Each of the ladies talks about what it is to be a female action star and of course we are treated to demonstrations by each (be they freshly filmed or archival footage), but most impressive are the glimpses of Mr. Vampire and My Lucky Stars, both of which look quite superb in their remastered state and should be essential purchases later this year.
The final extra features come in the form of Trailers. Both the Original Theatrical Trailer and the HKL Promotional Trailer for Police Assassins are included (and presented in 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen) while the other Michelle Yeoh HKL release, Magnificent Warriors, has its promotional trailer featured also. For a change I am also going to mention the 'Further Attractions' section that rather than containing the same old trailers we are all used to this release sees the first glimpses of Ninja in the Dragons Den, Red Wolf: Platinum Edition and Naked Killer: Platinum Edition - all of which are looking fantastic!
This HKL release shares much in common with their previous release (and now you see why I explained it earlier) In the Line of Duty. On the DVD side it suffers from a slightly grainy print and a selection of weak, mostly already run extra features while the film itself suffers from a dull storyline and only reasonably interesting characters. Unlike In the Line of Duty the film cannot be saved by its fight sequences because while they are impressive, they are also far too brief with only the finale offering any form of sustained interest. This one is strictly for the fans...
Last updated: 12/07/2018 09:31:15