DVD/Blu Ray

China O’Brien 1&2 (18) |Home Ents Review

Dir. Robert Clouse, US, 1990, 178 mins

Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Keith Cooke

Review by Colin Dibben

Interesting but pretty lame vehicles for the great Cynthia Rothrock, directed cheap and fast by Robert Clouse of Enter the Dragon and Game of Death fame.

China (Rothrock) is a city cop who returns to her rural hometown after she kills a young hoodlum. Daddy is the sheriff, trying to clean up a corrupt town. When he is murdered, China teams up with old flame Matt (Norton) and renegade biker Dakota (Cooke) to catch the killers and run for sheriff.

In the second film, an armed group descends on the town, looking for a traitor who has disappeared into the witness protection programme. Guns, ammo and flying kicks are deployed with abandon.

As Cynthia Rothrock admits in the interview which comes as an extra, these are cheapie films. The filming schedule – a scene from one film would be followed by a scene from the other – made it difficult to do much with an actor’s performance. This shows.

As does the back of a pack of fags storyline. Nothing is particularly credible, nothing is fantastic. For example, in the first film the script doesn’t stretch as far as detailing the corruption: a bent cop is simply passing information to a local businessman. Imagine making the UK’s noughties phone-hacking scandal a plotline in an action movie – although in China O’Brien the perps are prepared to kill to keep their connection secret.

The plot in the first film especially just plods. Most disappointing though are the lacklustre fights.

It just goes to show what was special about Hong Kong action films of the period. As Ms. Rothrock has said elsewhere, in HK movies they would spend a month on one action sequence, working on the stunts. Here, both films were shot in 6 weeks.

Still, Ms. Rothrock is always watchable: her physical power and intensity never ceases to amaze given her stature and the slightly puzzled look in her cornflower blue eyes. Plus, the film has lots of laughable hairstyles on display. The sort of hairstyles that you thought were consigned to the recycle of fashion history by 1990.


China O Brien 1&2 is out on Blu-ray from Eureka! on 29 April 2024.