DVD/Blu Ray

In the Line of Duty 3 and 4 (18) | Home Ents Review

Dir. Arthur Wong/Brandy Yuen, Yuen Woo-Ping, Hong Kong, 1988-9, 84 and 95 mins, subtitles and audio options

Cast: Cynthia Khan, Donnie Yen, Hiroshi Fujioka, Michiko Nishiwaki, Michael Wong, Stuart Ong

Review by Colin Dibben

If you like Hong Kong action films, you’d be several types of fool to miss these two splurges of ‘girls with guns’ mayhem. They were made to cash in on the success of Yes, Madam and Royal Warriors – all four films were retrospectively served up for international markets as a film franchise, In the Line of Duty.

In the Line of Duty 3 introduces Cynthia Khan as uniformed cop Rachel Yeung. After ripping her uniform skirt to facilitate kicking arse, she is soon hot on the tracks of two Japanese terrorists who are in Hong Kong for an audacious jewellery heist. Her uncle is the police chief; in an attempt to keep her out of harm’s way, he gets Rachel to chaperone a Japanese detective (Fujioka) who is in town. In fact, that puts her in harm’s way to the max, as Fujioka is hellbent on revenge as the terrorists killed his partner.

In the Line of Duty 4 sees Yeung team up with two American cops (Donnie Yen in his first big role, and Michael Wong) to protect a Chinese immigrant in Seattle and then HK from the murderous heavies of an international drug trafficking operation.

In the Line of Duty 4 has a huge reputation, largely because it came as career CPR for martial arts choreographer and director Yuen Woo-Ping. Until this, he had been closely identified with historical martial arts films; afterwards he went on to direct sequences in The Matrix and Kill Bill films.

The fight sequences in ILD4 have a clean, classic look: standouts are the extended fight on top, around the back and in fact all over a speeding ambulance and the final rooftop fight between Donnie Yen and Michael Woods, against a backdrop of the old Hong Kong airport.

But rewind to In the Line of Duty 3. I think this is more cheesy fun as a film. It has that slightly manic, comic tone that reflects the fast, slightly implausible action sequences that are scattered throughout. The manic tone is exacerbated by the old-fashioned look of the clothes and haircuts, the banged-up Renault 4 and old British ambulances and police cars that chase around the streets. The whole thing comes across as slightly ironic, in a way that makes ILD4 looks ponderous, over-serious by comparison.

Fight highlights in ILD3 include the jewel heist, a shootout in a small grimy gun factory and the brutal finale in a boat workshop. The focus is more on fresh-faced Cynthia Khan in ILD3, if it is the ‘girls’ in girls with guns that you are after. In ILD4, she plays second fiddle to Donnie Yen.

To prove that we are dealing with commercial product here (and I mean that in the best possible way), there’s a nice story relating to Cynthia, real name Yang Li-Tsing. She is only called Cynthia Khan because Yes, Madam, the first film in the ILD franchise, starred Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Yeoh, who was called Michelle Khan in the international release.


In the Line of Duty 3 and In the Line of Duty 4 are out on Blu-ray from 20 March 2023.