In the world of martial arts action, names like Jimmy Wang Yu (One-Armed Boxer), Gordon Liu (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin), Bruce Lee (Fist of Fury), Sammo Hung (Enter the Fat Dragon), Jackie Chan (Drunken Master), and Donnie Yen (Tiger Cage) are going to be spoken of with much reverence and respect. But these are not the only names which should be spoken in whisper when talking trash. That honor always belongs to Michelle Yeoh (Magnificent Warriors), Cynthia Rothrock (Millionaires’ Express), and Cynthia Khan (Tiger Cage II), the actors who lead or co-lead the first four films of the In the Line of Duty series, a grouping of nine total films connected by theme rather than characters. Gathering the first four films in one Blu-ray collection is 88 Films as part of their 88 Asia Collection, placing each individual release in their own sleeve complete with singular bonus features on-disc and in the package.
If you’re coming into these films blind, let me break down each film in brief to give you a sense of what to expect. Though the films may be referred to under different titles elsewhere, for the sake of simplicity, I will only use the titles presented on each included disc:
When Hong Kong officer Michelle Yip (Yeoh), Air Marshall Michael Wong (Michael Wong), and Japanese Officer Peter Yamamoto (Hiroyuki Sanada) foil an airplane hijacking, they find themselves the target of the individuals behind the attempted hijacking. No one is safe with these killers on the loose and operating within the law may prove too restrictive to stop them.
When a couple of thieves blunder their way into a larger scheme between an undercover agent and a hired gun, Hong Kong officer Senior Inspector Ng (Yeoh) is partnered with London-based Senior Inspector Carrie Morris (Rothrock) to find the thieves and track down the evidence they stole as the body count grows.
In the Line of Duty III
When two thieves shoot up a fashion show to steal thousands of dollars in jewelry, they make an enemy of Japanese officer Hiroshi Fujioka (Hiroshi Fujioka), who tails them to Hong Kong. Also trying to track down the thieves is new Hong Kong officer Yeung Lai-Ching (Khan), whose intentions shift from professional to personal as well when the thieves’ bloody methods go too far.
In the Line of Duty IV
Part of an international sting operation, Hong Kong officer Inspector Yeung Lai-Ching (Khan) reluctantly comes to work with U.S.-based officer Donnie Yan (Yen) and his boss Captain Michael Wong (Wong) to gather evidence of corruption within the operation that ties cops to drugs deals.
There’s a bit of weirdness with this collection worth mentioning as there doesn’t seem to be a clear and agreed upon answer for it: Royal Warriors (1986) is considered the first In the Line of Duty film with this package, not Yes, Madam! (1985), despite being in theaters the prior release year. After watching the two films, I can’t seem to locate a specific reason as to why Royal is placed first, but, when you put in Madam!, the menu screen clearly includes a subtitle of In the Line of Duty II making it clear that, at least for 88 Films, Madam! Is the second film. Incidentally, it’s worth noting that III is the first official film in the series with the In the Line of Duty title, with the prior two films having it added later after Hong Kong studio D & B Films decided to extend their success with Royal and Madam by making more movies within the newly designated “girls with guns” action subgenre created via those two films. The good news is that you can really watch these films in any order you like as there is little continuity from one film to the next outside of Khan reprising her role of Yeung Lai-Ching in IV from III. Michael Wong *does* return to play Michael Wong in IV, but this is very much a different character from Royal Warriors.
So what does this 88 Films collector’s edition entail?
If you’ve purchased an 88 Films special edition release before, you know that they’re about the quality. The packaging is a thick cardboard containing the four films in individual slim-disc cases, accompanied by two reversible posters and an essay booklet. The four films are black on the outside and opaque inside so that you can see some art when accessing the disc and each one is lined up in order with the titles facing out for easy identification. One poster is strictly for Royal Warriors, depicting two different promo designs; while the other is a larger version of the protective case’s artwork with Yes, Madam! on the opposite side. So, if you were hoping for a little more Khan love, not in this edition. It does make sense, though, to place a little more singular emphasis on Royal as it is considered the first film. The booklet is about 100 pages of essays, reprinted marketing materials, and basically any fan of these films would want. All of this is typical of 88 Films, which should make collectors and enthusiasts happy. Be advised, though, that the method of wrapping the boxset in plastic may result in some minor bowing on the side where the materials can be removed from within. The cardboard doesn’t seem to be of the same density of single-film releases like this year’s limited edition releases of Dragons Forever or Police Story 3: Super Cop, which is likely attributed to not ballooning the cost. The good news is that the bowing mostly disappears with the plastic gone and will likely maintain its integrity when worked into a collection on a shelf.
These films can be purchased individually, with Eureka Entertainment having released Region B special edition versions in 2022. There is some overlap in on-disc materials, but not enough one way or the other for Region B owners to feel somehow slighted or vice versa. Considering that each of these films have their pluses and minuses, being able to hand-select the films you want in a 1080p High-Definition Blu-ray would be great, but there’s a nice savings to snagging the first four films as a package, especially when you add in the two reversible posters and essay booklet.
Before wrapping this home release recommendation, it’s worth noting that part of the reason that these films endure isn’t just due to the leads and the surprise cameos, but the directors who bring it all together. Royal Warriors is helmed by David Chung of Magnificent Warriors (1987), Yes, Madam! is helmed by Corey Yuen of Dragons Forever (1988) and The Transporter (2002), and In the Line of Duty IV is helmed by the incredible and irreplaceable actor/writer/stunt coordinator/director Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix franchise/Drunken Master/The Grandmaster). Each of these directors left an indelible mark on action cinema. Without their talents, some of our favorite martial arts action tales may be little more than a drop in the whole of cinema history.
Personally, as a first-time watch of these four films, I find the first two far more interesting top to bottom, while the third and fourth films are interesting in parts versus the whole. But none of them are boring, even when they side-line the female leads for far too long. Luckily, when they are brought back into the narrative, there’s not a single hesitation to place them right into the mix, holding nothing back along the way. Though the films are not restored to 2K or higher, there’s no denying why these films were successful, the action and drama popping off the screen. Ultimately, those who snag this set are likely to be greatly satisfied.
In the Line of Duty I-IV Special Features:
Royal Warriors Special Features:
- 2.0 Cantonese Mono Theatrical Mix
- 2.0 Cantonese Alternate Mix
- 2.0 Classic English Dub
- 5.1 New English Dub
- Newly translated English subtitles
- Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Film Expert Frank Djeng
- Missing Aeroplane Inserts
- Cantonese Trailer
- English Trailer
- English In the Line of Duty Titles
Yes, Madam! Special Features:
- Hong Kong Cut featuring: Cantonese Original Theatrical Mix Mono & Cantonese (Home Video Mix) Mono Original Effects
- 5.1 New English Dub
- Export Version with classic English Dub
- Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng (HK Version)
- Interview with Cynthia Rothrock
- Select Scene Commentary with Cynthia Rothrock and Frank Djeng
- Interview with Men Hoi
- Archive Interview with Michelle Yeoh
- Archive Battling Babes Featurette
- Hong Kong Trailer
In The Line of Duty III Special Features:
- 2.0 Cantonese Mono with English Subtitles
- 2.0 English Mono
- Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng and Michael Worth
- Interview with John Sham by Frederic Ambroisine
- Hong Kong Trailer
- English Trailers
- English Credits
In The Line of Duty IV Special Features:
- Hong Kong cut, featuring: 2.0 Cantonese Mono with English Subtitles + 2.0 English Mono
- Export Version of the film featuring the Classic English Dub
- Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng and F.J. DeSanto (HK Cut)
- Archive Interview with Donnie Yen
- Hong Kong Trailer
- English Trailer
Available in a 4-disc collector’s boxset May 16th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official MVD Entertainment Group In the Line of Duty I-IV webpage.
Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews
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