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Monday, 5 June 2017

Retro Review: In The Line of Duty 4: Witness (1989) #Hongkongcinema

In The Line of Duty 4: Witness (Wong Ka Si Sei 4: Sik Gik Sing Yan)
Cast: Donnie Yen, Michael Wong, Cynthia Khan, Yuen Yat-chor
Genre: Action
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $12 million

Plot: A Hong Kong cop and two American cops are onto a suspected harbour worker and are forced to team up when they discover the suspect is a witness on the run from CIA agents & their schemers, two corrupt cops

'Early Starring Role For Donnie Yen & Entertaining Action Martial Arts Romp'

A youthful-looking martial arts star, Donnie Yen stars as Captain Donnie Yan and Khan's Yeung Lai-ching, Donnie's partner in crime, who are on the lookout for a Chinese guy, a dock worker, who becomes embroiled in a drugs incident and is a target for the CIA. They believe he might be an associate for the drug dealers, yet it turns out he was at the wrong place and at the wrong time. At the same time, they become suspicious of a fellow cop, Wong, who may have ties with the bad guys. 

In the Line of Duty 4 is more in line with Police Story as a film goes than Tiger Cage, theme-wise and yet it relies less so on comical interludes. It also represents something of a cross between Jackie Chan's Police Story and Yes Madam!, with Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rodrick. Coincidentally enough, Yeoh pulled out of this film - only to be replaced by Cynthia Khan. & quite frankly, her replacement did a terrific job. Though in the trickier stunts, she is replaced with a stunt double. The Donnie and Cynthia male/female cop pairing would later be replicated in Police Story 3, 3 years later with Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh in the main roles. 

This was also the film that helped break new mould for Donnie Yen as a star in Hong Kong and helped established himself as the next best thing to come out of the martial arts action movie scene, since Jet Li and Jackie Chan. 

The plot may be generic, unoriginal and predictable as you'll find in any other Hong Kong martial arts-based action flick, but every 10-15 mins or so, there is a fight scene that springs out, which means there is less chance of the film becoming dull, and each of these set pieces get better and better, the longer the film continues. Pretty much each and every one of them is jaw-dropping and at times, extraordinary to watch as the fight choreography was equally impressive. The story takes a back seat to all of the over-the-top action that occurs, although parts of the story were quite interesting as well. 

Cynthia Khan is impressive with her martial arts skills and physical agility, her character is like the female equivalent to Jackie Chan, who is not afraid to get stuck in and perform some deft-defying moves. One scene has her hanging off the side of an ambulance van. Likewise, main man Donnie Yen kicks major ass and the speed of his movements is lightning fast. He edges out Cynthia on the basis that he didn't rely on stunt doubles and director, Yuen Woo-Ping delivers some impressive fight choreography and the quality one would expect from Hong Kong. Characterisation wise, Yen's character is arrogant & has a tendency to lose his temper, quite literately. In contrast, Khan's character is the one who chooses to play by the rules, but whose personality is, well, rather bland. 

The film does descend into light-hearted scenes, but for the most part of 90 mins, the action is great to watch: it's fast-paced which doesn't slow down due to the editing. It is also varied, hard-hitting, no-nonsense stuff and is the reason why one should watch In The Line of Duty 4. It's no wonder that it has earned a reputation from Hong Kong action movie aficionados as one of the best cop-based films that deserves a place alongside Police Story 1 and 3: Supercop. 

Final Verdict

They don't make em' like they used to, in Hong Kong that is, anymore. In the Line of Duty 4 is early Donnie Yen at his best, who takes charge and her co-star, Cynthia Khan fairing rather well, despite having stunt doubles on hand, with some great martial arts action, even if the story is flat and leaves a lot to be desired. 

This is an entertaining action film for Donnie fans and for those of you interested in his earlier work; plus, it's so easily up there with Police Story 3


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