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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Retro Review: Martial Law 2: Undercover (1991)

Martial Law 2: Undercover
Cast: Jeff Wincott, Cynthia Rothrock, Paul Johansson
Genre: Martial Arts

Plot: Undercover cops investigating the death of a fellow officer uncover a ring of murder and corruption at a nightclub where the rich are entertained by seductive women

'Solid Martial Arts Action Effort'

Martial Law 2 is the straight- to- home video follow-up to the 1990 movie, this time with Jeff Wincott and Cynthia Rothrock as cops Sean and Billie, whose characters return for this follow-up that goes 2 steps beyond what the half-effort Martial Law achieved. It has nothing to do with the 1990s CBS TV show, also titled Martial Law with Sammo Hung and Kelly Hu.

The opening 5 mins is a fight fan's delight: both Jeff Wincott (who replaces Chad McQueen, as well as his first starring role as the hero) and Cynthia Rothrock's characters, disguised as a homeless bum and hot dog cart vendor, spring into action by foiling a motorcycle gang who have a shed load box of weapons stashed in a van and by kicking and beating the crap out of them.

Sean Thompson (Wincott) is transferred to a new precinct headed by Captain Krantz to teach martial law techniques to a group of cops. When Sean's friend, a fellow cop is killed, Sean becomes suspicious and sends his partner & girlfriend Billie Blake (Rothrock) to a bar and to pose undercover as a bartender, as the pair digs deep into their investigation. Their trail leads them to smarmy nightclub owner, Spencer Hamilton and his cohorts in muscle-bound, meathead big guy, Tanner and the devious, Bree. Sean and Billie's relationship in this film is played out as strictly platonic.

The music is truly awful, especially the intro Jazz music, which sounds as if the person playing it has hit the wrong keys and not by accident. & to make matters worse, it's the same music that plays in most of the scenes of the film. As for the fisticuffs scenes, like with all action and martial arts based movies, the fight scenes and the quality of the fighting and its execution is the key as to how much I will enjoy the film. The better and the more spectacular it is, the more likely I will like or love it. In Martial Law 2, as less flashy as the martial arts looked on occasions, I'd say it fares a tad better than in many other low-key and low budget action martial arts movies I've sat through. & I say low budget, as with the high budget martial arts movies, the standard of the action exceeds the quality that is in Martial Law 2. The action is less violent and not of the blood and guts variety. The story, though, plods along slowly and some of the stuff sandwiched in-between the action, was forgettable. There is also a tacked on sex scene, which has no bearing on the actual plot.

The disappointing aspect of this film, however, is how little screen time Cynthia and Jeff share together. But for the opening and closing scenes and a few other moments, they are hardly in this film as a duo to beat up the bad guys. It's as if this is two different movies tacked onto one another. With his slicked-back hair and Black trench coat, he looks the part and the producers made the right choice in replacing Steve McQueen with Jeff Wincott, as McQueen in the previous movie was wooden and not very convincing. Wincott was, however, very convincing as an actor, the way he delivers his lines, as well as demonstrate his range as a fighter was entertaining to watch.

The main bad guy Spencer, who along with his henchmen and woman, is a douche and is enjoyable and easily detestable who runs a secret underground that holds illegal fights and mistreats some of the women who work there. The turncoat cop, Dobb's looks a tad like a young Tommy Lee Jones. When Spencer died, I had a smile on my face, because he was so irksome. The further the film went on, the more I got into it and the story. But it ended on a lacklustre note. It does get an extra half a mark for the martial arts fight scenes, which were enjoyable. 

Produced in Canada, this sequel went direct-to-video.

Final Verdict:

Wholeheartedly, this has some good martial arts action sequences in it, but the movie is let down by a borderline middle third, not enough of the Wincott and Rothrock on-screen partnership and it has a stale narrative. Still better than the first movie though and as a B-movie, it is solid and more than holds its own.


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