In MARTIAL LAW II: UNDERCOVER, our hero Sean “Martial Law” Thompson from the movie MARTIAL LAW has gone so far undercover that he doesn’t even look like Chad McQueen anymore, he looks like Jeff Wincott (MISSION OF JUSTICE). But he’s still with his cop girlfriend Billie Blake (Cynthia Rothrock) and he still opens the movie by stopping some bad guys while in disguise. Last time he was a pizza delivery guy stopping a hostage situation during a jewelry store robbery, this time he pretends to be a confused homeless guy and interrupts some bikers making an arms deal.
In case you forgot, he’s called Martial Law because he is a lawman who does martial arts. In fact he does so many martial arts that this time he gets a credits sequence where he’s silhouetted doing katas in front of flags while smooth jazz plays. He just made detective, but he gets transferred to another city to start a martial arts training program for the police there. He and Billie have the kind of relationship where that’s okay, you can just move away and it’ll be okay, no discussion necessary.
Although this is from 1991, years after most humans were aware of everything from Bruce Lee to THE KARATE KID, word apparently hadn’t gotten to the police community yet about what martial arts were. When he gives his first lesson one of the officers says “It looks like dancing in your pajamas. I mean, it’s ridiculous!” So he has to do some moves on that chump. (I wish Seagal had to do that on a Lawman episode, but they always seem impressed by him. No fun.)
Sean is excited to be working with Borelli, an old buddy from the academy, and it does that thing where the hero says something like “Is something wrong?” and the other guy is like “No! I’m great!” and you know that it means that although we the viewers didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary these guys are really close so Sean is just able to sense that Borelli has discovered corruption and is in alot of trouble with bad cops and gangsters and they’re going to kill him and make it seem like he died in a drunk driving accident but he just told Sean that he wasn’t drinking anymore and Sean knows that he was telling the truth so he investigates even though his boss tells him not to and he gets Billie to go undercover as a bartender at a place called Club Syntax to help find out what’s the deal because he found a tell-tale matchbook in the car wreckage which he took from the scene and didn’t tell other officers about. That kind of movie.
The bad guy Spencer Hamilton (Paul Johansson, BOONDOCK SAINTS II, One Tree Hill, Beverly Hills 90210) is enjoyably hateable. He’s a douchey pony-tailed son-of-a-businessman who is first seen taking sword lessons in a karate gi at his mansion during taping of a TV profile. At his club he runs secret underground death matches and mistreats a stable of hot women that don’t seem to be prostituted but are sort of like bar escorts or something. It’s unclear.
Billie fits in and becomes friends with the girls. When Tiffany (Deborah Driggs, a former Playmate who portrayed Elizabeth Taylor’s character from GIANT in a 1992 Mazda commercial) is getting harassed at the bar, Billie grabs the guy by the balls. In retaliation that night she gets attacked by four guys in the parking lot. She not only beats them up and punches a guy in the balls, she also steals a guy’s metal baseball bat out of his hand, kicks him so he breaks off a car door and is knocked out and the door tips over on top of him. Then she steps over him and the door, and the last guy left grabs something out of a car, I think maybe it’s The Club or something. So she spins the bat almost as if she were some sort of a Forms and Weapons Champion and then points it at him and he doesn’t say anything but if he did it would be something like”well anyway guys, I forgot I have a dentist’s appointment, gotta go,” and he runs like hell.
Tiffany’s response to what she just saw Billie do: “GEEZ, LOUISE!”
And Spencer’s response is to move her over to the security team.
This is mostly a Rothrock movie, which is a good thing. But Wincott gets a good part in the climax where he takes one of Spencer’s henchmen hostage and leads him around with a collar attached to a shotgun. The guy pulls a knife out of his boot so Sean immediately blows his neck off, then does a cool move spinning the gun around and shooting another guy with it while he has his back turned to him. The opposite of shooting a guy in the back. Shooting a guy backwards.
In the first one I was impressed that Rothrock’s climactic showdown was with a capable male fighter. Here they build up a woman for her to fight, so I was a little worried she was gonna be disrespected here. Fortunately it takes her maybe 7 seconds. She snaps her arm, chases her down a flight of stairs, then kicks her over a railing. And like that she’s out there beating up dudes again.
Most of the final henchmen are killed by falling. That includes a guy that swings down on a chain to fight Sean, and two guys who have a stick fight with Billie. But when the long-haired henchman guy Tanner comes in, takes off his tie and throws down, Sean hangs him from a chain exactly like Karl in DIE HARD. Then he makes fun of his suit.
The Sean vs. Spencer finale is a pretty vicious fight with class tension subtext, because Spencer wears a suit and tie while Sean wears jeans and a blue work shirt. I had to laugh a little because there are two parts where Sean punches him Popeye style, just a rapid series of consecutive punches. The finishing move is pretty cool: he takes Spencer’s pointy weapon, jams it into the metal grid they’re standing on, and kicks him onto it. But it’s too bad Billie runs up right after the fight ends. She coulda handled the fucker.
The Captains in this movie are Max Thayer from NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2 and Billy Drago from DELTA FORCE 2. Of course Drago was the lead villain in DELTA FORCE 2, here he seems to be a good guy at first. I had my fingers crossed for “secret bad guy,” which doesn’t exactly come to fruition. But he is involved in a sleazy secret affair that ends up getting a woman killed as a way to blackmail him.
The ending is really fucked up. As soon as they’ve killed all the warrior guys Sean says that the captain was involved, and they head to his house to confront him. But just as they walk up he’s inside blowing his own head off. Cut to credits. Weird.
Wincott, a Taekwondo black belt, had been in TV shows and movies before, but this was the start of his career as an action hero. Director Kurt Anderson later directed him in MARTIAL OUTLAW and OPEN FIRE, and even did second unit for MISSION OF JUSTICE. He also directed BOUNTY TRACKER with Lorenzo Lamas and a couple serial killer type thrillers in the late ’90s.
Here’s a crazy thing. That henchman Tanner, the guy on the right there…
…is played by Evan Lurie, a stuntman and martial artist who appears in movies such as DOUBLE IMPACT, AMERICAN KICKBOXER 2 and CYBORG 3. IMDb says he’s also the same Evan Lurie that’s the brother of musician John Lurie, member of the band The Lounge Lizards, and composer of JOHNNY STECHINO, TREE’S LOUNGE, JOE GOULD’S SECRET, LONESOME JIM, JACK GOES BOATING, etc.
Here’s what it says when you click on his biography:
This blew my mind. Who knew that the indie film score darling started out as a big lug in martial arts b-movies? Well, nobody, because he didn’t. After more research I can confirm that they have Brundleflied two different Evan Luries. Here’s an article about the one who’s in MARTIAL LAW II, who was born in New York in 1966, and is not brothers with the musician John Lurie. He is brothers with art dealer Bruce Lurie, whose bios claim he gave the first show to Jean-Michel Basquiat, who John Lurie was a friend and mentor to. So it’s possible that the two Evan Luries could even have crossed paths outside of IMDb at some point. Who knows?
Martial Arts Evan Lurie studied martial arts, was a stuntman on The Equalizer, and moved to Los Angeles to try to get into movies, where like many before him he ended up just seeing the movie stars in his job as a bouncer at the Roxbury. While working there he supposedly got into a situation similar to Billie’s in the movie: he protected a woman from unwanted advances, then got jumped after work and got into a big fight. Unlike Billie he got arrested. But instead of being rewarded with a security job (since he already had one) he got bailed out by the woman’s husband, who was producing a movie that must’ve been DOUBLE IMPACT, and hired him as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s assistant. (The article is really detailed, but a little iffy on movie facts. It claims he was almost killed filming a movie called WHITE TIGER 2, which I figure to be TIGER CLAWS II. It also talks about his wife Jennifer being an actress and “in the film business,” but I can’t find her in IMDb. Not that I can trust them when it comes to Luries.)
Surprisingly, the part in the bio about the art gallery really is not Lounge Lizards Evan Lurie, it’s MARTIAL LAW II Evan Lurie. After co-starring with Don “The Dragon” Wilson in the 1997 Fred Olen Ray joint INFERNO, he and his wife opened an art gallery in West Hollywood and helped develop the Avenues of Art and Design district. Then they did something similar with his brother in Miami. Years later Lurie found a neighborhood in Carmel, Indiana that he decided was perfect for building an arts and design district from the ground up. He became a consultant to the mayor and invested $1.7 million of his own money, matched by the city, for his gallery, which opened in 2007.
He upset some neighbors by having doorknobs shaped like naked men, and some local artists by not selling their work, but his business was very successful and the neighborhood thrived. Then, a couple years ago, he got busted and embarrassed in a prostitution sting, so the city started distancing itself from him, as did his wife, according to this article that refers to him as “the disgraced art dealer.” But the gallery does still exist, and still under his name, so maybe he’s weathered the storm.
The other weird postscript to this one is what became of main bad guy portrayer Paul Johansson. I thought he was a good b-movie villain, a sort of Karate Patrick Bateman, so I got a good laugh when I realized that he not only played John Galt in ATLAS SHRUGGED PART I, but directed it as well. I was telling a buddy about this and he said “Wait a minute, is that the same guy from Mad Men who got into trouble?” It turns out he played a sexual harasser on Mad Men and then was accused of misogynistic comments and sexual harassment during an interview by a Buzzfeed reporter.
After reading up on the incident, I cannot sanction his alleged use of the phrase “I’m sweating like a rapist,” but it seems somewhat unclear whether he really did anything wrong or not, it could go either way. However, since there is ample proof he is an Ayn Rand fan I can still say for sure he is a real life b-movie villain.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.