In the Line of Duty III

I was very excited to buy the beautiful new IN THE LINE OF DUTY I-IV blu-ray box set from 88 Films. If you’re not familiar with the series, they are contemporary 1980s Hong Kong movies about female police officers. They call the subgenre “Girls with Guns,” but I like that they’re about the kind of police work that involves high flying martial arts and stunts more than shooting.

IN THE LINE OF DUTY is not as much a series as a brand name – none of them are connected. I had actually only seen two of them – the absolute classic YES, MADAM!, which was the breakthrough movie for both Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock, and ROYAL WARRIORS, starring Yeoh (as a different character) with Hiroyuki Sanada. Now I’m happy to see and review for you the first of the other two included in the set.

Although the logo in the opening credits includes the English title IN THE LINE OF DUTY III, the subtitles call it ROYAL BIG SISTER III: MALE AND FEMALE THIEVES. I guess the Royal Big Sister must be Madam Yeung, played by Cynthia Khan in only her fourth movie. In the opening scene she’s a rookie giving parking tickets in uniform. Even though she’s a cop she’s easy to side with her because a rich douchebag who thinks he can park his fancy rich guy car wherever he wants insults her in front of a laughing crowd. Then an armed robber with a bag full of money happens to flee right past them and they all see her tear her skirt so she can do a bunch of high kicks, acrobatics and lassoing with a string of lights to stop him. How ya like me now?

This white police guy John happens to witness this, and has her transferred to the Serious Crimes Unit, where she’ll be allowed to wear pants, but it’s run by her uncle Cameron Chuen (Paul Chun, HEROIC TRIO), who’s patronizingly overprotective of her and keeps blocking her from getting any assignments.

The opening credits bleed into an arty sequence of mostly white women in black dresses modeling extravagant jewels on a stage with smoke machines and lasers. It’s a show for famous Tokyo jewelry designer Mr. Yamamoto (Hua Yueh, COME DRINK WITH ME) that gets hit by the subtitular Male and Female Thieves, Nakamura Genji (Stuart Ong, ROBOTRIX) and Michiko Nishiwaki (Japan’s first Women’s Bodybuilding and Powerlifting Champion Michiko Nishiwaki, playing herself I guess). We know they’re absolutely vicious because 1) Michiko aggressively kisses a security guard while stabbing him to death and 2) they swing in from above machine gunning everybody at the show, and then the bodies pile up and get shot more during the ensuing shootout. Squibs everywhere. Brutal.

In addition to that, we know they’re clever because they have cool paint roller type devices that attach to the black velvet sheets the jewelry is displayed on and just quickly roll them up for transport.

They confidently flee using Yamamoto as a human shield and rappelling down with ropes that are already in place for them on a balcony. But a pair of Tokyo cops catch up with them on foot and the younger officer, Ken (Kin-sang Lee, EASTERN CONDORS), manages to grab onto Michiko as she leaps over a ledge. Nakamura shoots him until he drops her, so they get away. The older cop, Hiroshi Fujioka (played by… Hiroshi Fujioka, GHOST WARRIOR) survives and wants revenge.

There’s a phenomenon now, seemingly with younger generations – hopefully just a vocal minority on the internet, but who knows – who say there shouldn’t be sex scenes in movies, and complain that they don’t advance the plot. This idea offends me to my core because what kind of a sorry sonofabitch doesn’t understand that stories and art are about a million things in addition to and often way more important than “advancing the plot”? Fuck the plot, and fuck advancing it. I’m going to take that plot, blindfold it, spin it around, make sure it’s facing in the exact wrong direction, and startle it so bad it runs for six days straight and doesn’t turn around, getting so lost you can never find it again. And I’m sorry, I know you loved the plot, but you brought this on yourself when you allowed your puritanical streak to disrespect the cinematic arts. You’ve been spending too much time with the plot, and it’s time for you to be separated for both of your well being. Tough love.

Anyway. Setting all that aside, IN THE LINE OF DUTY III has a sex scene that in my opinion makes the movie. Not in that it’s hot or anything like that, but in that it quickly establishes the complicated pile of hangups, conflicts and traumas the villains are dealing with, making them into interestingly fucked up characters, and them being interesting characters makes the whole movie more interesting, giving this well-built engine of action spectacle the fuel it needs to run. Cut that scene and you’d still have a bunch of great action, but the whole movie would be way less enjoyable.

The scene starts in a nice waterfront view hotel room, where Michiko is sketching a boat. When her muscular partner gets out of the shower she smiles and says, “Let’s buy a yacht and live it up on the Caribbean Sea.” He’s furious – calls her selfish and slaps her. Says they stole the money to buy guns for the Red Army. Hurt, she reaches under her pillow, where she keeps her huge Rambo style hunting knife. She vows that they will die together, slashes across both of their arms, sucks some blood from each wound, kisses his chest, removes his towel using the knife. Then, as they’re furiously humping and hungrily sucking face she holds his head, and, to her dismay, a clump of his hair comes out in her fingers. He puts his hand on her throat as he orgasms – one of those guys. A tear drops from her eye when he’s finished. These two are a mess.

In later scenes it’s spelled out that he only has two months to live, and wants to dedicate his last days sacrificing for the Red Army cause. On a boat, looking at a romantic view of the Hong Kong skyline at night, he says, “I want to cherish every minute, every second. What we need most is ammunition.”

She loves him and would rather cherish those seconds in a different way, but she goes along with what he wants instead. And they do at least get to share sweet moments like when they kiss while blowing up the guys that smuggled them into Hong Kong but tried to extort them.

(There are some nice looking explosions in this one.)

The authorities do in fact call them “The Male and Female Thieves.” Fujioka concludes Yamamoto was colluding with The Male and Female Thieves as an insurance scam (otherwise they would’ve killed him). But Yamamoto’s close ties to politicians make him untouchable. Fujioka is willing to resign to pursue him personally, but the commissioner suggests he can stay on the force and still get Yamamoto by following him on a trip to Hong Kong.

The Serious Crime squad includes a couple of comical nerds, one of them an endearingly grouchy woman (Sandra Kwan Yue Ng, SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT), another with an obvious crush on Yeung. They get sent to bust an underground gunmaker her uncle/boss just describes as “a white guy” (Stephan Berwick, TIGER CAGE). Uncle says he’s dangerous but doesn’t mention his flying kicks. Yeung shows up uninvited and kicks his ass in public, the media finds out about her and her uncle is forced to put her on the case of these thieves who are also terrorists coming to Hong Kong to buy arms for the Red Army.

Fujioka has a huge gun like Dirty Harry and Yeung tells him he can’t have a gun, it’s illegal. She’s by the book and still cooler than him. But he’s pretty cool when he apologizes and pretends to take a poison pill as a fake out to hide in a ceiling tile and then escape. They all fall for it.

Yamamoto is such an asshole to his bodyguards that they quit. They’re leaving when Fujioka shows up to kick his ass and they say, “We’ve quit. Take your time having fun.”

There’s some comedy about Melvin Wong (THE OCCUPANT) as Yamamoto’s manly police escort who used to date Yeung and wants to get back together with her, and an appearance by the late Richard Ng as a guy who pretends to be a ninja as a joke. But don’t worry, the time spent on jokes if far outweighed by action. A shootout and fight breaks out at a club, and people keep dancing at first (JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4 wasn’t the first). There are remote controlled helicopters with explosives attached. Yeung chases the thieves in a stolen truck with boxes dumping out of the back, and she’s jumping over and ducking under them like she’s playing Donkey Kong.

There’s hanging from moving vehicles, long one-on-one fights, using nets and ropes and things, some fire stunts, doing somersaults over cars, getting hit by cars and knocked into water, leaping out of the path of cars and firing into them mid-air. There’s a weird turn of events where (SPOILER) Nakamura gets shot and falls out of a van and gets run over and absolutely torn apart. In the next scene Michiko is in a black and white room and a stylish black dress, possibly contemplating suicide, but then decides on revenge against “that policewoman.” Their associate (Dick Wei, SUPERCOP 2) first makes a pass at her, then slashes his arm with a sword and vows to help her. These people are passionate.

During the climactic garage fight between Yeung and Michiko, Wei’s character pulls a Jason Voorhees move – his hands suddenly burst through a wall to strangle Yeung. Props used include a pile of bricks that smash a car, a large wrench, a chain link fence, a huge drill, a sledge hammer, a bunch of rebar, a hatchet, and a clump of wires Yeung uses to catch Michiko when she falls from the upper level. But then Michiko reveals she’s wearing a suicide vest, so Yeung tosses her headfirst through a window and then leaps away from the explosion. No revenge for her.

This installment is directed by Arthur Wong (cinematographer of THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, HEROES OF THE EAST, DIRTY HO, WHEELS ON MEALS, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, and many other classics) and Brandy Yuen (THE CHAMPIONS), and written by Chan Kiu-Ying (THE POSTMAN STRIKES BACK, GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM). There are a bunch of martial arts directors listed: Kin Sun Lee, Siu-Hung Leung, Brandy Yuen, Cheung-Yan Yuen, Yat Chor Yuen. (Those Yeungs are all siblings of Yuen Woo-ping, who will direct the next entry in the series.)

Finally, it is my duty to report that the score by Phil Chen (STORY OF RICKY) uses the Digital Native Dance sound patch a few times. I don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus, but either way, I highly recommend IN THE LINE OF DUTY III.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 16th, 2023 at 7:28 am and is filed under Reviews, Action. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

19 Responses to “In the Line of Duty III”

  1. There’s a phenomenon now, seemingly with younger generations – hopefully just a vocal minority on the internet, but who knows – who say there shouldn’t be sex scenes in movies

    Have any of these younger people been to a movie lately? Not only are sex scenes are rare and surprising, nowadays. But to see one over 12 seconds in length is downright shocking.

  2. Yeah, actually I hear more people complaining about the lack of sex scenes today. Not even sure if since the ending of GAME OF THRONES even cable/streaming shows have much fuckening going on right now.

  3. I mean, I’m 45 and I still think most sex scenes are garbage because they don’t do any of the shit described in this review. Most sex scenes are just montages of shoulders and sheets that tell us nothing about anything. If the sex actually informs me about the characters, then knock yourself out. Fuck away. But 99% of the time, sex scenes do not do that and that is why they have such a bad reputation. Most movies and TV shows are too fuckin’ long as it is. Stop wasting my time with this soft focus saxophone-and-sideboob bullshit.

    That said, as established yesterday, I am past the point in my journey where I think that just because I’m not into something, it should disappear. If people are into pointless sex scenes in their movies, it’s no skin off my balls. I can always fast forward if it gets too tedious.

    As for this series, I could have sworn I’d seen this one but none of this sounds familiar. I mostly know Part IV, which is one of my personal favorite HK joints, so I’m looking forward to that one.

  4. “There’s a phenomenon now, seemingly with younger generations – hopefully just a vocal minority on the internet, but who knows – who say there shouldn’t be sex scenes in movies”

    Yeah, fuck ’em.

    What makes this line of reasoning so bogus is that it’s ONLY applied to sex scenes. Tell me what a car chase, a scene of hand to hand combat or a pratfall “contributes” to a movie. It’s all titillation in one form or another. It’s all meant to provoke some sort of visceral response in you, be it excitement, laughter or a hard-on.

    So, every time some nimrod tells me “Oh, they should have just cut that sex scene out man, added nothing to the movie” I say, well how about the next Fast (insert number) flick showing Dom getting into his Charger to give pursuit…then cut to 2 smoking metallic wrecks on the freeway? In the next Scott Adkins movie, let’s have him stare down 5 goons in a bar…then cut to bloodied, battered bodies lying in a heap of smashed furniture and shattered glass.

    No, you WANT to see that shit play out in detail, but when it comes to 2 people getting it on, you want a door closing on the couple, then cut to them basking in the afterglow, sheets arranged strategically? Fuck off.

    But I agree, cut out all that billowing curtains, silhouettes moving in the dark, slo-mo shots scored to some cheesy sax shit or power ballad. If you’re gonna shoot it, do it like Verhoeven, replete with full nudity, grunts and copious amounts of sweat.

    Having said that, I agree that the sex scene in this movie does a great job establishing the characters and their intense, fucked up and ultimately doomed relationship.

    As for the movie, I think I mentioned in another thread that I consider the IN THE LINE OF DUTY Quartet and TIGER CAGE Trilogy as superlative examples of Golden Age HK Action at it’s best, batshit crazy and glorious.

  5. “I say, well how about the next Fast (insert number) flick showing Dom getting into his Charger to give pursuit…then cut to 2 smoking metallic wrecks on the freeway? In the next Scott Adkins movie, let’s have him stare down 5 goons in a bar…then cut to bloodied, battered bodies lying in a heap of smashed furniture and shattered glass.”

    You want them to remake Quantum of Solace?

    This sounds like a good time at the movies. Still waiting on my preorder from Amazon. If society can just not collapse until it gets delivered…

  6. It’s not the same thing. It’s a matter of supply and demand. Car chases in a FAST & FURIOUS are the exploitable element. They do not distract from the movie because they ARE the movie. They are the product you are paying for. Same with every genre: When you go to see a comedy, a lengthy sex scene with no jokes would likely be seen as an unwelcome digression. But nobody pays to see movies in which sex is the primary exploitable element anymore because the market has been saturated by porn. Sex scenes are often seen as distractions because they are never the element the audience paid to see. (I feel like this is not the case on TV, where some shows seem to exist solely to showcase their casts in various combinations and states of undress, which further dilutes the value of big-screen sex.) What this says about our society is arguably not great, but it’s a fact. If sex scenes were exploitable, every movie would have them like they did back in the days before easily accessible pornography. Likewise, if car chases were available for free in unimaginable abundance, featuring levels of explicit action that vastly surpasses anything that could possibly be shown on the big screen, then there would be no market for car chases either. It’s happened before. Ebert used to constantly complain about every movie ending in a car chase. This was the era of TJ HOOKER and THE A-TEAM, when that kind of material was common on network TV and thus not as exploitable on the big screen as it was in the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT days. We are not yet at the stage in which large-scale F&F-style action can be accomplished on television, and so we will still pay to see them. For now. But they will likely go the way of the sex scene in our lifetimes.

  7. If sex scenes were exploitable, every movie would have them like they did back in the days before easily accessible pornography.

    Yeah, I’ve heard this one. “What’s the point of mainstream films having sex scenes when porn is so readily available nowadays??”

    Well, seeing that 99% of the readily available porn nowadays is terrible, barley competent, completely devoid of any imagination, doesn’t even try, and is about as hot as watching two slobs get it on next to the dumpster behind TGI Fridays, I’d say there’s a very large point.

  8. I’m not really making that argument. I’m just describing the situation as I see it, which is that the average contemporary sex scene in its current mainstream form neither delivers the character-building notes Vern is talking about nor the sensory titilation that KayKay is talking about, and that is why so many people don’t care for them. If most sex scenes fulfilled either or both of those functions, there wouldn’t be a problem.

  9. Franchise Fred

    May 16th, 2023 at 4:56 pm

    I love these In the Line of Duty movies. Cynthia Khan is awesome. I don’t know why she isn’t mentioned in the same circles as the big Hong Kong stars. I hope 88 does the rest of the satires this nicely too.

  10. I don’t think sex scenes need to deliver titilation or impart great character motivations, I just think it’s weird for movies to be sexless because at a certain point it feels untrue. We’ve got all these movies full of the most gorgeous people alive running around, fighting, bleeding, sweating, dying for one another and no one ever fucks? Everyone is completely asexual. It feels weird. It feels like they’re missing an important aspect of life.

    And I don’t even think it’s just like, actual sex scenes. There’s almost no fuck energy from any modern hollywood films. Like you watch something like Master Z, and there’s the scene of Michelle Yeoh and Jin Zhang fighting over a whiskey glass and even though it’s non sexual that’s the horniest fucking thing put on film, those two absolutely fuck. But stuff like that is completely absent from modern hollywood films and it feels weird and chaste.

  11. The essay Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny at Blood Knife might be apropos. (First comment after years reading the websight; hopefully the link doesn’t turn out malformed.)

  12. Damn billowing curtains and soft focus sex went out in the 90s yo. They haven’t been slowing down movies for sex senes in a long time.

    There’s less sex in movies now but that’s good…there’s also a lot less stupid boring romantic subplots that had to get shoehorned into every single movie back in the day to slow shit up. Like, I’m here to watch Brandon Lee karate kick gangsters, what does wasting ten minutes of screen time with a romance plot add to anything except some quick titty shots. Remember when quick titty shots had t be in every R-rated movie no matter what? Okay, time to see Stallone grinding on some chick because it’s 50 minutes into the movie and we want to pretend this will sell tickets to women. And lots of sex was still not that common. Like, what made Basic Instinct stick out is that was uncommon, same with Showgirls. And a lot of sex stuff back then was boring…like, Red Shoe Diaries, ten minutes of grinding doesn’t add much, it’s for people too afraid to walk into the porn section of their video store.

    Theres a bit of sex still happening, in low budget town there’s still quite a bit of nudity and sexy type flicks. HBO has that Sydney Sweeney show. Hulu had that show a few years ago. A lot of foreign movies which brought us most of the good sex scenes back in the day anyway. Vikings is still going and has sex scenes, White Lotus has a bunch and got Aubrey Plaza naked once again and to my knowledge finally show her boobs. We had GLOW, which was an awesome show, if they hadn’t just killed it due to Covid might be watching it right now too.

  13. Oh yeah there’s also a tv show called Slip, haven’t seen it but apparently a lot of fukkin in that one. Happy hunting, boys!

  14. If you’ll forgive the self-promotion, this is the kind of thing I wanted to tackle with my ebook (

    ). Do a big pulpy adventure that has as much sex as it does violence. Not just to be titillating (although there is that) but because sex is a part of life and it can reveal character and develop relationships. And as long as we’re cool with James Bond shooting thirty guys, we should be okay with him taking two or three girls to bed over the course of a spy-type mission. I’m not sure what it says about our culture that Eon thinks we’d rather see Bond wallow in depression than get laid. This is escapism?

  15. Booooooooooooooooone?!

    (Gonna check it out. Also I finally found my copy of WORM ON A HOOK and am in a reading mood.)

  16. “Damn billowing curtains and soft focus sex went out in the 90s yo'”.

    Oh…billowing curtains do exist, I guarantee you, it’s just gone underground, it’s probably in some el Cheapo dumped on the Streaming Graveyard as opposed to proudly featuring in your Summer Blockbuster.

    “There’s less sex in movies now but that’s good”

    Why is that good? Now, I’m not talking about an action movie that takes a solid 15 minutes out of it’s run time to focus on a bed scene. My bone of contention is with those specific movie going audience that thinks a 2 min digression into some simulated sex is a violation of some cardinal rule of storytelling. Look, very few movies have such amazing economy of narrative that there’s not a single wasted word or scene. Most indulge in some non-essential fluff to pad out their running time. But it’s the detour into a little sex that riles some people up and I’m trying to understand why.

    Lemme give you a specific example:

    In LETHAL WEAPON 2, there’s a scene where Leo Getz is in a car ranting to Riggs and Murtaugh about drive throughs (They fuck you in the drive through!). This is pure filler as there’s been 2 other scenes which establish Leo as this anal retentive and also the growing camaraderie between him, Riggs and Murtaugh. In the same movie, Riggs takes a blonde back to his trailer and has sex with her. The group that harps on about “Sex scenes not being essential” would have no problem with the Leo Getz scene but would single out the Riggs/Rika sex scene as being a detraction. They’re both fillers, just that one’s a man comically ranting, one’s 2 good looking people grinding. I’ll take the latter over the former any day.

    “Like, I’m here to watch Brandon Lee karate kick gangsters, what does wasting ten minutes of screen time with a romance plot add to anything except some quick titty shots. ”

    If you’re talking about RAPID FIRE, it was hardly 10 minutes, it was like a 30 second love scene between him and Kate Hodge, and in a movie as tightly edited and paced as this one, I’m not gonna complain about a little skin.

    And for the record…quick titty shots are on par with a close up of Stallone’s rippling biceps as he sharpens his knife in RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART 2 or Arnie’s “Guns” as John Matrix carries a log in COMMANDO: If it looks good, show ’em!

    “Okay, time to see Stallone grinding on some chick because it’s 50 minutes into the movie and we want to pretend this will sell tickets to women.”

    Ummm..Stallone’s a poor example as there’s been…what like ONE movie of his in the past 30 years with a sex scene. And that was THE SPECIALIST. And that shower scene wasn’t to sell tickets to women who were never Stallone’s core fan base. It was to rope in even more guys who’d jacked off more times to BASIC INSTINCT and SLIVER than they could count not to mention capitalizing on Stone’s 15 minutes of fame. Once again, have no issues with the scene being there, merely it’s choreography which was so staged.

    The larger point is the current cultural climate that simply doesn’t encourage a lot of sex in your Summer Tentpoles. Budgets have started rivalling the GDPs of a small country, so producers need to snag that coveted PG-13 rating that pulling in the widest possible audience. There’s increased sensitivity around exploitation and sexual harassment.

    Yeah, TV shows still have them and some niche Indie flicks would indulge in them “for arts sake”, but sex scenes these days would mostly be relegated to soft porn stuff like 365 DAYS that’s on Netflix.

  17. “We’ve got all these movies full of the most gorgeous people alive running around, fighting, bleeding, sweating, dying for one another and no one ever fucks? Everyone is completely asexual. It feels weird. It feels like they’re missing an important aspect of life.”

    Spot on, Ben!

    Like, I was watching this recent film GHOSTED, an action comedy with 2 of the most gorgeous people making movies today. But as Ben said, there’s zero fuck energy between Chris Evans and Ana De Armas.

    But almost 40 years ago, in ROMANCING THE STONE (which movies like GHOSTED and THE LOST CITY owe a huge debt to) the script had no issues with Douglas and Turner taking some “between the sheets” time amidst the running and the shooting. It was practically expected 2 good looking people thrown together for such an intense adventure would get it on at some point.

  18. When I say less sex scenes is good, I don’t mean in a movie where they’re part of it…like Basic Instint. But it became a boring trope overused and I don’t miss them. Let’s say it like this…Leo Getz screaming out drive-thrus was more original than the cop investigating some rimes falling for the woman who’s sort of involved, and then we get some flirting scenes, and another, and then they fuck. I actually don’t mind the LW2 scene because it led to some good drama with the death…another cliche but it’s an 80s cop movie I guess.

    With the Rapid Fire example, I wasn’t speaking so specifically to that scene but the idea of that scene…and it’s not just the sex sene, as I said. It’s the buildup to it, where we get uninteresting out of place scenes where they have to get to that point. Was it ten minutes, don’t know. But it was more than 30 seconds for that dull shit. One thing I always admired about Hard Target is they never went there…they stayed on target and didn’t do the love scene which must have KILLED Jean Claude cause you know he loves showing his ass. Was Timecop after that, he made up for it. Nudity now is more integrated into storylines so yeah we don’t get a lot of shower scenes just tossed in there, or kids spying on women getting undressed…except for low budget land. There’s a ton of nudity on Tubi, but doubt you want to watch the crap it’s in the middle of.

    365 Days was a foreign movie, and there’s a shit-ton of sex senes still coming in from overseas where movies don’t 150 mil. If you don’t believe me go to one of those nude celeb forums, heck out Mr. Skin. Not like the bygone era but they’re not starving for new material. Oh I remember the name of that show from Hulu now, Normal People. Back in the day that would have been a movie. The kinds of movies that used to have sex scenes are now tv shows, dramas and such, so that’s where the sex is. I mean hell there’s lots of stuff we don’t get on mainstream cineplexes anymore, mid-budget military action stuff you forget a few days later like Extraction. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  19. I’m jumping into this HK action thread to give a shout out for POLITE SOCIETY – it’s a total hoot. Highly recommend!

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