Righting Wrongs (1986)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Lethal Weapon 4

Eastern Condors

Once Upon a Time in China

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Righting Wrongs

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Our rating: three LAVA® motion lamps.

Righting Wrongs
Yuen Biao can never catch a break.
Prosecutor Hsia (Yuen Biao from Eastern Condors) has a problem. He is prosecuting a known drug runner named Chow, but despite the fact that the police have eight drawers of information on Chow, Hsia's entire case is based on one witness. That witness was brutally murdered the night before along with his entire family. Frustrated with a legal system that protects "scum," and encouraged by a trial judge(!), Hsia sets out on a career as a part-time vigilante.

Hsia starts by killing Chow's assistant Wei Cheng. To do this, Hsia drops off an office building's roof attached to a line, bursts through the window of Wei's office, and beats Wei to death with his bare hands (and sneakered feet). Then Hsia, in a spectacular stunt scene, drops face first to street level, arriving smoothly and safely at the bottom. Eat that, Tom Cruise!

The local head of police, Sergeant Wong, assigns Caucasian cop Cindy to investigate Wei's murder. Cindy is played by American martial arts star Cynthia Rothrock. Rothrock is probably best known in the states for the Lady Dragon and Rage and Honor films, none of which give you any idea of how good she can be in an action scene. She is the highlight of Righting Wrongs, though for some reason she's wearing enough make-up to be all five members of Duran Duran.

Cindy figures out that Hsia is the culprit pretty quickly, but can't prove anything. She visits him at his apartment (Which is huge! Are prosecutors in Hong Kong paid like professional baseball players?), and the two debate the validity of vigilante action in a lawful society. Cindy, being a by-the-book type, refuses to acknowledge that you should ever take the law into your own hands.

Righting Wrongs
"Nothing to worry about.
Guns never work in a kung-fu movie."
Hsia next makes an attempt on the life of Chow. He breaks into Chow's house, only to find Chow already dead. Chow was killed by his superior, the mysterious "Crown," who is actually Sergeant Wong! As Hsia is examining the body, Cindy shows up and tries to arrest him at gun point. Hsia manages to disarm her, the two scramble for the gun, and Cindy retrieves it.

Just kidding. This being a martial arts film, as soon as the gun flies out of Cindy's hand it disappears into the Discarded Gun Dimension, so Cindy and Hsia have a rollicking martial arts fight through Chow's opulently appointed house instead. Hsia manages to handcuff Cindy to a rail and make a get away.

One would think that the game would be up for Hsia, especially when Cindy shows up at one of Hsia's court dates, intent on arresting him. Perhaps not surprisingly, the aforementioned trial judge provides Hsia with a bogus alibi, and Cindy leaves empty handed. The rest of the movie concerns itself with Wong's attempts to cover up his crimes, and the final comeuppance he gets once Hsia and Cindy find out his true colors.

One thing should be made clear about this movie is that it is not any kind of serious movie about the pros and cons of vigilantism. Hsia's turn towards do-it-yourself justice is merely an excuse to get a whole bunch of kung fu fights into the movie. As acted by Yuen Biao, Hsia seems ridiculously glib about the whole situation, especially when we find out that he knew the family whom we see killed at the beginning of the film. Meanwhile, Cindy's opposition to vigilantism is merely an excuse for her to get into a fight with Hsia. The parts of the movie that don't deal directly with people beating the stuffing out of each other are often silly and incompetent. Worst of all, to fill the movie out to feature length, a large amount of Righting Wrongs' running time is filled by the alleged comic relief of Cindy's hapless partner, Bad Egg.

Righting Wrongs
"That's the last time I fall asleep at
Boy George's house!"
Take this example: Bad Egg is sitting in Cindy's parked car when a meter maid comes by to ticket it. Egg shows her his CID identification, saying he is a "friend." She says that she hates police. He says he will just drive the car away. She says she can write a ticket in eleven seconds. Bad Egg puts on his seat belt, adjusts the mirrors and starts the car, but not in time to avoid the ticket. The meter maid then asks him for his license, because the car is now running. Bad Egg only has a temporary one, but he says he's going for his test the next day. The meter maid asks, "You want me to give you a break?" He nods yes. But she counters, "I get my satisfaction from stomping people at the lowest point of their lives," and she tickets him for driving without a license. Cindy arrives back at the car, and berates Bad Egg for getting ticketed so easily. Egg points out that it isn't his fault, and points out to Cindy that two cars across the street are also being ticketed.

Ha ha! It just doesn't get any funnier than that!

No really, it never does! Maybe this kind of stuff has them rolling in the aisles in Hong Kong, but man, it's just a drag to English speaking audiences. After you've watched as many HK films as we have, you expect this kind of stuff and you get pretty good at just tuning it out. But outside of the comic relief, there isn't much of a plot.

Righting Wrongs
Karen Sheperd really knows how accessorize.
Righting Wrongs was directed by Corey Yuen, who handles all the action and fighting with great aplomb, even though little things like scripting and acting obviously fell by the wayside. There is a copious amount of martial arts fighting, which is the only reason anyone would really be watching this movie. The movie contains some great fights: the battle between Yuen Biao and Cynthia Rothrock is fantastic piece of choreography, and is only topped by a later fight between Rothrock and Karen Shepherd. The latter is playing one of Crown's assassins, though she's dressed like a member of The Bangles.

There are also some action scenes involving vehicles that are nearly as impressive as those is the higher budget Jackie Chan films. Remember Jackie hanging from a helicopter in Supercop? Well, Biao did it four years earlier, only he's hanging from an airplane.

The best way to see this film (as with most movies) is on DVD, but after the Guys @ Stomp Tokyo's separate viewings of the imported Righting Wrongs DVD, we discovered a minor obstacle: we somehow managed to see two different movies! Most imported HK DVDs let you choose between the predominant Chinese languages by changing the soundtrack, but Righting Wrongs has two cuts of the movie, one on each side of the disc. The sides are marked as "Mandarin" and "Cantonese," which is true -- the dubs are in different languages on each side of the disc, and English subtitling is available on both. But here's the rub: If you watch the Mandarin version, you get a different movie with a different ending from the one on the Canto side! Entire scenes go by the wayside in each telling of the story, and it wasn't until each of us described entire scenes that the other hadn't seen that we realized we hadn't really seen the same movie. Even the fate of Yuen Biao's character changes from side to side, and we recommend that you seek out the DVD so that you watch both.

Review date: 10/08/1999

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This becomes obvious in the scene where Cindy holds a gun to Hsia's head and threatens to kill him, in order to stop his vigilantism. Boy, she must be really against vigilante action to engage in vigilante action to stop vigilante action. Our heads are spinning already. Go back!