In the Line of Duty 3 (1988)
Director: Arthur Wong and Brandy Yuen
Writers: Chan Kiu-Ying
Starring: Cynthia Khan, Hiroshi Fujioka, Michiko Nishiwaki, Stuart Ong, and Paul Chun

The Plot: Officer Yeung (Cynthia Khan) is a member of the police force who is unfortunately feeling the sting of sexism within her workplace. Despite the fact that she is one of the most qualified members of the force, her chief tries his best to hold her back from being a true asset to the Hong Kong police department. Across the water, within Japan, a danger is brewing that will eventually find Yeung working on a case that will not be denied. Jewelry thieves Nakamura (Stuart Ong) and Michiko (Michiko Nishikawa) pull off a huge robbery at a very public event, and during the getaway they wound officer Fujioka (Hiroshi Fujioka) and ultimately kill his partner. This gives Fujioka a personal vendetta against these criminals, and he soon heads to Hong Kong where the duo are supposed to be hiding. Soon thereafter, he bumps into officer Yeung and they inevitably join forces in order to track down these murderous thieves. Will they succeed? And will the “law” actually allow them to be successful?

The Review
We’ve been covering the In the Line of Duty series on Varied Celluloid this month and we don’t intend to simply cover the most popular titles within this long line of movies. For those of you who haven’t read the reviews, or seen the first two movies in this series, both were films that featured Michelle Yeoh in the lead. The films are all tied together in the loosest possible ways, so missing out on any particular movie really wouldn’t matter. Essentially, these movies are tied together because they feature strong women in the lead and they focus mostly on the internal workings of the Hong Kong police force. This third entry had a great deal stacked against it, being that it no longer featured Michelle Yeoh (or Michelle Khan, as she was credited) who had recently married studio head Dickson Poon (from D&B films, who produced the In the Line of Duty movies) and had retired from acting, but the studio certainly intended to keep the series going even if it meant creating an entirely new star. This is how the world was introduced to Cynthia Khan. Taking her name from the stars of Yes, Madam (aka: In the Line of Duty II, which was actually made before the “first” In the Line of Duty), one can only imagine the burden that was stacked on the shoulders of young Khan with the release of this movie. However, thankfully she doesn’t go it alone and is paired with numerous strong supporting leads, which ultimately helps her showcase a number of her acting talents. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s one hell of an athletic woman herself.

In the Line of Duty 3 finds the series truly growing with the times. After the success of Jackie Chan’s Police Story and John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, Hong Kong established a new guideline for all of action cinema. The influence of John Woo’s burgeoning bullet ballet aesthetics can be felt during the introductory “raid” sequence where we get to see Stuart Ong (who, with his dark sunglasses and faux-moustache, surprisingly looks like Tsui Hark) and Michiko Nishiwaki descend from the rafters of a fashion show while firing machine-guns and hurling grenades. The scene is easily one of the best things from the entire In the Line of Duty series up until this point and it becomes gratuitously more satisfying when the scene moves outside and we get an outlandish shot of Nishiwaki being grabbed and held 15 feet in the air as she tries to jump off a second story rooftop. A brutal, fast, and explosive way to start the first fifteen minutes of this movie, but if that weren’t enough we also get some classic melodrama and fancy saxophone licks over the soundtrack; something that definitely seems inspired by sentimentalist John Woo.

Despite being the third entry into this series, In the Line of Duty 3 at no point feels stale or grasping for topics to cover. While Cynthia Khan may take her name from the previous stars found in this series, she doesn’t actually try to fill their shoes. Nor does this movie actually try to do that in any way. This In the Line of Duty happens to be the first movie in the series to appropriately tackle discrimination within the police force, as we finally see a female inspector who must deal with a male-dominated system that is afraid to see her actually go out and do her job. While in the other films Michelle Yeoh’s character was always the respected “madam” within her department, this time around we are introduced to female inspector Yeung who must start at the very bottom. Although up until this point we have seen character changes and continually differing plots within the In the Line… series, the Inspector Yeung character is one that would define a great deal of Michelle Khan’s career. She would return four separate times as Inspector Yeung and in this first film we see her doing her best to live up to all of the expectations that Hong Kong film fans might have.

Once again, D&B films surround their lead with numerous very capable supporting actors. Paul Chun, who was actually killed off rather quickly in the first In the Line of Duty, shows up as the sexist police chief that constantly butts heads with Madam Yeung. Stuart Ong, the CAT III (Hong Kong rating, somewhere between a hard R and NC-17) legend, shows up looking extremely buff and ready for action. Michiko Nishiwaki also plays alongside Ong, and she is another very physical and very capable actress who hit her stride during the late eighties and early nineties. There are other great names who pop up as well, but without question this is Cynthia Khan’s time to stand in the spotlight. The young actress, and former dancer, takes very well to the martial arts choreography needed for this role. Running and jumping off of walls while throwing spin kicks, Khan thrives when she is in the action element. As an actress, I do not believe that she has the natural charisma of Michelle Yeoh, but being that In the Line of Duty 3 is just one of her first few films: she shows a decent amount of range as an actress here.

The Conclusion
I know that I hand out 4 ratings as if they were candy, but I have to admit, I did indeed love this movie. An extremely fun effort with a lot of memorable scenes, this is a fantastic debut for Khan and another highly fun entry into this legendary series. Definitely give this one a look if you’re intrigued by the series.