Thursday, 15 January 2009
CHINA O’BRIEN (1990)
Written & Directed by: Robert Clouse
Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton & Keith Cooke
After several years of success working in Hong Kong action movies and kicking pretty much everyone’s butt, the blonde fury Cynthia Rothrock got her chance at starring in western films, China O’Brien and its almost identical sequel being perhaps the most successful and popular. It’s late eighties/early nineties, low budget action cheese all the way, as Rothrock plays the title character, a disgraced cop returning to her hometown only to be forced into cleaning it up after corruption has, well, corrupted the town. This leads to some painfully awful acting and moments of grade A cheese but also lots and lots of butt kicking.
Silly to the max and featuring a bevy of gurning bad guys and gee-golly-whiz good guys, China O’Brien is almost like a nostalgic time bubble: the video store used to be flooded with these cheap and cheerful action flicks, a lot of them so bad they are good. China O’Brien was a huge hit and also featured genre favourites Richard (City Hunter) Norton and Keith (King of the Kickboxers) Cooke, who both get ample chance to strut their stuff in the action scenes. Cooke’s bizarre Indian/drifter character even comes with a maimed hand complete with ridiculously huge metal bracelet that for some crazy reason also doubles up as the key to his motorcycle! Like I said, so bad it’s good. To make up for all the hammy acting and crazy plotting, China O’Brien is mercifully packed full of high impact martial arts. Low tech in it’s approach and no where near as sustained or as sophisticated as the action in many of the Hong Kong action films which Rothrock and Norton appeared in, the action is nevertheless fast, fun and frenetic. Oodles of one on one fights, painful take downs and high falls and loads and loads of checked shirt wearing, dodgy moustached goons getting their asses whooped. Good stuff.
Hard to believe it came from the same director as action benchmark classic Enter the Dragon but China O’Brien is still extra cheesy fun and great with a six pack. The sequel that followed, China O’Brien 2, featured all the same cast, even more fights and almost exactly the same plot as the first. Awesome.