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Review Martial Law II: Undercover (1991) and Mission of Justice (1992)

genre: martial arts, action, crime

You might be wondering why I have put these titles together. Well, first of all, Jeff Wincott stars in both of them. Second, these two are connected. Mission of Justice was intended as the third part in the franchise. But when Cynthia Rothrock backed out of a sequel they released this as a standalone film where Jeff Wincott plays a different character and is partnered up with Karen Shepard instead.

Martial Law II: Undercover (1991)

This title is the first proper martial arts / action film Jeff Wincott starred in. Before then I only knew him from the show Night Heat. And I can't recall him using martial arts in it. In any case I was surprised to see him display his martial arts skills. Keep in mind this was before the internet was huge and we didn't have access to the info we have now. I do remember that after having seen the original Martial Law I didn't hesitate to pick up this one.

Now I am not going to make a comparison between the original and this sequel since it has been too long that I have seen the original. I will when I get the chance to watch it. I am going to compare this to Mission of Justice since while Martal Law II: Undercover was entertaining it had many flaws. One of the flaws was that they tried to turn it into a thriller with many twists and turns. Nothing wrong with this of course unless you actually have the story and creativity to back this up. Unfortunately the twists and turns you can see coming from a mile away so any tension and suspense that could have intensified the action isn't present. Since the focus lied on the crime and thriller elements the action scenes suffered a bit. The choreography is decent. But nothing extraordinary or exciting. And I can't believe how they wasted the opportunities to make the fights more compelling. You can tell that at one point they felt like wrapping up things as quickly as possible so the action sequences towards the end feel rushed. For example they gave Evan Lurie a lot to do. His character was quite prominent and the fight between him and Wincott should have been one of the highlights in the film.

Fortunately we do have Cynthia to liven up the film with her skills and wit. She does manage to bring some much needed humour into the mix. And has no problem playing the sidekick who is not as appreciated as she should. I mean she drops her vacation plans for her colleague Wincott like that. Now that is a true partner!

Overall this title is decent but not that memorable.

Mission of Justice (1992)

Mission of Justice on the other hand is a gem. It's everything Martial Law II; Undercover should have been.

It moves in a very fast pace. Has the right dose of action. The choreography is phenomenal. And the narrative is restrained and focused. It's impossible to get distracted by subplots since there aren't any. Brigitte Nielsen is also one hell of a villain. She plays Dr. Rachel K. Larkin who presents herself as a humanist and someone who wants to actively contribute to a better society by for example clean up the streets. Deep down she is one of the most ruthless and evil persons in film history and has very nefarious and dark reasons for her initiative. She is assisted by many loyal followers including Matthias Hues who plays her brother.

Compared to his role in Marial Law II Jeff Wincott has been given more space to display his talents. Acting wise and combat wise. If for whatever reason you were doubting his martial arts skills he demonstrates that he is quite the fighter. Especially in the gauntlet scene where he gets to battle a whole row of men with sticks. But he doesn't have to do everything on his own. During his investigation into a death of a friend played by Tony Burton (known for his role as Apollo's trainer in the Rocky franchise) he gets help from his old partner played by Karen Sheperd. Why she isn't a bigger name is beyond me. She has the presence, the skills and the beauty to be a star in the same vein as Cynthia Rothrock is. 

Overall I really love this film. It's one that knows what it is and doesn't get bogged down by ambition or pretension. In my opinion this is a classic and one of the best Jeff Wincott has made. So definitely a must watch!

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