China O'Brien (1988)

Rating: **
Review Date: 11/29/14
Director: Robert Clouse
Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Keith Cooke

China O'Brien (Cynthia Rothrock) is a tough cop and an expert martial artist. After killing a kid in a gang related incident, she leaves the force and heads back to her home town for some soul searching. Unfortunately, the quaint little town where she grew up is now overrun with corruption, and her father, who is also the local sheriff, is powerless against the crooks. When he winds up dead, China decides to take his place and bring the hammer of justice down hard on the bad guys with her butt-kicking friends Matt (Richard Norton) and Dakota (Keith Cooke).

While this may be Cynthia Rothrock's best American outing, it's still appallingly bad. But to be fair, in 1988, American audiences had never seen anything like it, and Ms. Rothrock's style and experience was far beyond anything Hollywood had to offer at the time. She's a tough fighter and her form is excellent, but her fellow stuntmen are no match for her and sadly end up looking like a bunch of buffoons. Richard Norton's style is flashy and kinetic, but it rarely looks like he makes contact with his opponents. Keith Cooke may be the most interesting one of the bunch, and he does a good job of combining both physical grace and raw power. Ms. Rothrock is fun to watch, but her wardrobe is rather embarrassing. Given the time period, expect lots of bold colors, baggy pants, boxy shirts, padded shoulders, and acid-washed denim.

The production values are modest and on par with made-for-television fare, but the rough dialog and physical violence secure its R rating. It's interesting that if you compare "Enter The Dragon" (1973) to any other film that Robert Clouse directed, you begin to wonder exactly what Clouse's contribution was, and whether Bruce Lee (or someone else) actually directed that picture.