90's Action Attack!: Martial Law (1990)


A Tepid Entry In The 90's Action/Martial Arts Home Video Market Explosion

by robotGEEK

On the surface, this should be a homerun. You have a pretty killer cast of standout 90's character actors, some solid martial arts (none of that slow-mo stuff), and a premise that works for the most part. Yet, despite it's strong opening, the film really fails to deliver on it's potential. 

I think my biggest issue is that there is very little action in here. Sure there are plenty of fights, but they're a mixed bag of quality. Some kick ass, and some are surprisingly lazy and/or flat. And while the fights kind of make up for the lack of action in general, the story could have used some serious tweaking. The film tends to meander aimlessly from the family turmoil at the heart of the story, to a subplot involving stolen cars.  I mean, that's fine and all, but so many of the scenes felt abrupt and look like last-minute filler.

Chad McQueen is fine as the lead and surprisingly capable of carrying the film, but Rothrock, who is easily the standout here, is shockingly underused and undervalued as a badass. It's no surprise that she took the lead in the sequel the following year, which I still need to get to. David Carradine does a fine job as the lead villain, but you're more than likely to be more impressed with the who's who of 90's martial arts character actors who pop in and out of the film such as Professor Tanaka, Philip Tan, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez and James Lew. 

Director Steve Cohen handles everything well enough, and I liked that he chose to shoot the martial arts fast and furious instead of slow-motion. I'm sure there were plenty of moments where he even sped the film up to make the fights look faster. There just really should have been more action overall. A car chase, explosion, shootout.....something. For this reason alone, Martial Law really fails to deliver when it really could have been a standout. It makes me wonder how much better it would have turned out had it been in a studio like PM Entertainments hands. 

I also discovered something that floored me while watching this. Chad McQueen is actually that asshole kid Dutch (with the terribly bleached blonde hair and eyebrows) from The Karate Kid. All these years, I had no idea. 

Martial Law 1 & 2 are available, restored, on Amazon Prime HERE. Both of these films have been recently released on Blu Ray via Vinegar Syndrome, newly restored in 4K and with tons of extra goodies ONLY available through their website and a few indie retailers, and nowhere else. You can grab them HERE while you still can. Limited quantities available. 

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