Long Arm of the Law III Review: This 80’s Hong Kong film was a surprise

Michal Mak’s second sequel to his brother’s action classic finds an ex-soldier/escaped death row prisoner fleeing to Hong Kong and forced to work for a gang of criminals when they kidnap the woman he loves.

Well, Long Arm of the Law III (Huong Cang Ky Binh) was a surprise. I expected further diminishing returns from Long Arm of the Law 3. But Michael Mak actually improves upon his previous sequel. A more focused story and a commitment to more diversified action pay off.

The heroic bloodshed is present of course, with several impressively-staged sequence. Specifically, the finale body-slams and shotgun-blasts between multiple apartment levels, shredding rooms with bullets simultaneously coming through the ceiling and up through the floor. Tony Leung – action director for this as well as Magic Crystal, Fistful of Talons, No Retreat No Surrender 3 – gives the non-gunfight spectacle a serious upgrade. There’s a frantic hallway brawl, multiple bursts of martial-arts choreography, a nightclub showdown. Escape from a death camp, plus some wild and bone-crunching stuntwork.

Plot-wise, 3 embraces the genre’s expected melodrama while also returning to the impoverished desperation and bottom-rung tension of the original. Love for a girl, and desire to rescue her from crime boss captors, sets Andy Lau’s indebted criminal Kong on a path of coerced heists and violent reprisal. The romance drags at times, but Andy Lau (Luu Duc Hoa) compensates with charisma.

Overall, a familiar yet enjoyable story, its personal stakes unfolding at a decent pace. The anti-hero cruelty and oppressive mood of the first film (phim hanh dong vo thuat) are long gone. But Long Arm of the Law 3 succeeds by its merits.

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