Discoveries From THE GOOD, THE TOUGH, & THE DEADLY: CHINA O’BRIEN

 

THE GOOD, THE TOUGH, & THE DEADLY Book Review + Series
I was sent a review copy of Author David J. Moore’s action encyclopedia The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly, and I’ve been thrilled by the results. What I couldn’t tell from pictures I’d seen of the book is that this is a glorious hardback in the style of a coffee table book, giving it an almost scholarly feel. Moore’s mission behind the book is to cover a very specific era of action film that I find to be often overlooked even though it’s a personal favorite genre. Focusing on the stars of action cinema from the 1960s to the present, the very specific mold of the modern action era is focused on here in this book. Moore provides capsule reviews for an astounding number of action films, all listed alphabetically. There are interviews sprinkled throughout, and occasional reviews provided by a team of collaborators including internet action film expert [Outlaw] Vern, and Austin’s own Zack Carlson. With the alphabetical listing, as well as indices listing various action stars and their bodies of work which are covered in the book, I’ve found The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly to be a joyful experience of discovery. Rather than something you might read cover to cover, I’ve bounced from review to review, skipping to the star index to find out more about a previously undiscovered star, then cross referencing back to other films they had been in, and so on.

Since Cinapse is a site dedicated to film discovery and discussion, I decided to put Moore’s book into action and seek out some films from within its pages that I had never seen and cover them here. There’s nothing quite like the joy of discovery, so, inspired by Moore’s work, I’m planning to focus on reviewing some films from action heroes I’ve always known about or seen box art for, but have never experienced until now.

So check out The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly, or consider picking it up for the action aficionado in your life. It’s filled with deep cuts and old favorites, and it’s certain to expose even the most well-versed action film fan to new joys, just like it did for me.

CHINA O’BRIEN (1990)

If you’ve been an action fan long enough, there’s no question that you’ve heard the name Cynthia Rothrock. A star in both North America and Hong Kong, Rothrock had a number of star vehicles and killer supporting roles in Hong Kong fight films due to her own martial arts training in real life. Perhaps the only blonde bombshell martial artist to ever truly headline her own body of action films, China O’Brien is her most well-known work. It spawned a sequel, but has never even been released on DVD here in the US. I was able to track down a VHS copy at trusty Vulcan Video here in Austin, TX, and honestly had an enormous blast with the film.

Shot with a furious speed akin to the films coming out of Hong Kong at the time, Rothrock’s fights are genuinely jaw dropping. Her co-stars Richard Norton (playing an old flame from her hometown with an inexplicable Australian accent) and Keith Cooke (star of Albert Pyun’s Heatseeker, here playing a mysterious Native American martial artist with one hand!) are also majorly highlighted and each get fantastic, highly energetic, and well-shot fight sequences. Action royalty Robert Clouse (Enter The Dragon, The Ultimate Warrior, Battle Creek Brawl, Gymkata, I could go on…) helmed the film and further cemented himself in my eyes as one of the great action film directors of all time, though he’s largely unheralded today.

O’Brien is a tough urban cop and martial arts teacher who quits the force and moves back home after a tragedy in the big city. Living with her father the sheriff and re-connecting with old flame Matt Conroy (Norton), she realizes her town has become overrun with criminals who even murder her father in cold blood. A not-so-thinly-veiled remake of Walking Tall with a female protagonist ensues, and frankly it kicks ass. China becomes the hero we need right now, campaigning for sheriff, deputizing her friends, and cleaning up the town one high speed kick to the face at a time. Rothrock shows just enough spunk and prowess to make me an instant fan, and I plan to track down China O’Brien 2 (also starring the same trio, directed by Clouse, and apparently shot back to back with the first film), as well as some of her Hong Kong work. I’m a richer action fan for having experienced this one, and would love to see this get the loving high definition release in the US that it deserves.

And I’m Out.

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the author

Ed changed careers and moved halfway across the country from Maryland to Austin with his amazingly understanding wife just to figure out how to earn a living watching movies. He once heard it said that NY/LA are where you go to MAKE movies, but Austin is where you go to WATCH movies. And that is the truth. But seriously, if anyone knows how to make a living watching movies, please let him know. Twitter: @Ed_Travis