Martial Law II: Undercover (1991)

Perhaps owing to the inexplicable popularity of Cynthia Rothrock, Martial Law II: Undercover is likely the most well known of Jeff Wincott‘s films. At least it’s the only one I ever remember seeing at the video store in the early 1990s. It’s a shame if this is the only exposure that civilians (i.e. people who are prone to watch normal movies starring people they’ve heard of) have to Jeff since it is neither his most serviceable (The Killing Machine, Martial Outlaw), most forgettable (Open Fire, Fatal Combat) or most insane featuring Brigitte Nielsen running for mayor (Mission of Justice).

Its utterly bland story (corrupt cops and martial arts thugs battling Jeff and Cynthia), parade of run-of-the-mill villains, and perfunctory script (the few character details only exist to explain plot developments later in the film) only serve to underscore how charisma-impaired our two martial arts heroes are.

In fact, what passes for an inspired moment in the film occurs right at the beginning when Jeff and Cindy are undercover at a park where a motorcycle gang is attempting to buy a bunch of guns. Jeff is in deep cover as a bum, complete with fake five o’clock shadow. Him stumbling and babbling before suddenly erupting in a torrent of kicks and punches is about the only thing approaching acting the goes on in the entire picture!

And while you admire Martial Law II for trying to start off with a bang and for following through with frequent karate fights, it ultimately becomes just so much uninteresting dubbed noises since no one in the movie is the least bit interesting.

Jeff makes detective and immediately sticks his nose in the case of cop who supposedly dies in a drunk driving accident. We know Jeff and the dead cop are buddies because when they meet once Jeff is transferred to his new assignment, they announce they knew each other in the police academy. Additionally, the guy makes it a point to tell Jeff he stopped drinking! So naturally when the guy dies with twice the legal alcohol limit in his system, Jeff doesn’t just think the guy fell off the wagon, but jumps to the much more illogical conclusion that there is a conspiracy afoot! (Just because he turns out to be right, doesn’t make it any less stupid.)

And when Jeff pulls out the critical clue from the car wreck, I barely suppressed a guffaw as he examined a match book with the name of a nightclub on it! A match book? Really? Has someone been consulting the Sixth Grader’s Guide to Writing Detective Fiction? What’s next? Going undercover as a bartender at the club to gather more intel? Yep, that’s exactly what’s next!

Don’t worry though. This isn’t going to be the Jeff Wincott version of Cocktail. The astute viewer will have already figured out that Cindy will be the undercover barkeep because at the beginning of the movie, she was filling in behind a bar and mixing drinks with aplomb. A movie as rudimentary as this one is would never include this scene unless it would be directly referenced later on.

But while Jeff and Cindy’s characters may only be walking and talking plot points, the true stupidity has to be the way the villains are written. When Jeff goes to the bar and asks if his dead cop buddy has been there, instead of just giving him the brush off and saying they don’t know anything, the bad guy’s muscle has to get rough and engage Jeff in a full blown brawl. That won’t raise any suspicions that something hinky is going on at good old Club Syntax, will it? (And I won’t even detail their way too busy scheme to keep the crooked cop in line since just reading about it will make your eyes glaze over.)

I’m also not sure that Cindy’s new job at the club actually yielded anything that moved the investigation forward. After all, Jeff is at the final showdown at the power plant (yes this is the sort of movie that rented out a power plant to end things since a power plant has lots of catwalks and pipes that can be useful in staging kung fu battles) because he is assigned to bust up the drug deal that the villains and crooked cops plan to rob. (He’s assigned to the crooked cop so he can be eliminated. Surely there is an easier way to get rid of him than to take him along on the $10 million heist you are planning, especially after he has spent the entire movie demonstrating an almost super human fighting ability.)

To their credit, Jeff, Cindy, and bad guy Evan Lurie (Hologram Man, Shadow Warriors) energetically execute their various fight scenes and Jeff does win audience approval when after beating Lurie and hanging him with a chain, looks at Lurie’s fashion-don’t mustard yellow clothing and snarls “nice suit” as he walks away. By this time however, the movie has worn out its welcome due to a script that feels like it suffered about twenty kicks to the head too many and will likewise leave the unwitting viewer in a punch drunk stupor.

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