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Returning from her holiday in Japan, Inspector Yip (Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once) foils a daring mid-air rescue of a gangster being returned to Hong Kong for trial. But Inspector Yip needs to watch her back: that gangster has friends.
Presented as the first film in their In the Line of Duty box set, 88 Films brings David Chung’s Royal Warriors (aka In the Line of Duty in North America) to Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 2K restoration.
It looks very similar to other Fortune Star restorations, which is to say it looks impressive, if not extraordinary. Again, they’ve cleaned the film thoroughly, and damage is never an issue, with nothing noteworthy appearing. Grain is present and looks to be rendered well for the most part. Some grain management seems to have been applied in places with mixed results (some scenes look waxier than others). Grain can also get a little thicker during a handful of dupey-looking sequences, like the opening credits and some slo-mo action shots throughout, but it still looks mostly OK. The picture also remains clean and sharp, with an impressive level of detail at times.
The colors look slightly off, though I can’t say how they should look. They lean more towards cyan or teal, and this, in turn, leads to the colors looking incredibly pasty. The reds look decent, but everything else comes out bland with limited depth. At the very least, this hasn’t impacted black levels, which often come out inky. Dynamic range can also be surprisingly wide in places, the best-looking sequence being the centerpiece fight in a smoke-filled night club, that smoke rendered superbly with sharp delineation in the shadows of the background. It looks good and ends up being the most vibrant and lively-looking moment in the movie, effectively making the rest of the film look flat and bland.
Still, I’m sure it’s a drastic improvement over previous home video releases, that its strengths significantly outweigh its flaws, with the image, in the end, still pleasing.
88 Films includes a handful of audio options, none ideal, but one is nothing short of dreadful.
In 1.0 DTS-HD MA are two Cantonese audio tracks, one listed as the “theatrical” mix, the other an “alternate,” alongside a monaural English option. I sampled the “alternate” track, and I’m not sure what the differences are (maybe sound effects or music). Whatever the case, they are of similar quality: reasonably flat with minimal range, yet clean without any sign of distortion. The English track is about the same, though the dub is far more pronounced (the other tracks are also dubs, just not as evident).
There is also an English 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD MA, and, oh boy! is it something. Dialogue somehow comes off flatter and tinnier than the others, and despite it technically featuring a higher volume level, dynamic range is still limited because the field seems stuck between “loud” and “louder.” Effects also sound off in all areas, with gunshots featuring awful reverb and most effects seeming to come through all speakers simultaneously, creating an odd mono-surround effect. I can’t say I ever noticed any proper direction to the mix. It could be there, but the mix was so distracting in all other areas I couldn’t tell. The worst, though, is that it adds plenty of other odd effects not in the other tracks, including a moment where one character, in his head, quotes Dirty Harry’s “go ahead, make my day” line. Like… what!?
I assume this was created and remixed for some prior DVD release, included here only for posterity. I’m all for that to keep a document of how dreadful these things could be, but I can’t see anyone listening to it in an unironic way.
I was a little disappointed that 88 Films didn’t go all out with the title, though the disc at least features a new audio commentary recorded by the ever-dependable Frank Djeng (this is not the same one recorded for Eureka’s edition in the UK). Looking at in the context of being the first part of the In the Line of Duty series in North America (despite being made after what would become the second film in the series, Yes, Madam), he explains as much as he can how the film was distributed the way it was overseas (funny enough, it was distributed as Yes, Madam 2 in other territories) and also examines how it helped further cement Michelle Yeoh as an action star in Hong Kong. As usual, he also contextualizes certain aspects of the film for Western audiences, which ranges from how members of the police force will address one another to the significance of Vietnam concerning the film’s plotline. He also does a fantastic job breaking down the fight scenes, stunts, and camera work, focusing on their construction and flow. It starts to taper off towards the end, but Djeng still brings his usual energy and keeps things informative and entertaining.
The disc then features the alternate opening of the film with the “In the Line of Duty” title and the film’s Cantonese and English trailers. It even features something labeled “Missing Aeroplane Inserts.”
This one is a 3-minute standard-definition montage of sequences from the film’s early moments on the plane, including shots that appear in the final movie but with cuts to exterior shots of the plane (using models) that don’t appear in the film as it is presented on the disc. The version of the film I first saw was also missing these establishing shots, so I was baffled later when it became glaringly evident that the plane was in the air and not just sitting on the runway, as suggested early in the sequence. Why are these shots not included in the finished film? I suspect that the original elements could not be located for the new restoration and that these sequences now only exist on video, which would look terrible paired with a higher-resolution image, so it was elected to exclude them from the feature. It may have been an excellent option to include an alternative version with this material cut in (via seamless branching). However, I’m still happy they’ve at least included the material here, and it’s also a good lesson on the importance of establishing shots and proper editing.
And that’s it. The title is available in a set with other films and a booklet, but another interview or two would have been welcome.
The restoration is about on par with other recent Hong Kong ones in that it’s open to improvement but significantly better than what was available before. Supplements are slim, but Djeng’s commentary fills in most gaps.