Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Cynthia Rothrock, the original Mistress of Mayhem, in the seminal role that made her a Super Star!  So to speak.  That role being this movie right here, ‘China O’Brien’.  But… you know… it was no ‘Undefeatable’ which would come three years later, quite possibly the most crapteriffic movie ever made, but I guess for American based kung fu mayhem ‘China O’Brien’ will do.  But ‘Undefeatable’…  Now THAT’S a movie.

In the Big City, hardcore cop China O’Brien (Rothrock… duh) enforces the law and teaches underprivileged kids the Art of Mayhem.  But that dang Termite (Doug Wright), so disrespectful and stuff, doesn’t see the real world benefits of being able to kick ass for some reason, especially since he’s a thug and stuff.  Well, it’s time for China to give him a little demo of what she can do, but in the process something goes wrong and China has to whip her heat and smoke some sucka.  Tragically, despite the fact this person had a gun trained on somebody’s dome, it was still a kid and China is sad, vowing never to pick up a gun again.  So she quits the force and heads back home to Podunk Nebraska to hang out with her old man.

Well China isn’t back home for all of sixty seconds when she ends up at some bar, looking for her father, and is forced to kick ass.  Damn.  What China didn’t notice was the young Native American looking man (Keith Cooke) playing Asteroids helping her out with his lightning fast feet. 

When China finally tracks down her pops, Sheriff O’Brien (David Blackwell), that is after reuniting with her old best friend Matt (Richard Norton), she discovers that all isn’t well with the home town.  As a side note, considering this was a Golden Harvest production and since her name is ‘China’ and since she knows Kung Fu and all, we were kind of expecting China’s old man to be Asian, but apparently China’s dad just likes naming his kids after fine dinnerware.  Anyway, the town is now being run by the scurrilous Mr. Sommers (Stephen Kerby) who’s like the worst dude ever.  This dude runs a bar, and cuts wood illegally, and uses abandoned houses for drugs and always has a hottie tied to the bed to torture.  Mr. Sommers, I tell you.  He’s also sick of Sheriff O’Brien and his deputy always in his business, trying to stop him from illegally cutting wood.  The torture and drugs don’t seem to bother them much, but the wood cutting… oh HELL NO!!!

Well, if you bug Mr. Sommers too much, he’s gonna do something about it and he does something about it.  China is sad and Podunk has no sheriff, unless you count Deputy Lickner (Patrick Adamson) and we don’t count Deputy Lickner.  Guess what? China’s running for sheriff and Sommers can’t have that and he will do anything… and I mean anything to stop it.  Like open fire on a barbeque.  Come on man.  A barbeque?  Now China’s had enough of this clown, and with the help of her boyfriend… I mean good friend Matt… and the Indian boy we know as Dakota, it is on in Podunk and asses will be soundly kicked.

‘China O’Brien’ was directed by the late Robert Clouse who was world renown for having directed the movie some have called the greatest kung fu movie ever… not me, but some… in ‘Enter the Dragon’.  Not to speak ill of the dead or anything, but a lot of the greatness of that film centered on its Once In A Lifetime star, so to get a true feel of Robert Clouse the Kung Fu Filmmaker I usually shunt people towards the epic ‘Black Belt Jones’ which I loved, while fully recognizing that it was borderline incomprehensible.  The good thing about ‘China O’Brien’ is that Mr. Clouse has created a movie that is far easier to comprehend than the incomprehensible ‘Black Belt Jones’, but the downside is that it has only thirty percent of the fun.  We’re not saying that China and them are devoid of fun, just in comparison is all. 

Cynthia Rothrock does what she does, that being small and adorable, moving like the wind… except when they had her obvious stuntman jump in to do some ridiculous flips… and acting a little bit when required.  For the most part ‘China O’Brien’ is a prototypically standard 90’s low budget action drama, featuring car explosions, a story that treats continuity like it’s just a troublesome word in the dictionary, more bad acting than you can shake a stick at, a bad guy who has zero socially redeeming values, and of course lots and lots and lots of ass kicking.  Just when you think there are no more asses to kick, bonus ass shows up looking to get kicked, and we can’t be mad at that. 

At least, unlike ‘Black Belt Jones’, Robert Clouse and Golden Harvest saw fit to give us ‘China O’Brien II’ which we will watch sometime in the near future.  I’ve often found that its best to decompress a couple of months after watching low budget, 80’s or 90’s action flicks… American Ninja, we’re looking at you… because overdosing on this nonsense is a real possibility.  ‘China O’Brien’ certainly fills the bill for the shlock 90’s action fiend… despite the fact it’s not a crapterpiece like ‘Undefeatable’. 

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