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Righting Wrongs (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Righting Wrongs (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: July 26th, 2022.
    Director: Cory Yuen
    Cast: Yuen Biao, Cynthia Rothrock, Melvin Wong, Karen Sheperd, Peter Cunningham, Corey Yuen
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Righting Wrongs – Movie Review:

    Righting Wrongs, which was released by the Weinstein Corporation on DVD in 2007 as Above The Law (not to be confused with the Steven Seagal movie of the same name), was directed by Cory Yuen way back in 1986. It's not the most cerebral of action films but if you want to see some serious ass kicking, it definitely fits the bill.

    Yuen Baio plays a lawyer named Hsai who becomes fed up with the system when a crime boss responsible for the death of an innocent family is let loose. To make a difference, he decides to become a vigilante and he starts hunting down criminals and making them pay. Before you know it, Hong Kong police woman Cindy Si (Cynthia Rothrock) is hot on Hsai’s tale, determined to put a stop to his vigilante tactics but soon events will transpire that will show them that they're not so different from one another after all and that sometimes it's better to work as a team.

    What Righting Wrongs lacks in depth, it more than makes up for with fantastic fight scenes and truly impressive stunt work. Yuen Baio gives 110% throughout the picture, fighting with a truly ferocious intensity that a lot of the better known Hong Kong male leads of the era, such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li, seem to have forgotten about. He's small in stature but he more than makes up for it with a fast and brutal fighting that fits the movie very, very well. Cynthia Rothrock holds her own alongside Yuen Baio and while she's isn't quite as intense as he is she is equally impressive during her scenes and the scenes they share together. The two make for a good team, and director Cory Yuen was wise to exploit their chemistry in this picture.

    The story line lacks any originality in how it unfolds or as far as twists and turns are concerned. We've seen 'common man turns vigilante' stories time and time again and Righting Wrongs brings nothing new to the genre in terms of branching out from what is a very simple formula. What it does do differently is put Yuen Baio front and center and allow him to really show off what he can do. It's almost as if Cory Yuen knew that the only way to make this movie stand out from the pack was to really amp up the action set pieces to the point where they're almost delirious - thankfully, it works. Don't go into this one expecting anything deep, because you're not going to find it, but if you dig on fast paced whupping and crazy, over the top stunt work done without the aid of computer animation (though in the case of one of Rothrock’s stunts, an obvious stunt double!), Above The Law will leave you more than happy.

    Vinegar Syndrome offers up three different cuts of the movie in this deluxe Blu-ray edition. The first disc contains the original ninety-six minute Hong Kong cut of the film, while disc two contains the one hundred minute Mandarin language export cut and the ninety-two minute U.S. Above The Law cut of the movie. Both of the films on disc two are presented in 1080p high definition with 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Audio and with optional English subtitles provided for each version. Without going heavy into spoiler territory, let it suffice to say that the ending of the original version differs vastly from the endings on these two alternate cuts – and that’s the biggest and most important difference. Obviously the audio differs as well and the Above The Law version has different credits sequences.

    Righting Wrongs – Blu-ray Review:

    Righting Wrongs arrives on separate 50GB Blu-ray discs, each “newly scanned & restored in 4k from their 35mm original camera negatives” and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, the picture quality here is excellent. Natural film grain is noticeable throughout, just as you’d want it to be, but there’s virtually no print damage here at all, the picture is clean from start to finish. Colors are handled very nicely, all of those garish nineties fashions pop quite nicely, and we get strong black levels too. Detail, depth and texture are consistently impressive and there are no issues to note with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts of note.

    Vinegar Syndrome offers up 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono audio in Cantonese, Mandarin and English with subtitles provided in English for each version. No problems with the audio here, everything sounds clean, clear and nicely balanced without any hiss or distortion. The subtitles are easy to read and don’t have any obvious typos.

    Extras are spread across the three discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One:

    There is a new commentary track with actress Cynthia Rothrock, moderated by Brad Henderson, included here as well as an archival commentary track with the actress. There is some crossover between the two talks but she covers how she wound up in Hong Kong making movies for Golden Harvest, what it was like as an American working in the Hong Kong industry, the stunt work that was featured in many of the Hong Kong films she worked on, learning how to work in Hong Kong despite not speaking Chinese, blowing out her knee before starting work on Righting Wrongs, some of what makes the Hong Kong film industry challenging particularly when it comes to action set pieces, working with Yuen Biao and Cory Yuen, getting along with the different cast members on the shoot, her own martial arts training and use of weapons, not knowing what was happening in different parts of the film until she actually saw the movie, the importance of films like Yes Madam and Righting Wrongs to her career, how the role she wound up playing was different than she was originally told it would be, how the ending of the movie sets the film apart from a lot of other HK action films and having to shoot a different ending for the picture based on audience reactions, signing a contract to work with Stallone on a movie that never happened and how that affected her career, how she'd love to do a sequel, having to learn how to do stunt work, where she used a stunt double, the different versions of the movie and when they were released and quite a bit more.

    Fighting Wrongs is a new twenty-five minute interview with Cynthia Rothrock where she talks about working with Yuen Biao, being pressured to sing in Hong Kong because that's what movie stars did there, the length of the shoot, how she got the part in the film, some of the odd poster art that has been made for the movie in different territories and the different names that the film has gone under, having to get used to pain, the film's original and alternate endings, working with her co-stars, the differences between shooting in Hong Kong and America, studying at Second City to try and improve her acting in films for American audiences and lots more. It covers much of hte same ground as the commentary tracks but it's cool to get to see Cynthia speak about her experiences here.

    Unscripted Justice is a thirty-five minute interview with actress Karen Sheperd where she speaks about how she landed the role of 'Karen' in the movie, her martial arts training, how she wound up working in movies and specifically movies in Hong Kong, auditioning for the role in Righting Wrongs, how much she enjoyed working with Rothrock and how she took the role based on the fact that she was going to be in it, what it was like on set, working with the Chinese crew and how hard these crew members work, how the story and her character different in the movie from what she was told they would be, having trouble getting paid, some of the stranger experiences she had in Hong Kong, her thoughts on the different versions of the movie and how grateful she remains to Rothrock and appreciates having been involved in the movie.

    Actor Melvin Wong shows up in the twenty minute Kung Fu Was The Equalizer interview. He talks about how he started working as a pharmacist before getting into acting and then going on to become a lawyer only to then go back to acting. He talks about growing up in Chinatown in San Francisco, his martial arts training, the influence of the Shaw Brothers movies, moving to Hong Kong, getting his start in film, working with Golden Harvest, his thoughts on working with the Yuens, details on shooting some of his key scenes, his thoughts on the way that the law is portrayed in the movie, his thoughts on kung-fu and martial arts styles and disciplines and quite a bit more.

    In the twenty minute Fighting For Success we get to hear from actor Peter Cunningham where he talks about his involvement in completive kickboxing before then going on to talk about his dramatic training. He talks about his work on No Retreat, No Surrender, how he wound up getting the role in Righting Wrongs, working with Cory Yuen and Yuen Biao, how excited he was to go to Hong Kong, working with the Chinese cast and crew, playing a bad guy in the movie, learning firsthand how hard it is to make action movies, how smoothly his main fight with Yuen Biao went, having to schedule his competitive fighting with his film work, what he's gone on to do in the acting world since making this movie and how thankful he is to have had the career that he's had.

    Up next are a trio of archival interviews that first appeared on the DVD release from The Weinstein Company way back in 2007: The Vigilante which is a seventeen minute interview with Producer and Star Yuen Biao, Action Overload which is a thirteen minute interview with star Cynthia Rothrock and From The Ring To The Silver Screen which is a nineteen minute interview with star and real life Kickboxing Champion, Peter Cunningham. These are pretty interesting if a little brief. Each of the three interviewees gives us their thoughts and remembrances about working on the film and it makes for an interesting look back at the golden age of Hong Kong cinema.

    Violence And Corruption is an eleven minute video essay with film historians Samm Deighan and Charles Perks that talks about the film's sinister streak, how it compares to the heroic bloodshed films that came out around the same era, the way that the film uses fight choreography with its themes of justice, the ugliness of the murder scenes, the Hong Kong Category III rating, the way that authority figures are portrayed in the movie, the bleak ending of the original cut of the film, how the stunt work adds to the film's elements of danger and violence, some of the political themes that the film deals with and the film's final major stunt piece.

    Finishing up the extras on the first disc are Cantonese and English theatrical trailers for Righting Wrongs, menus and chapter selection options.

    Disc Two

    In addition to the ninety-two minute Above The Law (English Edit) and one hundred minute Writing Wrongs (Chinese Edit) versions of the movie, this second disc also contains a critical commentary track with martial arts film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema that is available over the Chinese edit. This track goes into plenty of detail about some of the quirks about the film's opening, such as way guys that looked like they walked off of the set from a seventies Italian cop movie appear in the opening scene, Yuen Biao's various pseudonyms, how the movie looks like a seventies product despite being made in the mid-eighties, loads of information about Cory Yuen's career and directing style, details on the different cast members that pop up in the picture, the intensity and impressive fight choreography in pretty much every one of the fight scenes, the odd use of humor in parts of the movie, why Hong Kong directors really liked working with Rothrock, how good Melvin Wong is as a villain, who did what behind the camera, the differences between the multiple cuts of the film and why they exist and lots more.

    Disc Three:

    The main extra on disc three is the inclusion of the ninety-one minute documentary, The Best Of Martial Arts Films, from 1990. Directed by Sandra Weintraub, this feature is hosted by the late, great John Saxon and serves as a reasonably thorough history of the genre. Made up of interviews not only with Righting Wrongs stars Cynthia Rothrock, Yuen Biao and Karen Sheperd, it also contains interview clips with Jackie Chan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bruce Lee Chris Casamassa, Robert Clouse, Keith Cooke, Sibelle Hu, Sammo Hung, Sho Kosugi, Angela Mao, Richard Norton and quite a few more.

    Those already thoroughly versed in martial arts movies won’t find a lot of new information in here but will most certainly enjoy the wealth of interviews, some archival and some exclusive to the documentary, as well as plenty of clips and highlights from some of the more noteworthy martial films of all time.

    A theatrical trailer for The Best Of Martial Arts films, menus and chapter selection options finish up the third disc.

    It's also worth taking a second to go over the packaging. The Blu-ray-sized flipper case holds the discs in place and comes with some very cool reversible cover sleeve art. It also comes with an embossed slipcover, and that slipcover, in turn fits inside a side-loading and genuinely sturdy box decorated with some nice spot varnish and some great artwork from designed by Tony Stella & Earl Kessler Jr. Also included inside the box is a forty-page perfect bound full color book with essays on the feature by by film programmer Pearl Chan, author and martial arts historian Grady Hendrix and filmmaker/fan Simon Barrett.

    Righting Wrongs – The Final Word:

    Righting Wrongs holds up as a very tense and exciting action film thanks to some amazing fight choreography and absolutely insane stunt work. Vinegar Syndrome has righted a lot of wrongs of their own with their impressive three-disc Blu-ray edition, presenting all three cuts in very nice shape and with an impressive selection of extra features that analyze the film and document its history. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Righting Wrongs Blu-ray screen caps!

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