CHINATOWN CONNECTION (1990) – Forget it, Jake, it’s NOT Chinatown. Nor is it The French Connection. Nor The Chinese Connection. Hell, it’s not even Love Connection. What it IS is a late 80s buddy cop film released in 1990, complete with the “one white guy and one non-white guy” aspect. (48 Hours, Running Scared, Lethal Weapon, etc)
Forget it, Fall Guy fans, it’s NOT Lee Majors. It’s not even Lee Majors JUNIOR, technically, since he goes by Lee Majors II. Nor is it Bruce Lee backing him up but instead Bruce Ly, who is considered lame even by devoted Brucesploitation fans like me.
Lee the Second (it feels like the word “King” or “Pope” should be in front of that) stars as Detective Houston (Forget it, Lee Horsley fans, it’s NOT Matt Houston – OKAY, I’ll stop!). Warren Houston is your regulation Cop Who Plays By His Own Set of Rules and he has anger management issues to boot.
After venting his frustrations during a touchy investigation into poisoned cocaine that’s been killing drug users across the city, Lee II gets sent for martial arts therapy (?). The police officer in charge of that program is Bruce Ly’s character John Chan (Forget it, Jackie Cha – SORRY.).
You can guess what happens next: Houston and Chan decide that bullets and physical force are no substitute for solid police work so they dive into paperwork and put in some serious legwork to take down the bad guys. I’m kidding, of course! Lee pumps crooks full of lead while Bruce chop-sockies them into oblivion with spectacular moves that would result in massive groin-pulls for lesser men.
Our hunky heroes soon learn that the mastermind behind the poisoned cocaine is a mysterious criminal called the Scarface Man. (Forget it, Al Pacin – SORRY AGAIN!)
Houston and Chan can’t wait for an invitation to extend greetings to the Scarface Man’s diminutive associate (See what I did there?) so they lean on all their street contacts, including one who looks like a very young Sid Haig. Except in this movie he’d be called Sid Haig the SECOND, of course.
SPOILERS: It turns out the Scarface Man is working for a Triad leader who wants to take over the city’s cocaine trade and is using the poisoned coke to drive business away from his Mafia competitors. In the end Bruce and Lee recruit Bruce’s entire class of Martial Arts Cops to help them raid the bad guys’ headquarters.
Everything ends happily, of course, and loose ends are wrapped up nicely thanks to the Triad leader and the Scarface Man double-crossing each other.
Even though the only cliche left out by this flick is a romance it gets awfully dull at times. The two leads are affable enough but they lack the screen presence to carry scenes that aren’t gunfights or Kung Fu fights.
Bruce Ly is difficult to understand much of the time, which also hurts. Lee Majors the Second is kind of bland, but if you close your eyes when he’s talking you could SWEAR it’s his father speaking, that’s how similar their voices are.
In the supporting cast are Brinke Stevens the First and Pat McCormick the Old. The best performance in my opinion comes from the aforementioned Sid Haig lookalike, John M Jackson. His street snitch character is a former PCP dealer still known as P.C. Pete. (I’m not kidding.)
Overall, Chinatown Connection is definitely better than its reputation but can be a real slog to get through. It’s not So Bad It’s Good unfortunately, even though some of the fights feature blows that come nowhere near the bad guys yet still knock them silly.
During the many dull stretches I couldn’t help but be distracted by thoughts of a potential movie in which Steve Austin and Matt Houston team up to help Jody Dallas. But I’m kind of weird. +++
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