Case Number 02057: Small Claims Court


Sony // 2001 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // July 20th, 2002

The Charge

When it comes to justice, she knows all the moves.

The Case

Julie Cosgrove, a CIA/FBI/DEA/BFD operative in Columbia, sees her fiancé killed for quoting really inane poetry. Returning to America to hide from the US government (?) she cashes in her 401(k), styles her hair like Cindy Lauper's Shetland pony and hunkers down in Rancid Polecat, Fla. to play secret agent peek-a-boo. Some job of keeping a low profile...between bar brawls and battles with the local mafia, blind Indonesian lemurs could track her down. Still, she's flummoxed her ex-bosses. Their strategy to locate this AWOL agent with vital information is to make phone calls. When some PYT "mysteriously drowns" while hanging at her gangster boyfriend's crib, our sprite spy reluctantly agrees to fracture a larynx or two. She makes it her all consuming passion to:
(a) help avenge the floater's death,
(b) undermine the production of a super addictive drug called "Devil's Breath" (so gosh darn popular in Europe) and
(c) find some manner of intrigue to keep the audience from falling into hyper sleep.
Eventually, Cos and her untrained bartender protégé hack a computer, break into a heavily guarded compound, fill the place with dynamite, thwart an Asian martial arts expert, and still have time to wrap up plot holes from 89 minutes before. Oh yeah, there's a cute dog in the film too.

There was a time when Cynthia Rothrock was a dependable Grade B fight film heroine, the China O'Brien/Lady Dragon series establishing her as a bankable female booty bopper, like Rachel McLish or Hermione Gingold. It's a shame that, almost 20 years later, she is reduced to roles that capitalize on her acting (?), not her action. Ole Cyndy just can't whip tushy like she used to. Billed as a wham bam martial arts slugfest, Outside the Law has no car chases, rampant bloodless gunplay, and only three or four real grapplings, all of which are lamely choreographed and horrendously filmed. You'd think Jorge Montesi, with his many directing credits, would know how to film a fight scene, right? Well, don't wager your wontons on it. His camera suffers from ADD, skittering to places where the action is not. Cyndi throws a punch -- camera cuts to the ceiling. Bad guy kicks and spins -- camera moves to a crack in the floor. Maybe some of this has to do with the pan and scandalous presentation. Or maybe its a little pugilistic prestidigitation to avoid showing an aging action queen huffing and puffing in between roundhouses. The plot is just laughable. For a woman who is supposedly wanted by errant, evil government bureaucrats, and heartless, bad ass thugs, she hangs around her homestead for hours...days even, without a lot of external hassle.

The picture quality of this DVD is a little suspicious. The image has a flat European feel, grainy with a natural light vagueness. During the widescreen opening, the picture is serviceable. It is only when it awkwardly switches to full screen that it starts to look like Lamberto Bava's Devil Fish, except without the sea monster (puffy, sweaty sheriff excluded). The sound, for Dolby Digital 5.1, is average, and the extras provided are trailers from better films than this. It's intriguing that this static fight flick offers subtitles for several foreign languages. Maybe the notion of a kung fu film without a lot of kung fu seems entertaining to third world nations. Or maybe they've spent too many days in non-air conditioned cinemas overdosing on lifeless dreck like this to care. Cyndi may be Outside the Law, but this DVD is definitely outside the realm of human tolerance.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 66

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Portuguese
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb