A critique of Marshall Law
Poor old Sammo
Saturday night. I, the pathetic loser, have nowhere to go, so I settle down with some yoghurt to watch TV. Channel Four has something interesting about Da Vinci, but Im not in an intellectual mood. And BBC1 has The National Lottery: Jet Set, but Im not feeling particularly stupid either. Channel Five is screening a re-run of Martial Law. Im sold.
If youre unfamiliar with this programme, dont worry; its a piece of shit. Each episode of Martial Law revolves around this guy, hes called Sammo, and hes a Chinese cop hot off the plane from Shanghai, come out West to show them how to bust ass China-style. It really is hilarious; some American network executive has clearly heard this guys big in the East, shipped him over, and put him in a crash course at the local LA English school. Except fat-man Sammo cant cut it and drops out after two weeks; he can barely pronounce his colleagues names, let alone deliver line after line of poorly scripted dialogue, intended solely to move the plot from one mundane fight scene to the next.
And did I mention that Sammo is fat? He tries to hide it with a new suit every week, but this actually accentuates his problem, making the fight scenes even more ludicrous than they already are. Because in Martial Law, every scene is a martial arts showcase, and every single bad guy, no matter how lowly, is a Kung-Fu guru. Apparently, in LA, the skill is so common that criminals rank themselves according to their proficiency at it; the henchmen thus make for hapless cannon fodder, allowing portly Sammo to take on twenty at once with spectacular results. With the programmes logic, the endless supply of shady underworld figures who run the show are therefore good enough to guarantee the inevitable showdown with Sammo to last at least five minutes, allowing the script writers to round off each episode neatly, without need for yet another unfeasible plot-twist to bulk up the minimalist plots.
Sammos surname is, implausibly, Law. The shows creator probably thought it was ingenious, naming a policeman Law. Good call, loser, its about as clever as the Dukes of Hazzard. Pity they failed to consider the likelihood of a Chinese first-generation immigrant who cant even speak English just happening to have an English name that suits perfectly their job. Sammos co-stars have equally improbable names that only someone losing their grip on reality could come up with. The one and only woman character is pert n sassy Detective Dana Doyle; Terrell Parker is the wise-cracking stereotypical black sidekick, who Im guessing just loves fried chicken (such is the shows calibre); and Captain Benjamin Winship is the crusty, old, white police captain who is this close to busting Sammos ass off the force, yet develops a grudging respect for his unorthodox methods.
Talking of crap names, did I mention the episode titles? A quick browse of IMDB.com yields, Diamond Fever, Extreme Measures, Deathfist 5: Major Crimes Unit, and, classically, How Sammo Got His Groove Back, which I just have to see; it sounds great. Each episode ends with outtakes, in case we need to be reminded that the characters are in truth actors (oh, the revelation). All that these serve to do, however, is to emphasize Sammos weight problem and to underline the fact that he cannot pronounce certain letters of the alphabet. After seeing the outtakes, I marvel that they ever got a fluid fight scene together, considering how ungainly he is.
Nevertheless, all of this saddens me. Honestly. Although I laugh at Sammo, part of me feels truly sorry that he is being exploited in such a sadistic way for such a crap show. Bearing in mind his meagre grasp of English, it seems likely that poor old Sammo signed an extremely harsh contract without even realising the ramifications of his actions, i.e. that he would be made a fool of on a weekly basis. Poor, poor Sammo.
(c) Deeyell - i like to label