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Sammo Law, a top flight cop and hand to hand combat instructor from Shanghai, China comes to Los Angeles to search for a crime boss and a female undercover cop whom his department lost contact with. Once there, his temporary mission is turned into an ongoing exchange position and he is partnered with a pair of cops and is met with a clash in culture. As they battle the criminal elements of the city, his skill in martial arts proves to be a big help.
The show is largely inspired by the mid-90's Jackie Chan craze, and the fights scenes are in the same vein of being fast paced and "blink and miss it" actions. Sammo Hung is also a long time friend and frequent collaborator with Jackie.
Martial Law provides examples of:
- Acrofatic: Sammo.
- Amoral Attorney: One of the villains in early episodes .
- Ancient Conspiracy: One appear near the end of the second season and Sammo's son is one of the members
- Anticlimax Boss: Sammo was once facing a man, claimed to be world's deadliest assasin, who had even killed two bodyguards with a pencil. However when Sammo started fighting him it turned out that the guy didn't even know kung fu. He was just a crook, who had accidentally killed a man with improperly prepared fugu while trying to hide from the police, and pretended to be an assassin for the money.
- Arch Enemy: Lee Hei to Sammo.
- By-The-Book Cop: Amy, at the start of season 2.
- Cool Car: Sammo won a cool convertible that accidentally rolled into the bay during a fight The Teaser of one episode. He replaced it with a used taxi, to Terrell's disgust.
- Cliffhanger Copout
- Crossover: Chuck Norris' Walker, Texas Ranger appears in one episode. Sammo later appears in an episode of Early Edition.
- The Danza: Sammo Hung playing Sammo Law.
- Detective Mole
- Doesn't Like Guns: Not that he doesn't like them, he just doesn't get one. Handwaved as the brass being afraid things might get volatile if he had one. Don't think about it. Just don't.
- Fair Cop: Just about
- Fake Defector: Pei Pei does this to Lee Hei.
- Epunymous Title
- Heel Realization: Near the end of second season Sammo managed to talk his son out to make him think about his position in the secret society, without the audience knowing that he was successful.
- Game Show Appearance: In the first episode, Sammo furnishes his apartment by winning stuff in The Price Is Right.
- Improvised Weapon: Not terribly surprising given Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan were contemporaries in the Peking Academy of Opera.
- Married to the Job: Sammo's co-workers are even afraid to tell him that he has to take a week off.
- Martial Pacifist: Sammo.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Terell apparently pulled this off, two bad guys thought that they pinned him down with gunfire, only for him to appear behind them with a gun on each hand.
- Prison Rape: Referenced when Sammo and Terrell go undercover in a prison. We're shown the shower, which pans over to Terrell showering with every single piece of his clothing on. At the end of the scene, he drops the soap, and watches the other prisoners cautiously as he picks it up.
- Reverse Mole: Sammo's son apparently did a Heel Face Turn and did his own gambit by shooting Sammo with a tranquilizer to bring him into the Supervillain Lair.
- Rule 34: Sammo's goes to a house looking for a suspect, and ends up in a meeting for people who are sexually aroused by engine vibrations.
- Token White: Louis in season 1, after Dana left. Amy during season 2.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Eveybody's surprised the first time they offer Sammo something to drink, and instead of tea he asks for Diet Coke; it usually happens Once an Episode.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: In episode "Cop Out" Sammo infiltrates into a group of policemen who kill criminals that have not been sentenced.