POLICE STORY/POLICE STORY 2
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Bill Tung
Director: Jackie Chan
Audio: PCM Mono (Cantonese), 5.1 (English)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: Police Story 100 Minutes, Police Story 2 122 Minutes
Release Date: April 30, 2019
ďDonít be a cop if you want to live to 100.Ē
ďYou want this line on the recruitment poster?Ē
As someone who has been a huge fan of Jackie Chan most of his life, Iíve found two aspects of his career frustrating. The first was the fact that he never really became big in America. The second is the fact that he DID become big in America.
For years I felt like a keeper of a secret. Jackie Chan was a phenomenal screen presence; fearless, fast and funny. He (like all Hong Kong action stars of the time) did all of his own stunts in an action movie (Hong Kong stars never understood American action stars, who step out and let a double take over when it gets dangerous). His fight choreography was show stopping; always upping the ante, fighting improvisational style with anything and everything around him, and still coming across as a genuine everyman.
I first heard about him in a documentary on martial arts films. Many stars in that special were amazing, but Jackie immediately stood out for his mix of action, comedy, and courage. I would begin seeking him out everywhere I could, but there was little to be found here in the States, other than his awful American film The Protector and throwaway roles in the Cannonball Run movies (interestingly enough, when those films premiered in Asia, Jackie was given top billing over Burt Reynolds and Farrah Fawcett!).
It was about 1992 when I first got to experience him for real, when a local theatre spent a summer running one foreign film at one time slot each Sunday. I noticed they were going to show Police Story III: Supercop, and I went for my first full feature exposure to Chan. It was a delight, and everything I had built up in my head about experiencing Jackie Chan didnít even come close to the real thing.
Some years later, Chanís film Rumble in the Bronx was picked up by New Line Cinema for theatrical distribution. Of course, they dubbed it and Americanized it with music and such, and cut it down a bit, but it became #1 at the box office. I could finally show people what Iíd known for so long about this incredible star. Jackie Chan tried most of his career to break through in America, and ironically, his breakthrough came when he was actually no longer trying.
It was a blessing and a curse, as studios began to roll out other cut down, dubbed and Americanized versions of his films. Armour of the Gods II became Operation Condor, Police Story III: Supercop became just Supercop (still good, but a bit removed from the original). He began to get teamed up for Hollywood films alongside Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson.
For me, all of this success was well-earned, but seemed to water down what Jackie really was, even though he continued doing amazing stuntwork well into his 50s. I would plead for friends to watch some of his true classics with me, such as the Project A and Police Story movies (Police Story eventually reached video here in yet another truncated Americanized form, but I had the originals).
Maybe now justice will be served for Jackie, as Criterion is releasing the action classics that truly put him on the map for good. He wrote and directed both Police Story and Police Story 2; both indelible staples of the action movie for me, with Police Story being my all-time favorite action flick.
These films, starting in 1985, helped Jackie bring his new approach to martial arts films full-circle. Before Jackie, they were always period pieces about fighters in search of a new mystic form of kung fu and the like. Jackie began introducing humor into these films, to the horror of many elitists but to the delight of audiences. His Half a Loaf of Kung Fu was pure spoof from the credits forward.
His next move was to bring martial arts out of the tales of old and into modern times. Police Story feels like a movie going for broke in every frame, and the combination of spectacular action set pieces and humor (not much of a plot) is rapturously engaging. From an opening stakeout where an entire shantytown is obliterated to the glass smashing finale in a five story shopping mall, Chanís athleticism, humor and inventiveness are firing on all cylinders. The film even includes arguably Jackieís greatest and most dangerous stunt: a midair leap from the fifth floor to catch a pole covered in electric lights; he slides down, exploding the bulbs all the way, and crashes into a kiosk on the ground floor. Did he survive? Look for yourself; itís one take. He gets up fighting.
Police Story 2 was longer and gave us more of an actual story, and introduced some more ladies into the mix (in Hong Kong, the women in action were as fearless as the men). It includes a climactic fight where Jackie was actually set on fire more than once. He makes it look easy, but a staple of his movies (as here) are the outtakes during the credits, where you can appreciate how painful and dangerous Jackie and his teamís work was.
These movies to me are the centerpieces of an unprecedented career in action. Jackie was a man who risked life and limb to entertain his audiences, and why, America excluded, heís been the biggest movie star worldwide for quite some time. Iím glad American audiences have had their chance to experience Jackie Chan, but I sincerely hope anyone who thinks of him as that Rush Hour guy will treat themselves to Jackie in pure form and at the top of his game, calling all the shots and taking the falls.
If youíve never seen these films before in their true Asian form, you may be surprised at how high my rating is. Thatís because film preservation in Asia is notoriously lacking. Iíve owned DVDs of these and other Jackie Chan movies purchased from Hong Kong, and they look atrocious; washed out, grainy, and scratchy. Criterionís 4K restoration is far beyond what I thought possible. Colors are once again bright and vivid and detail levels strong, with the prints looking clean throughout. Thereís still a touch of grain here and there in darker scenes, but truly, if youíve seen these films before, youíll almost feel like youíre watching them for the first time with this set.
The uncompressed mono is serviceable; Hong Kong films up until Jackie Chanís Mr. Nice Guy always had all audio dubbed afterwards, including dialogue, but the effect is not distracting here. (As a note: film actors rarely dubbed their own voices, in case you were wondering why Jackie doesnít sound like Jackie). Dynamic range is good; if you prefer, thereís are 5.1 English remasters (where Jackie IS Jackie), but I go for the original.
No commentary tracks, but I donít think Iíd want to listen to anyone talking over Jackie Chan performing. Still, a plethora of good and fun extras, which include:
* New 4K digital restorations of Police Story and Police Story 2
* Alternate 5.1 surround and English-dubbed soundtracks for both films
* Hong Kong-release version of Police Story 2, presented in a high-definition digital transfer for the first time
* New programs on Chan's screen persona and action-filmmaking techniques featuring author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix
* Archival interviews with Chan and actor and stuntman Benny Lai
* Television program from 1964 detailing the rigors of Peking-opera training, akin to the education that Chan received as a child
* Chan stunt reel
* Interview with filmmaker Edgar Wright on Chan
* Podcast of Edgar Wright and Jackie Chan
I would say if youíve never seen Police Story and Police Story 2, youíve never really seen Jackie Chan. His original Hong Kong movies showcase a superstar in a way you have to see to believe. This beautifully restored Blu-ray set from Criterion is a must-own.