Police Story 2 Review
The debate regarding sequels forever rages on with the general consensus being that a sequel rarely manages to live up to the original, let alone surpass it. This may very well be true to the Western world of cinema but in that magical realm of Hong Kong Cinema they somehow manage to frequently make sequels that more than live up to the originals and Police Story 2 is one such film.
For those who have never seen Police Story (shame on you!) or just for those with a poor memory Police Story 2 opens with a brief action montage from the original, the main purpose being to show you exactly why Jackie Chan's character, Ka Kui, has been busted down to Traffic Cop duty. Soon after this opening montage we see that Ka Kui and his long suffering girlfriend, May (Maggie Cheung), are yet again being harassed by the original films lead criminals, Chu Tao and his despicable lawyer. While contending with this threat Ka Kui decides to leave the force to enjoy life with May, but not before long the wonderful double team of Uncle Bill and Raymond (Ka Kui's superiors) drag Ka Kui back onto a blackmail case which eventually leads to Ka Kui and May being taken hostage, and Ka Kui having to save the day from a seemingly impossible situation.
For an action sequel the plot has far more range to it than you might suspect. The impulsive nature of Jackie's character is landing him in trouble with his superiors on a daily basis and the constant reprimands he receives are gradually building up to a bursting point whereby Ka Kui simply cannot put up with the fact that his unorthodox, yet successful methods are not appreciated. This of course leads to a heavy strain that is put on his relationship with May, who is absolutely delighted when Ka Kui announces his retirement, but understandably furious when he soon changes his mind and leaves her stranded in the process. Then of course you have the clever mixture of both a primary and secondary threat to Ka Kui in the form of the recently released from prison Chu Tao who is determined to make Ka Kui's life a misery, while an all new threat in the form of a group of bomb wielding blackmailers are on the scene yet you never quite know who will provide the challenge Jackie has to over come for the films finale.
Like the original Police Story Chan took up the directing reigns for Police Story 2 and while he never quite reached the dizzying heights he did with his latter title, Miracles, you still have to appreciate what a fine job he did. The story is kept moving at a blistering pace and utilises some well executed story-advancing techniques such as scene-intercutting and time-fades, while the choice of camera moves is often very impressive. Some areas of Jackie's direction are however questionable. In particular the use of footage from the original film both at the beginning but more so later on are unwelcome and frankly un-needed as another area where Police Story 2 succeeds is in being a perfectly viable stand-alone film whereas the use of previous footage, especially within the film rather than just in the opening sequence undermines that fact (and is indeed something Jude Poyer and Miles Wood pick up on in the Audio Commentary). Not only does Police Story 2 work extremely well for those who have never seen the original, but it also develops several long running themes of the series from the obvious with the relationship between Ka Kui and May, to the less obvious as we see Raymond, the Superintendent become more aware of Ka Kui's skills and we see a better understanding develop between the two quite different characters. Further themes continued from the original lie with the comedic elements of Police Story, with the aforementioned Superintendent 'Raymond' continuing a fine onscreen rapport with Uncle Bill who make for quite the comedy duo, while the more slapstick comedy theme comes from Jackie's ability to consistently smash Chu Tao's lawyers glasses!
Of course without the appropriate action sequences to at least equal, and to preferably better those found in the original all of the above will be made redundant as this after all is an action film, but more specifically it is a Jackie Chan film. In terms of martial arts sequences Jackie continues the style he first used in the original Police Story, that of a faster street fighting style with shorter bouts than we would usually be treated to in the traditional Martial Arts epics. This method of fighting is blended in with Jackie's now patented 'use your surroundings' techniques with fights that take place in a restaurant, but in particular in a Park Playground featuring some breathtakingly fluid choreography that when combined with Jackie's interaction with his surroundings makes for a riveting experience. Taking things up a notch for the films finale we are introduced to Benny Lai, a quite phenomenal kicker who almost steals the show in the films outstanding action finale thanks to his lightning fast combination kicking that rivals the skill of earlier onscreen kickers such as Hwang Jang-Lee! For fans of those bone-crunching stunts Jackie so loves to treat us too (and lets face it, we all love to watch them!) you will not be disappointed as each of the final enemies is taken out in true style while Jackie is constantly putting himself in harms way throughout the entire film.
Put simply Police Story 2 is a phenomenal action film. Other than the previously mentioned faults with Chan's direction, you could add a soundtrack that sometimes does not quite do the film justice, and the yearning for a lengthier fight between Jackie and Benny Lai but other than these minor points there really is very little wrong here. The various elements of Police Story 2 all combine to make for a thrilling ride, and it is this ride of pure entertainment that makes you watch a Jackie Chan film.
This Hong Kong Legends DVD is Region 2 and 4 encoded.
Police Story 2 was shot utilising the 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio and as such we would expect Hong Kong Legends to release it as so, but often due to unforeseen circumstances this is not always possible, and sadly it would appear that the print Hong Kong Legends has been given was in such a condition that some minor cropping has been applied, and for the main feature this DVD is presented at a 2:27:1 Aspect Ratio with Anamorphic Enhancement. In real terms what this means for the end-viewer is that the borders will be slightly smaller, but at the loss of some horizontal picture information to the very far sides of the frame. Comparing the main features transfer to that of the HKL Promotional Trailer (which is presented at roughly 2:34:1 Anamorphic Widescreen) I found that no extra picture information was present on the far sides of the frame, but instead found that the main feature had slightly more vertical picture information present at the top and bottom of the frame. Furthermore, comparing the out-takes from the main feature, with those provided in the Extra Features menu (which are correctly presented in the 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio with Anamorphic Enhancement) I found there to be a noticeable amount of extra horizontal picture information to both the left and right of the frame. In practice though when watching the main feature there were very few occasions for example where the framing felt cramped due to the cropping, and even less occasions where I knew I was missing an area of the picture important to the film (the one scene in particular where I did notice this was when Jackie is hit by the Van when crossing the road, Jackie should be onscreen after being hit, but he is cut out due to the cropping).
Moving past the confusing Aspect Ratio situation let me say that the print sourced is generally free of dust and other marks you might usually see, although at the 45-minute mark a faint white vertical line can be seen dancing around the middle of the screen for a couple of minutes. Detail levels are sadly only reasonable, with only the occasional high point throughout the film, otherwise a constant low-level of grain is permanently visible and detracts from the overall quality. Colour reproduction and more specifically the handling of dark scenes are particularly good although like with many aspects of this transfer, you just feel it could be a little better. On the whole this DVD offers a fine viewing experience although like the original Police Story I feel that HKL have been fighting an uphill struggle when it comes to finding a source print that will allow them to produce the kind of transfers we all know they are capable of when the circumstances are more in their favour.
Hong Kong Legends have provided us with all new Dolby Digital 5.1 Remixes of both the original Cantonese Language track and the English Dub track. For primary viewing I opted, as you might suspect, for the original Cantonese Language track that as with the large majority of HKL remixes is very much focused across the front soundstage making very little use of the rears throughout the films running time (this is however far more preferable to the often over-active R0 Hong Kong discs remixes). Voices are clear and the punchy soundtrack has been spread across the front speakers admirably with the only slight negative point to this soundtrack being the sound effects, which often sound muffled and undefined. This is however nothing to worry about as it hardly effects your enjoyment of the film. As for the English dub track, this not being my preferred option I merely dipped in and out and found it to offer essentially the same DD5.1 Experience of the Cantonese Language track, with the obvious difference being the English voice-acting.
The optional English subtitles are as always presented to a very high standard with no sign of spelling or grammatical errors. For our Dutch readers you will be pleased to know that optional Dutch subtitles are also available for the main feature.
Hong Kong Legends have drafted in an all-new Audio Commentary team for this release giving regular audio commentator Bey Logan a well-deserved rest. Talking throughout the film in what is a far more screen-specific commentary than what Logan would usually deliver is the British born Hong Kong Stuntman and movie critic Jude Poyer who is joined by another British born Hong Kong cinema critic, Miles Wood. You may have seen Jude Poyer in the Hero makers: Hong Kong Stuntmen in their own words documentary on the recent Red Wolf Platinum Edition release and like his interviews on that documentary he is very well spoken and has plenty of information to impart on the listeners. Although Poyer is the dominant speaker on the track his co-commentator Miles Wood is certainly not shy and he too has some stories to tell and some observations to make, which is really what this commentary track is all about. From pointing out small cameos, actors and stuntmen, to relating the onscreen events to more recent current events from Hong Kong there is an interesting level of information on offer here while we are also treated to some quite humorous stories and some genuine insider information (Poyer in particular actually being a stuntman). Despite frequent pauses (that never last more than 10-seconds) and less depth to the information we are used to from Bey Logan commentaries I still found this commentary track an interesting and entertaining listen and it certainly seems that Jude Poyer in particular is ready for more (and will next be seen on the Naked Killer DVD) and I will certainly look forward to his future efforts.
Moving into what is possibly the ugliest Extra Features screen HKL have yet designed you will find just three choices. The first of these is the Out-take Montage which is simply the Out-takes sans End Credits as we see in the main feature. Obviously this is a welcome inclusion as you can see far more of the onscreen action as we know longer have any credits to obscure the view, but another reason many will find this interesting is for comparison purposes with the main feature, as these Out-takes are presented in the correct 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio with Anamorphic Enhancement.
The second choice from the Extra Features menu is the Interview Gallery in which you will first find a 30-minute featurette entitled Jackie Chan: King Of Action. Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen this featurette is a well crafted look at Jackie Chan and his work utilising some previously seen interview footage with Jackie himself (taken from Jackie Chan: My Story/My Stunts) whilst joining the fray to speak about Jackie are Sammo Hung, Richard Norton and Ridley Tsui (again the footage is taken from other discs but is still welcome). Also present is some new interview footage featuring Pat Johnson (Action Director on Battle Creek Brawl and Cannonball Run) and Ng See Yuen (producer of Drunken Master and many other classic titles) that is unique to this disc (at the time of writing), while you will also find extended looks at future HKL titles Project A, My Lucky Stars and Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, all of which are looking better every time we see them and help to make this is a good featurette that utilises a blend of old and new footage that works well to make for an entertaining half-hour.
Also present in the Interview Gallery (and again in Anamorphic Widescreen) is Benny Lai: Master Kicker, a 15-minute interview with stuntman and lead bad-guy of Police Story 2. Benny is still looking great fourteen years after Police Story 2 was originally released and even treats us to a demonstration of his martial arts prowess which includes a fantastic Nunchuku demonstration. This rooftop display is cut in between a more formal sit-down interview where Benny reveals the training he has undertaken, and his thoughts on his first major acting role in Police Story 2, and just what it is like to work on such a demanding action title. This is another great interview that will both inform and impress.
The final section of the Extra Features is the Trailer Gallery which features the original Theatrical Trailer, that presented in 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen is a must watch as it contains a healthy selection of behind-the-scenes footage while the Hong Kong Legends Promotional Trailer is presented in another strange aspect ratio of around 2:34:1 and of course features Anamorphic Enhancement. As has become the trend with past releases (and long may it continue) the Further Attractions section from the main menu is worthy of mention in this section as it contains preview trailers for the following forthcoming titles; Mr. Vampire and Naked Killer, as well as the standard information and trailers for eight other current releases.
To my mind Police Story 2 is one of Chan's best titles. It combines his trademark sense of humour, action and the overall ability to entertain into a riveting plot that never lets up from the moment it begins. This really is a must see film (but I do not need to tell the fans that) and a great first step into the world of Jackie's Hong Kong based career. As for the DVD, well, despite the minor annoyance with the bizarre set of aspect ratios available on the main feature, the trailers and the separate outtakes montage this is still a fine effort from the team at HKL thanks to the generally decent quality of the transfer, and the inclusion of an entertaining set of extra features.
Last updated: 25/06/2018 07:19:10