New Police Story Review
Fans of Jackie Chan will be all too familiar with his Police Story series. Produced between 1985 and 1996 there have been four entries to date starring Jackie as inspector Chan Ka Kui, with the last entry First Strike dividing opinions with regards to its “official” status within the series. It was around 1996 that Jackie began his second attempt at trying to make it big in America. This time he succeeded, but in recent years his output has disappointed both fans and Jackie himself, so a return to Hong Kong was needed and it is there that he decided to resurrect the Police Story franchise and put a fresh spin on the concept.
The result is New Police Story, a film that is part of the series in name only. Jackie has chosen to take on a new role, introduce several new characters and adopt a much darker tone, which is somewhat of a risk for a man known predominantly for his slapstick action approach. This was a risk worth taking, however, as Jackie wishes the aforementioned return to form to please not only himself but his fans who were expecting a true sequel in Police Story 5.
The story centres around officer Wing Chan (Jackie Chan) - a much respected man on the force with a perfect arrest record. One year ago he became involved in a case that ended in tragedy, leaving his team which included the brother of his fiancé (Charlie Yeung) dead and Wing the only survivor following a violent game organised by a gang of youths. Having been reduced from a super cop to a hopeless drunk, Wing drowns his sorrows with whisky and wallows in self pity having lost the will to fight on and avenge the death of his men. Soon a young, energetic cop comes into his life. Frank (Nicholas Tse) decides to try and get Wing back on his feet and on to the force, with the help of officer Sasa (Charlene Choi). When they discover the young gang are leaving clues to their next plan in the form of an online game based upon their cop killing spree a year ago, Wing and his new partner Frank set out to solve the case and along the way Wing must learn to deal with his inner demons and regain his self respect once more.
Jackie’s return home sees him take the producer's chair and fight choreographer mantle, with Benny Chan helming one of the most eagerly anticipated action films of 2004. Not since Crime Story in 1993 has Jackie taken on such a dramatic role, but after tiring of lacklustre sidekick comedy roles in America that left him with little in the way of action (and watered down action at that) it doesn’t come as a huge shock to see him trying to reinvent his image by giving us a serious performance, while still showcasing his enormous talent for putting together memorable action scenes and bouts of light comedy.
A moment ago I mentioned Crime Story, a film that saw Jackie take on a different kind of challenge in the acting department. New Police Story sees him do this once more but unfortunately he doesn't quite grasp where to draw the line, something that saddens me because we've seen him do much better in the past, certainly in Crime Story, and while he doesn't usually get high praise for his acting abilities he does have the talent deep down. As a result much of his performance borders on excessive melodrama while director Benny Chan seems intent on squeezing the life out of his star - not entirely Jackie's fault then - which makes it difficult to ever sympathise with his character, primariliy because his racked up guilt is unjust. Wing cannot be blamed for the deaths of his colleagues and his selfish, self loathing actions do not generate the kind of emotion that might be expected of them. Jackie also overdoes the drunken act that sure as hell aided him in the past to great comic effect with Drunken Master, but here the comedy swagger almost contradicts his serious portrayal and as such any kind of credibility to his character becomes skewed.
This leaves the younger generation to pick up the pieces and thankfully Nicholas Tse has enough charisma to make it work. Nic's character Frank is the charming, comical foil for Chan's disheartened and pitiable guy, which works well as Nic Tse usually has a good knack for carrying these kinds of roles believably well. At times he does look as though he's about to break out in fits of laughter and for anyone familiar with his other roles then you'll know he tends to do that a lot; as a young actor he can be accomplished and yet at the same time he exhibits perhaps too much playfulness and a lack of willingness to take some things seriously. In the case of New Police Story his balance of comedy and drama is finely attuned and this is a much needed boost which prevents the film from ever becoming a depressing piece of work.
Surprisingly the cast of young actors who play the central villains are very commendable in their roles and despite their characters not being as fleshed out as they could be there is enough insight to understand their backgrounds and their abhoration for certain societies. Given the limitations of their parts each actor is given a decent amount of screen time, with Daniel Wu and Andy On in noticeable, meatier roles.
While New Police Story is dissimilar in many ways to his other works it still has that kinetic energy that made the originals so special. It's wonderful to see Jackie back on form doing what he does best, going so far as to re-invent and give several nods to the earlier Police Story features. Such instances include an exciting bus chase with Jackie riding atop, or two exuberant fight sequences involving the young and talented Andy On, taking Jackie punch for punch and kick for kick. For those concerned about whether or not Jackie is too old to be doing this stuff well all I can say is that based on the evidence here he's still very much got it in him. Though several scenes are aided by wires to enhance the experience they are no less dangerous, and indeed Jackie once again managed to hurt himself during production. If it's not leaping from moving vehicles or kicking bad guys then its running through an exploding building (only enhanced later with some CGI), vertically scaling down buildings whilst chasing a bad guy on a bike, or running across the top of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition centre.
Not only does the film have plenty of superb action to keep fans happy but it is shot beautifully, giving undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous impressions of Hong Kong in recent memory. From the opening night time, high rise shots to the latter ones overlooking the territories and seascape New Police Story captures its setting in ways we've never seen before, which aids the film so well, in addition to each action sequence being kept lively as they pulsate with the surrounding environment. Benny Chan shows that the story can go beyond alley shots and depressing set ups to give a visually alluring film that shows off the scale and budget remarkably well.
On the whole New Police Story is still a mixed effort. Not content with offering action and comedy there are numerous emotionally manipulative scenes inserted along the way. This becomes a failing addition to Alan Yuen's screenplay that offers too many frustrating moments of will they, won't they set ups. At times it does enough to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat - the tension of the opening act and subsequent warehouse showdown is brilliantly captured - but later on as the pace shifts it leaves us with character dilemmas that end up inducing groans, with some of the later twists being a little too forced. With all that said the film ends on a good note and if you've warmed to the characters by this point then it leaves behind a small and happy emotional reward.
Joy Sales Films and Video Distribution deliver New Police Story in a fine 2-disc edition.
We've got an excellent 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer here that shows off the film in stunning detail. Every moment is well defined, flesh tones are spot on, black levels and shadow detail are perfect and the only thing I could notice while taking grabs were slight compression artefacts on the red blocks in the Lego fight scene. This isn't noticeable on a TV set so I wouldn’t worry too much. It is also great to see that Edge Enhancement isn't put into effect, leaving a pretty faultless looking DVD.
For sound options we have a real treat. There is a choice from Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS-ES and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. For my primary listening experience I opted for the Cantonese Dolby 5.1 track due to not having the additional centre surround speaker to fully enjoy the DTS-ES alternative. The overall experience was very good and the film has plenty of action sequences that make full use of the effects on screen. There are several hugely audible moments involving explosions that deliver a real impact and for the city chase sequences a plethora of surround noise can be heard.
The optional English subtitles are some of the best I've seen on a Hong Kong DVD release. I noticed no errors and everything reads perfectly well. My only complaint is that as the final credits roll the outtakes are not subtitled.
Once disc 2 has been inserted an option to view in English is made available. Unfortunately this still leaves the "Making Of" section without English subtitles.
This is merely a synopsis that runs for a bit too long, spoiling the film up to a certain point. Somewhat worthless really but also unsurprising as it's one of those things included on most Hong Kong DVD releases.
This offers fourteen profiles, covering all of the major characters in the film, going so far as to teach us more than we might have learned in the finished cut.
There are two sections here. The first is a 15-minute featurette that has interviews from most of the cast as well as a behind the scenes look at the film. There are no subtitles, leaving the interviews to go over the heads of non Cantonese and Mandarin speakers.
The second part is a behind the scenes feature that runs for 60-minutes. Also lacking English subtitles the dialogue is difficult to understand, with only a few instances of Jackie directing while speaking in English. The good news is that there is more than enough here to please those who enjoyed the film as much of it is visually interesting, showing a lot of stunt work and thus erasing the need to have subtitles.
Here you can view the teaser trailer and two theatrical trailers. It's better to watch the film first to save spoilers.
This plays out to clips from the film, along with Jackie singing the theme song. I don't think it is quite as powerful sounding as his previous songs but it's a decent listen.
Cast and Credits
This starts by explaining how the project came about, fuelled by Benny Chan's want to make a film with very human characters and emotion and Jackie’s desire to finally escape his Hollywood "prison" so that he can once again perform the stunts he loves doing so much. It tells a little about the stunt work involved before finally giving a cast and crew list.
Here you can view posters, premiere stills, print advertisements, photos and stills, lobby stills, behind the scenes stills and a slide show featuring music from the original soundtrack.
In many ways New Police Story is better than anything else that Jackie Chan has done in the last few years. If not for his mixed performance and a few ropey story elements the film would flow a lot better, but I can't argue too much as the final product delivers more than enough in terms of brilliantly executed action sequences, with Jackie still looking as good as ever, along with a great supporting cast and breathtaking scenery.
Last updated: 19/06/2018 13:17:44