Jackie Chan's Police Story and Police Story 2 Blu-ray Review
At the time of writing this review Mission: Impossible - Fallout is wowing audiences globally. Some even herald it as one of the best action movies ever made and it is incredible stuff, deserving all plaudits. It’s especially great for fans of the action genre when quality films like the Mission: Impossible franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road and the original Bourne trilogy smash the glass ceiling to smithereens and everyone seems to briefly appreciate the fine art of smacking bad guys in the face and throwing oneself off of a building. There is a knack to it.
Jackie Chan has that knack, showing the world how it should be done for decades and he created the epitome of the action-comedy movie in 1985’s Police Story. Two years later he outdid himself and set the bar even higher with the sequel. This month sees the release of a fantastic, limited edition box-set of both films from Eureka! with 4K restorations and a bucket load of extras.
Chan started his career as a stuntman, appearing very briefly in Enter The Dragon. Following Bruce Lee’s untimely death, Chan was moulded as a replacement, but with the best will in the world, he was never going to match the charisma of Bruce Lee. Instead, after getting a break in Drunken Master and over the course of many more films, he developed a more knockabout style, frequently working with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao and inflecting his breathtaking ability with Buster Keaton-esque comedy. He’d already enjoyed phenomenal success by the time he wrote and directed the first Police Story, but arguably a niche one.
Police Story and its sequel were the most American of Chan’s movies thus far, downplaying Detective Ka-Kui's kung-fu abilities. He’s more of a brawler, frequently in-over-his-head, rather than the expert folk-hero roles Chan had played before. If you don’t think you’re a fan of kung-fu movies, but you like Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys, you will owe it to yourself to see these. Bad Boys II featured a shanty town car chase taken from Police Story and the older film does it far better. Utterly glorious, noisy, exploding chaos.
The writing has especially dated on the first film and some of the jokes were always silly and about as subtle as a pie-in-the-face (which actually happens), but it’s a world away from some of his earlier work that was more akin to a Chinese Carry On film. Really, the loose plot is there for no other reason than to join up set-pieces and it’s the kind of movie you can watch time and again and still find something new. Chan and his stunt team seemingly have no limits and the choreography is phenomenal. It’s no wonder the stunt team was often seriously hurt.
The list of injuries Jackie Chan has endured over the years is eye-watering and yet he is unstoppable, like a human ping-pong ball. He might not have that natural Bruce Lee charisma, but he makes up for it in hard work and fiercely practiced discipline. He is rumoured to be a tough director on set with take after take seeking the perfect cut, but it’s all there on the screen. The final act of Police Story has a ferocious fight scene in a mall that will make your jaw drop.
The sequel is a better-balanced film and the stronger story with less silliness makes it feel even more action-packed. Also with more priceless 'Uncle' Bill (Bill Tong). It picks up where the first film left off and the ferocity hasn’t waned even in the first minutes. Police Story 2 is pure 1980s with big hair, shoulder pads and corporations, bearing similarity with Lethal Weapon, which also had themes of family versus duty for a maverick cop, tolerated by his superiors because he's the kind of lunatic they need to tackle ridiculous villains trying to blow them up. Jackie Chan even includes a torture scene to make Mel Gibson proud. If it weren’t for the fact they were released the same year, you’d swear one was inspired by the other. In any case, much as I love Richard Donner’s brilliant film, Police Story 2 edges it despite missing the buddy cop banter that Gibson and Danny Glover did better than anyone. It’s spectacular, exhausting and thrilling and stands up to this day with stunts that would make Tom Cruise wince.
There’s an affection for the first Police Story that hasn’t waned all these years later and it’s because of Jackie Chan. His infectious enthusiasm, cheeky grin and generous nature come through the screen. It might be episodic and frequently too silly, but it’s Chan at his purest. Police Story 2 is bigger and perhaps loses a touch of the charm, so it just has to make do with probably being the best action film ever made. Sorry, Hollywood, keep trying.
Both films have never looked so good, but if you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll know that praise comes with caveats. The source material shifts in quality, especially in the first film, but otherwise the 4K transfer sharpens them up like you’ve never seen before. Colour and detail are balanced much better than in previous releases.
Again, if you know the genre, you know what to expect. The audio was traditionally recorded separately and so has a charmingly disconnected feel to it. Occasional drop-outs aside, it's fine. The original Cantonese is the better choice as always over the awful English dubbing. The 5.1 remix is a good choice too, but mono is stronger for dialogue being centered.
English Alternate Mono (Police Story only)
POLICE STORY EXTRAS
Everything a self-respecting Police Story fan could want is included in this fantastic release from Eureka! Although Bey Logan's commentaries from the Hong Kong Legends series of a few years ago are sorely missed.
Police Story - Japanese Cut (105m) - previously exclusive to Japanese laserdisc and transferred to HD from a film print in 2012. A good chunk of the extra time is a birthday surprise plot in the opening scene, but it is very funny even if grown-ups should know better.
Police Story - US Home Video Edit (98m) - an oddity; shorter, with a new score and different dub track, presented in SD.
Alternate and Extended Scenes
Jackie Chan Stunts Promo (5m)
Interview with Jackie Chan (20m)
POLICE STORY 2 EXTRAS
Original Hong Kong Version (106m) - SD with Cantonese Mono and Commentary
Original UK Video Version (96m)
Jackie Chan - Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show (41m) - This is a gem. Archive episode of a film show with Jonathan Ross interviewing Jackie Chan on the Shaw Brother's lot.
Interview with Benny Lai (16m) - Stuntman turned memorable deaf and mute villain has a great insight into life on set with Jackie.
Alternate Outtakes (3m)