Dave Foster has reviewed the Region 2/4 release of Police Story. Directed by and starring Jackie Chan Police Story is a modern action comedy from the master of the genre that has finally been given the attention it deserves from Hong Kong Legends.
Police Story is a firm favourite amongst Jackie Chan addicts and after watching this classic on the DVD format (my first time in far too many years!) it is easy to understand why. Featuring an almost perfect mix of outrageous stunts, fluid modern style martial arts sequences, a healthy dose of Chan’s trademark comedic style and of course a cohesive storyline Police Story is basically the perfect Action comedy flick.
Jackie Chan plays dedicated Police Officer Ka Kui who is currently working on a case to bring down local drug baron Chu Tu (portrayed by Chua Lam). After an arrest is made Ka Kui has to protect the key witness in the form of Chu Tu’s secretary Selina (Brigette Lin) but after several encounters (including a Michael Myers look-alike wielding a kitchen knife!) Chan fails and this is where things start to go horribly wrong for Ka Kui as Chu Tu frames him for the murder of a fellow police officer. On the run Ka Kui is left with no choice but to defend his name by taking Chu Tu down himself and by doing this Chan creates one of the most stunning and deeply satisfying action finales yet committed to film. Chan himself is on fine form in the role of Ka Kui, he is both deftly fast in the martial arts sequences as he is graceful in his movement during the physical comedic scenes but for possibly the first time on film he proves that he is also a fine dramatic actor with a superb performance in the hostage situation and throughout the films running time. Chans leading ladies, Brigette Lin (New Dragon Gate Inn) as key witness Salina and Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love) as his unassuming and constantly tormented girlfriend May are both in top comedic form and certainly light up the screen with their presence. Other notable mentions must go out to Bill Tung (as Uncle Bill) and Kwok-Hung Lam (as Superintendent Raymond) who are superb in these supporting roles and do of course continue their great partnership in the Police Story sequels.
Of course when you think ‘Jackie Chan’ the first thing that enters your mind is fast paced martial arts and death defying stunt sequences and to say that Police Story delivers would be an understatement! As the first film to use Chan’s specially trained ‘JC Stunt Group’ Chan quite rightly wanted to prove their merits and so this film has two of the most outrageous stunts yet performed by Chan himself as well as several others performed by various members of his crew. Of particular note is the destruction of a Shanty Town whereby Chan drives a car right through it and of course the finale where Chan makes a 9ft jump from a standing position and slides down a pole (that is at least 100ft in length and covered with lighting rigs) and crashes right through a glass conservatory! It is of course quite insane but we all know that it proves to be great fun to watch and these sequences rank as some of Chans best work in the stunt arena. The other staple of any Jackie Chan movie are the martial arts sequences and for Police Story Jackie adopted the more modern approach of fast short bursts of movement that creates several stunning fight sequences that sees Chan attacked from every angle as he does his best to defend himself and eventually defeat his opponents.
Featuring some great physical (the phone sequence) comedy and a high level of verbal comedy (in particular the apartment sequence) Police Story is a clear winner on these merits alone but when you add the many superbly executed action sequences (and you know they are good when you start grimacing!) it simply becomes a must own film for both Jackie Chan fans and action fans alike.
This HKL DVD is dual encoded for both Region 2 and 4.
Presented at the original 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio with Anamorphic Enhancement initial impressions of Police Story are good but the quality was not quite up to what I was expecting. Most likely down to the conditions in which Hong Kong films are stored this 1985 title looks no better than say the older Magnificent Butcher (also from HKL) but is none-the-less a decent transfer that is far better than any version of Police Story that we have previously seen. The actual quality of the print used is fairly good and apart from a thin vertical line that is present for several minutes in the opening reel (and thanks to HKL restoration techniques it is barely noticeable unless you are actually looking for it) we only see the occasional white speck here and there. The only other inherent problem with Hong Kong titles is that of film grain and Police Story suffers from a larger than usual level of this but again thanks to the quality of this transfer it never becomes a problem unless you are deliberately seeking it out. Another slight niggle would be that of fluctuating brightness levels seen in the backgrounds of the lightly lit sets but again this problem is kept to a bare minimum and with this section of the review becoming overwhelmingly negative let me just say that despite these minor faults this is yet another fine effort from HKL. What with detail levels that are impressively high and the fantastic looking colours and blacks that are rendered with a quality that defies any other version you are likely to have seen you can really do no better than make sure you watch Police Story in this format.
Hong Kong Legends have again provided Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes of both the original Cantonese Dub and the English Dub. Listening to the Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track you will once again be provided with a decent audio experience that is typically (but for the best) understated and concentrates on creating a natural soundstage with clearly audible voices via the centre speaker. While there is little use of the rears we do get some well-executed directional effects from the Buses in the films opening scenes and another great use of the rears was to fill the room with the main Police Story theme (and it sounds great!). I only dipped into the English Dub and while technically sound I was not at all impressed by the quality of the translation or the actors chosen for the roles. Hong Kong titles with this level of verbal comedy never really translate well into English and Police Story is a prime example of this so for that reason this feature is only for those who fear subtitles (and these are of course of the usual high quality that we have come to expect from HKL).
The main extra feature for this DVD release is an Audio Commentary from Hong Kong Movie expert Bey Logan. Taking a break from the production of Jackie’s latest project Highbinders (which begs the question – Where is Jackie Chan on this Audio Commentary?) Bey Logan is in top form with a wealth of information on both Jackie Chan and the principal actors that surround him with some insightful information on both their past and present antics (including, from the male perspective, his delightful comments regarding Brigette Lin). Bey speaks at length with regards to the various action sequences and especially the groundbreaking stunt work present, he also talks about his own work with Jackie and about the Jackie Chan method of filmmaking and quite frankly is just constantly engaging and of course the icing on the cake is how Bey shows his great appreciation of these movies by educating the listener to a level where you will only appreciate them even more.
Another fine addition for this disc is an interview with Jackie Chan that was shot quite recently and has an impressive 20-minute running time. For this interview Jackie initially focuses on his style of action but soon moves on to Police Story and his thoughts surrounding this project and the impressive stunt work that features within. Including a return to the Wing On Shopping Mall (where the films finale takes place) Jackie is typically vocal about his experiences there and is a joy to listen to thanks to his effervescent persona.
Die hard Police Story fans will no doubt be aware of the Japanese Laserdisc release that contains both an extended opening and an extended ending to the film and while Hong Kong Legends could not obtain the rights to the opening they have managed to include the extended ending with the alternate outtakes montage. The extended ending eschews the traditional Hong Kong big action finale and boom, end credits style for an ending with more of a resolution between Jackie and the two female leads as well as some interesting alternate outtakes.
Taking a new approach for the Jackie Chan animated Biography HKL have used a slightly re-worked script that makes for a highly informative listen and takes us through every major film release from Jackie Chan both past and present, all the while we are treated to 36-minutes worth of well cut together action scenes that include clips from the Police Story series, Project A series, the various three brothers films and The Young Master amongst several others. With this new format Chan’s Animated Biography becomes eminently re-watchable as you learn about his extensive career as well as being treated to selected clips from his varied film library. The only problem with this biography is that the final few minutes of information is slightly out of date as it suggests that Rush Hour 2 is still in pre-production and of course the information on the once forthcoming ‘Nosebleed’ film is both incorrect and slightly out of place given its content (regarding the World Trade Centre) but these are minor faults that would only have delayed this release further if HKL had gone back to correct them (and of course this biography will almost certainly be updated for future Jackie Chan releases on the HKL label).
To round off the extra features we see the inclusion of the Original Theatrical Trailer and HKL own Promotional Trailer for Police Story as well as a Jackie Chan Trailer Gallery that contains four trailers for Jackie’s films that are already available on the HKL label (Armour of God, City Hunter, Battle Creek Brawl and Miracles). Finally, the oft maligned HKL Photo Gallery is worthy of inclusion as it not only features stills from the film but also includes some interesting shots of Poster Artwork and what would appear to be Lobby Cards!
As ever this HKL disc features Trailers and information for 10 other titles on their label and while this is not something I would usually mention I feel that in the case of Police Story this section is worth a look as we are treated to trailers for the forthcoming Game of Death and Iron Fisted Monk releases.
Put simply Police Story is Chan doing what he does best and deserves to be in any fans collection and for those uninitiated in the ways of Chan then Police Story serves as a fine introduction piece. Need I add that this Hong Kong Legends DVD is by far and away the best way to own this film?…thought not!
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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