My relationship with Jackie Chan has been an interesting one. As a kid I loved him. I watched his movies all the time. I specifically have fond memories of going to the $1 theater in my neighborhood and watching Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop multiple times. What wasn’t to like? Here was this badass, kicking ass, while being charming and funny.
But then something changed. I hit a certain age where I was just too cool for Chan. His charm had morphed into unbearable cheese. And I felt he was too mainstream. I couldn’t be bothered and I turned my back on Jackie Chan.
About 15 years ago I was watching a documentary on martial arts films. The name slips my mind, but I believe it was hosted by Samuel L. Jackson? You can Google it and find it, I’m sure. It was during this documentary that I listened to Chan speak about film for the first time. He discussed his many influences, most of which had a martial arts background, but it was his love for the silent film stars, specifically Buster Keaton, that piqued my interest. Essentially Chan credited Keaton and others like him for his foray into death-defying stunts. He’s trying to recreate what those legends did. This is why everything is a spectacle, but very funny.
Since that time I’ve been trying to repent for my terrible mistake. Abandoning Chan is something I’ll never be able to forgive myself for, but I’ll desperately trying to make it up by revisiting all of his work as often as possible. This brings me to the Criterion release of Police Story and Police Story 2.
This recent 2-disc release from the Criterion Collection comes in a gorgeous digipick and loaded with special features. Let’s dive in!
In 1985 we were introduced to Hong Kong police detective Chan Ka-Kui (Chan), or if you’re white, Kevin. Talk about a first impression. Chan is your prototypical movie cop willing to go to extreme measures to bring down the bad guys. If this means destroying full city blocks, well hey, sometimes blocks have to be destroyed.
The baddie here is crime lord Chu Tao (Chor Yuen), and after some undercover work and destruction of property, Chan manages to bring him down. As is the case with these things, Chu is released on bail and immediately plans revenge on Chan. This comes in the form of framing Chan as a cop killer. Needless to say, this becomes a giant headache. Now a fugitive, Chan must track down Chu to clear his name.
Police Story follows the same template we expect from most action movies, but everything is taken up an extra notch or two. Action movies generally start with a small set piece and work up to a massive finish to close things out. Police Story is different in that it starts at 11 and works up to, I don’t know, 100. It’s bonkers. This is a movie that opens with a car chase that ends with a car barreling down a hill (mountain?) and through a shantytown. Moments later, Jackie Chan chases down a double-decker bus on foot and brings it to stop by threatening to shoot it.
This opening could be the big finale in almost any other action film. The setup, the thrill, and the stunt work are jaw-dropping. But this is Jackie Chan and this is Police Story, so a car chase down a hill is just another day at the office.
In standard ’80s fashion, the film ends in a mall. And in this mall finale glass is broken. Lots and lots and lots of glass. I don’t know what the record is for most glass broken in one scene but I know this movie holds it. Also, motorcycles are involved. And remember, this is all happening in a mall. Eventually, Chan slides down a massive pole like a firefighter.
In between the action set pieces is a lot of comedy, most of which is slapstick. This is where Chan shows off his comedy chops and his Keaton influence. Maggie Cheung also steals a lot of scenes as Chan’s girlfriend, May. She constantly catches him in situations that aren’t what they seem and despite having obvious solutions that would clear things up, Chan’s goofiness causes him to fumble through his explanations and make everything worse. Everything worse for Chan that is For the audience, hilarity ensues.
Credits roll with Jackie Chan singing over them. 5 stars!
POLICE STORY 2
Police Story ended with Chan Ka-Kui a hero. He cleared his name, captured the bad guy, and in general saved the day. The sequel opens with him being demoted to the highway patrol. Why? Because of all the property damage he committed along the way. Superintendent Raymond Li (Lam Kwok-Hung) does not mess around. Chan hates this of course because he wants to be where the action is. May, on the other hand, is quite pleased. Less action means a better chance of Chan staying safe. Theoretically at least.
Chan’s demotion at the start of Police Story 2 may seem relatively minor, and in the grand scheme of things I suppose it is, however, it’s the perfect example of what this franchise is compared to other action vehicles. It uses tropes we expect action films to have, but twist them slightly. The commanding officer in these films is always threatening to fire our heroes. And it some cases they do. But after they save the day? That rarely happens. In the Police Story franchise, it works as another bit.
Chu Tao, the villain that Chan put away that ultimately lead to his demotion, has recently been released because he’s terminally ill. Whether or not Chu is knocking on death’s door is a bit of a mystery, but one thing is clear — he plans to use this newfound freedom to make Chan’s life a living hell. And Chu succeeds to the point that he baits Chan into resigning his post.
Before Chan can even begin to enjoy his new life away from the police force, he’s quickly roped back in when he learns of a bomb threat at a mall. Chan is unable to stop the bomb from leveling the mall, but he does manage to clear the mall beforehand saving the lives of every patron. Chan decides to join the force once more to track down the bomber. Spoiler alert: the bomber ends up being a deaf-mute with martial arts skills that are unmatched.
Police Story 2 doesn’t work quite as well as the first film, but it’s a worthy successor. Comedy seems to play a bigger role this go around, and while it’s the same brand as the first, it tends to feel a little forced this time out. I blame this on the film’s lack of balance. There’s not enough action, especially when compared to the first. This time it’s less about wowing the audience and more about telling a story. And while the story is perfectly acceptable, you want that action. At least I do.
It should be noted that this isn’t light on action by any means. There is still plenty of incredible stunt work on display. There is a warehouse scene chock-full of explosions and chaos. Lots of rolling drums that do some serious damage. There’s also a wicked fight at a restaurant in which things are done with chairs that don’t seem humanly possible.
My favorite aspect of this sequel is the expanding role of May. Cheung is very charming and funny and this time she gets a lot more to work with. She and Chan have such great chemistry and their relationship is central to the story.
Maybe it’s not as good as the first Police Story, but it still has plenty of laughs and Jackie Chan’s stunt magic…4 stars!
You can’t have a Criterion release if it’s not loaded with special features. And this is a Criterion release. Thus, we have a ton of special features.
Each disc has special features relevant to the film on that disc. We’ll start with disc 1 and Police Story.
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Janus Re-release Trailer
Over the years I’ve made my love of trailers well known. I could watch them for hours and on occasion do. In many cases, they seem like the most obvious bonus content for films to include and as such tend to get overlooked. Trailers are fun and here we get two good ones.
- Jackie Chan: My Stunts
- Films of Fury
- Training for Danger
- Police Story Stories
- Stunt Lab
- Wheels, Bullets, and Bangs
- Idea Wall
- Master Class
- One from the Heart
This is a documentary of archival footage in which Chan discusses and breaks down in his various stuns. It’s broken down into chapters and there is plenty on the Police Story films. As I mentioned up top, hearing Chan talk about his craft is what brought me back to him, so I can’t recommend this enough. Great work here.
- Edgar Wright
- The Talkhouse Podcast
Almost nothing brings me more joy than hearing directors talk earnestly about the films they love. And when Edgar Wright is said director, it’s even more exciting. There’s a new interview exclusively for this release in which Wright talks about his love for Chan and explains why he’s brilliant. Also included is a Talkhouse Podcast with Wright and Chan chatting it up. This is sure to make you smile. Assuming you have a heart. Those lacking hearts may not smile.
- Becoming Jackie
A new feature with author Grady Hendrix talking about Chan and how his work evolved over the years.
- The King vs Kings II
Archival footage of a television show where Chan performed the theme to Police Story. He’s later joined by members from the Jackie Chan Stunt Team.
- Jackie Chan
Archival footage with Chan discussing how he sets up his choreography, with a focus on Police Story.
If that’s not enough for you, disc 2 has plenty of goodies on Police Story 2.
- Hong Kong Version
This release of Police Story 2 has two versions of the film. The standard original, remastered in 4K and this Honk Kong version, remastered in 2K. This HK release is about 15 minutes shorter.
Original film’s trailer. Remember, trailers are fun!
- Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show
- Hard Work
- Not Bruce Lee
- Spectacular Stunts
This is an episode of a TV show from the late ’80s where Chan was the topic. There are plenty of interviews with others, including co-start Cheung, and “fun” clips of stunts gone wrong.
- Reinventing Action
Another segment with author Grady Hendrix. A good discussion on Chan’s rise to an international superstar.
- Interview with Benny Lai
An archival interview with Benny Lai on his involvement on Police Story 2.
- L’opera de Pekin a Paris
An archival episode of a French television show with a focus on the training that performers of the Beijing opera were required to do.
- Stunt Reel
It’s a stunt reel, as the title suggests. And it’s fun.
Police Story and Police Story 2 are both great movies and the start of a great action franchise. Criterion cleaned these bad boys up, stocked them with plenty of bonus features, and packaged them beautifully. There’s even a rad poster included. One of the year’s best releases, and highly recommended.