Film: Police Story
Release date: 24th September 2001
Running time: 96 mins
Director: Jackie Chan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Lam Kwok-hung, Bill Tung
Country: Hong Kong
Jackie Chan is the king of Hong Kong action cinema. The world’s most likeable action star rates Police Story, his movie response to the failure of his 1985 Hollywood flop The Protector, as perhaps his favourite on-screen endeavour. Some of the most dangerous stunts Chan’s undertaken are fused with a solid plot that make Police Story not only breathtaking but also gripping.
Chan plays Chan Ka-Kui, an honest policeman who is part of an operation to bring down a major player in the criminal underbelly of Hong Kong. It looks close to being a success after using subterfuge to try and convince a crime-boss secretary (Brigitte Lin) to testify against her boss. However Ka-Kui and his fellow officers celebrations are cut dead prematurely, and in a dramatic fortune reversal, he finds himself framed for murder.
Ka-Kui fights to clear his name through a series of impressive and heart-trippingly intense fight and stunt scenes, whilst also trying to keep together his relationship with girlfriend May, played by the coquettish Maggie Cheung…
The opening sees an officer displaying stills of suspects on the wall of a dimly-lit station wall. As we move from the stills to see the villains in real time, Chan sets a style of action he’s not known for – gunplay. Just 15 minutes into the film and Chan is chasing a series of drug suspects through the slums of Hong Kong’s New Territories. Famed for his physical action, it’s an oddity to see Chan shooting and running without throwing in a roundhouse kick or wise-cracking line.
The slums were specially constructed to accommodate Chan’s vision. The chase moves to vehicles, and cars plough through the flimsy shanty-town. The destruction and explosions prove to cement the hard-nosed thriller vibe Chan was aiming for. It also segues into a shocking stunt. A double-decker bus, top-loaded with four stuntmen, brakes hard at the wrong time. Instead of the stuntmen crashing through the glass and landing on a specially-built car, they fall nastily onto the tarmac. This sequence alone made it impossible for Chan to gain insurance cover on his future Hong Kong endeavours.
As the story weaves through Ka-Kui’s framing, and the introduction of the beautiful female supporting cast of Lin and Cheung, Chan slips in a few vaguely comedic skits. We’re perhaps needlessly treated to a pie-in-the-face standard, and another when trying to convince Lin she is in awful danger of masked assassins. This segment is tempered by a fight sequence seen as too fast by overseas audiences. The sheer physical energy of the Jackie Chan stunt team and intricacy of the movements is sped along by accomplished editing and wonderfully framed and lit exterior shots. Yet the pace can suddenly drag. An overlong courtroom scene serves to relieve some tension, but it also leaves the viewer impatiently waiting for the next action sequence, as does an awkwardly placed scene of Chan answering a series of phones and getting tangled up in them.
Solid plot aside, this film has been a fan favourite since its release thanks to the literally death-defying stunts. A key-scene sees Chan jump from a high floor of a shopping mall onto a pole wrapped with Christmas bulbs. As he slides down, the bulbs crack, splutter and burn him. It’s a shocking stunt, and just before he throws himself onto the pole, he gives an angry shout. We’re also treated to two full replays, defying the flow and logic of the narrative, but not damaging it – perhaps Chan knew we’d be reaching for the rewind button and saved us the trouble. It’s also notable as the flow of electricity wasn’t reduced in time and Chan really put his life on the line. The skin on his hands was burnt away.
As well as risking death for this movie, he also toyed with paralysis. One jump sees an awkward landing which dislocated his pelvis and very nearly fractured discs in his spine. As well as the obvious physical attributes, Chan also acts extremely well, balancing the stilted comedy spots with pathos. We come to care deeply about the likable Ka-Kui and his quest for justice. His anger and frustration at being wrongly accused isn’t hammed up or overblown as it so easily could’ve been by a lesser performer, demonstrating Chan isn’t just a skilled stunt-player.
The end serves up a staple of a Jackie Chan movie – the outtakes. Littered with rehearsals for the movies stunts, we also see the extreme aftermath of performing them, such as the incredible pain from his injuries.
Police Story spawned a series of sequels and reboots, such as New Police Story. The original deservedly won Best Picture and Best Action Choreography at the Hong Kong Film Awards in the mid-80s, and ensured Jackie Chan’s place in the hearts of hardcore action movie fans across the world.
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