DVD Supercop 2
Sometimes a film title can be misleading. Sometimes a film distributor will reuse the title of a popular movie. Sometimes they will deliberately neglect to insert a ‘2’ after the title of a sequel. Sometimes, when Jackie Chan won’t return for the starring role, but will consent to a five minute cameo, his name will still make it onto the DVD cover. With Supercop 2, it’s no surprise that such subterfuge took place as it had a lot to live up to. The fantastic 1992 original – part of the Police Story series – was a breathless festival of elastic limbs and outrageous, death defying leaps from moving vehicles. Jackie Chan was in his prime and Michelle Yeoh was cementing her position as his female equivalent. Here, the actress best known for her performances in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Memoirs Of A Geisha and, unfortunately, Tomorrow Never Dies, takes the reins as the eponymous character in Stanley Tong’s follow up.
Jessica Yang (Yeoh) is a straight-down-the-line police officer; impossible to corrupt and uninterested in medals, glory or getting a pay rise. With a will of iron and extraordinary fighting ability, she takes on and defeats anybody foolish enough to commit a crime in her vicinity. She’s a hero of the force. She soon discovers it’s not all peaches and cream, however, when her boyfriend, David Chang (Yu Rongguang), sick of being skint, decides to shoot off to Hong Kong to make his fortune…by any means necessary!
Six months later, the Hong Kong police call upon Yang to help them deal with a pesky outfit of highly efficient, ruthless thieves. She eagerly obliges, unaware that the leader of the gang is none other than the unscrupulous, aspiring entrepreneur who left her in the first twenty minutes…
It’s a sure sign of things to come when even the opening credits are interspersed with meticulously choreographed, bone-crunching action. Such is the eagerness to get stuck into the main course that little care has been taken even with the dubbing. When calling for reinforcements, generals, captains and colonels are lazily referred to as “the army leaders” and, as for character development, everything one needs to know about Yang is learnt by the time she lands her first punch. The scene culminates with Chang staring straight into the camera and treating the audience to a hilariously absurd expression of wide-eyed, cartoon surprise, before leaping from an exploding building into a net held out by a circle of soldiers. It is therefore a joy to be presented with the following statement: “The characters and events depicted in this movie are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
Unless a faceless goon happens to catch the film late one night on some obscure channel, Stanley Tong and co. can forget any concerns they may have had regarding a lawsuit. There is not a character present that even remotely resembles a person who could exist in the real world, and rightly so, for who wants that from a film like this?
It’s about Michelle Yeoh performing with extraordinary physical prowess.
It is a pity that the rest of the film does not follow the formula of the opening scene: a brief setup, great action and a few laughs. That is the blueprint for the entirety of the first Supercop movie, but here it is not consistent. Things take a darker turn toward the final third and, as the smiles die, the film focuses more on the moral theme of the story than the simple excuses for a punch up. Where there were cheeky winks at perilous situations, there later appear tears that feel totally out of place and thoroughly unnecessary. This all builds up to a horrendous montage featuring a grisly pop song that should never have seen the inside of a recording studio, let alone the conclusion of a martial arts extravaganza.
But this is not about the plot or characters. It’s about Michelle Yeoh performing with extraordinary physical prowess. There are no excessive cuts during the action sequences of Supercop 2, allowing the fluidity, strength and grace of Yeoh to be fully appreciated. Too often in modern day cinema, fight scenes are marred by continuous edits and odd, obscuring camera angles. These techniques are sometimes applied in order to mask the inadequacy of the film star, whose only experiences of roundhouse kicks and neck chops originate from a month long slog in a Hollywood boot camp. Another reason seems to be the genre’s relatively recent obsession with adopting the style of a music video. Nearly all of even the mighty Jet Li’s Western adventures seem to be based around a particularly aggressive piece of hip hop. Not here, though. With every confrontation, there is a real sense of the skill, balance and precision engrained in Yeoh. In one furiously entertaining scene involving a confrontation with a muscle-bound henchman, she wields a hefty bag of loose change in each hand, smashing him around the head but with the controlled movements of an acrobat. She is brilliant. She even leaps up onto a windowsill with such catlike elegance, it is impossible not to marvel and, occasionally, rewind. It is incredible that she has never formally trained as a martial artist.
A thoroughly enjoyable martial arts movie, spoiled only by the ill-judged sentimentality toward the end. Michelle Yeoh’s terrific turn paved the way for the stardom, plaudits and nominations galore.
See The Film For Yourself!
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