PG-13 for violence, blood, death, and Jackie Chan's butt. What? It's honest. This is an action movie through-and-through. There's so much action that it actually gets to be hard to breathe out. But the movie is an action-comedy. The tone, for the first three quarters, super light! Then, it becomes Lethal Weapon and becomes ultra serious for the final act. But there is a really awkward uncomfortable joke about rape and abortion that doesn't hold up over time, so keep that in mind. PG-13.
DIRECTORS: Jackie Chan and Chi-Hwa Chen
God bless Criterion. There was a period there where everything was hoity-toity. I mean, I kind of loved that because the brand "Criterion Collection" stood for something almost untouchable. Sure, there were the early entries in the series, like Robocop and The Rock. But Criterion has come out the other side and started releasing stuff like Zatoichi, Godzilla, and now Police Story. There's almost nothing hoity toity about Police Story outside the fact that it is in another language. That doesn't mean it's not a great film. But first and foremost, Police Story is a fun film.
I got these movies for Christmas and they oddly fit my needs exactly. I saw that a friend of mine had purchased this set and I was really curious to see the early work of Jackie Chan. I have always kind of dug Jackie Chan. Like, he's not on my radar most of the time and it's not like I'm part of the fan club. But I also know what I'm getting into when I start watching a Jackie Chan movie. Even if the movie isn't amazing, I know that Chan is going to be doing some absolutely fantastic acrobatics and fight choreography. I mean, I hated Shanghai Knights. It doesn't mean that I wasn't impressed by Jackie Chan. (Full disclosure: I have yet to have an inkling to watch Rush Hour 3.) But I had no idea what I was missing. I know that the Drunken Master stuff was the pinnacle of his Hong Kong career, but Police Story shows Jackie Chan in his prime. If I thought the stuff he was doing in America was insane, the stuff that he could do over there was mind-blowing. Part of me feels like we got retirement Jackie Chan and we were happy with that.
I heard somewhere that Jackie Chan has broken every bone or nearly every bone in his body. (I had to put that second clause in there because, in my mind, he would be dead if he had broken every bone in his body. I also get that these breaks probably didn't happen at the same time.) But Jackie Chan pushes himself. Do you know how we get mid-credits bloopers of Jackie Chan failing at stunts and they are hilarious? Apparently, the Hong Kong film audience doesn't need these bloopers to be hilarious, but also horrifying. There's footage of him and other stuntmen being taken away in stretchers. All this is meant to be funny in a way. Don't get me wrong: some of these bits are hilarious. But the fact that he's showing how perilous the entire shoot is terrifies me. I can't imagine the same thing is true for Hollywood productions. There's definitely not a sense of pride for almost getting killed on the movie set. But that almost might be what makes Police Story so darned watchable. There's really nothing left on the court. I can't imagine wanting to be Jackie Chan and planning for the next thing that is going to kill you. But it really shows in the movie. I don't think that I've ever seen stunts like the one done in Police Story. It's actually kind of funny because the stunt that they are most proud of, Chan going down a mall elevator (they showed it three times in the movie back-to-back-to-back) isn't nearly as insane as it got for me.
And that's Police Story's real success. It is everything that spectacle should be. It's really weird though. Starting the movie, it feels like something that me and my buddies would have shot over the weekend. The acting is rough at times. The story is almost non-existent from moment one of the story. But then they launch a handful of cars into a shantytown and the whole thing feels like the movie is going to be one giant action sequence. I thought that was the movie for a while. I questioned, "Could a movie be one giant stunt spectacular?" I mean, it wasn't. There was a point where the sequence ended and we got more story, but it felt like Jackie Chan was showing off the potential of stunts in film.
In terms of character and story, there's some really weird choices going on in the movie. Chan (the character) is oddly likable, despite being a huge jerk. We sympathize with him for being this adorkable hard-on-his-luck cop. But he also is genuinely crappy boyfriend. Police Story plays up a lot of the tropes of the action-comedy. We know that his family life is going to take a backseat to dangerous world of law enforcement. But it seems like Hong Kong decided to take that to the next level. When Chan is berating his girlfriend and offering to sleep next to his witness, there really isn't a miscommunication there. He's actually offering to sleep next to the witness, despite the sexual connotation. He also really is slandering his girlfriend to this attractive stranger.
And then the story takes a hard right. I mentioned that the tone was pretty light and airy for a lot of the movie. I mean, I shifted pretty uncomfortably during the phone call sequence. But you can tell that the sequence was meant to be a charming look at this cop. It has an element of Charlie Chaplin, this guy over his head and trying to do a mundane task with the utmost difficulty. But after he discovers the dirty cop within the business, the movie just ignores all of the tone set up for the first part of the movie. Chan goes Rambo on every guy he sees. It's a heck of a choice that his character makes too. He knows that the police won't believe him when he turns himself in, but then gets really mad when they act in the exact way that he predicts. It's almost like someone behind the screen wanted to give the movie a sense of legitimacy, so Chan becomes this other character out for blood. There's jokes and humor all through the majority of the film, and then the film wrestles with the importance of the law and the rights of the criminal. It gets dark. I suppose we're supposed to applaud when Chan decides to beat up and destroy a suspect in custody. It's not like the movie really had to bring up this moral ambiguity either. It would have been a happy ending having Chan take the criminal into custody. Heck, he could have even won the case. But kicking him through a glass display before the credits roll is a really weird choice.
But I can't wait to watch Police Story 2. It was an accident, but I have been --through the intervention of fate --watching a lot of Hong Kong martial arts movies. I didn't decide this. This is all part of the really weird algorithm I have going on for deciding the next film. Regardless, Police Story 2 has already grabbed my attention and I'm excited for it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.