Friday, 13 September 2019

Classic Movie Review: Police Story (1985)

Police Story (1985)
Directed by: Jackie Chan.
Written by: Jackie Chan and Edward Tang.
Starring: Jackie Chan (Chan Ka Kui), Maggie Cheung (May), Brigitte Lin (Selina Fong), Kwok-Hung Lam (Supt. Raymond Li), Bill Tung (Inspector Bill Wong), Yuen Chor (Mr. Chu Tao), Charlie Cho (John Ko), Chi-Wing Lau (Cheung, the Lawyer), Hark-On Fung (Danny Koo), Hing-Yin Kam (Inspector Man), Mars (Kim), Tai-Bo (Lee / Snake Eyes), Ken Tong (Tom), Fat Wan (Jacknife / Mad Wing).
When Jackie Chan was at his best – and Police Story is arguably his very best (I say arguably, because I am hardly an expert on Chan) – he comes as close as anyone in film history in matching the physical prowess of Buster Keaton at the height of his own powers. You’d be hard pressed to find someone more adept at pulling off mind bending stunts like the ones Chan can pull off. The opening and closing sequences of Police Story are absolutely brilliant – the closing one in particular is the kind that makes you wonder how anyone survived all the insane stunts they not only attempt, but pull off. The end credits, as per usual for Chan, show a bunch of outtakes of the performers not quite pulling off what we just saw them pull off, which makes it all even more impressive. There’s a lot in Police Story that isn’t anywhere near that good – pretty much anything involving plot or characters – but when you can do what Chan and company do, who cares about small things like that.
The plot of Police Story is pure cop movie cliché. After that amazing opening sequence – where an entire small town built into the side of a mountain is shot up and destroyed (there is an amazing shot of a truck going through the town as it slides down the mountain), the plot really kicks in, and its essentially that Chan’s character has to keep Selina Fong (Brigitte Lin) alive long enough so she can testify against her gangster boyfriend, who is trying to have her killed. At first, she wants to escape – but when she realizes that her life in in danger, she comes around. The middle section of the film is more akin to farce than anything else – with smaller action sequences sprinkled in to keep those who just want to see Chan kick and punch people entertained. But there’s also screwball comedy sequences – some better than others – sprinkled in throughout the film, like when Chan tries to keep three phone calls going at the same time. There’s a courtroom sequence that may have been inspired by the verbal gymnastics of the Marx Brothers – that made me think of Johnny Cochran a decade later, as the lawyer talks in circles so much, he almost has you convinced, until you realize he hasn’t really said anything at all.
And then there is the shopping mall sequence that ends the film – and it really is one of the best sustained pieces of action filmmaking you will ever see, right up there with the opening of John Woo’s HardBoiled, and perhaps even more impressive, since it goes on longer, and it constantly seems like someone is about to die. Chan, as a director, gives himself of course many of the best moments – but he doesn’t shy away from letting others shine as well. Unlike the recent stories we have heard about some of the Fast & Furious action stars – none of whom can hold a candle to Chan at his peak – he isn’t afraid to get knocked down, or take some punches. He knows he’ll get the best of you in the end. I find I don’t want to say more about this sequence because it is so good, I just want you to see it for yourself, and be blown away.
And you should see it for yourself. Chan would, of course, go on to become a Hollywood movie star a decade or so after Police Story (1992’s Supercop is actually Police Story 3 and 1996’s First Strike is Police Story 4 – but you don’t really need to know that to watch either of those films). Many of his Hollywood films are slightly more whimsical than this – his moves more dance like than ever before, perhaps because he was aging. It’s also sad that Chan pretty much stopped directing when he came to Hollywood – he has 18 directing credits on IMDB – almost all of them before he came over here. Police Story then is an example of just what he could do both in front of and behind the camera – and is one of the best examples of what makes Jackie Chan such a special, rare talent.


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