There is one name at the top of the action food chain for many people worldwide: Jackie Chan!
Consider this a wake-up call if all you know of him is as a silly martial arts comedian from the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon series. Because Jackie produced some of the best action films you’ll ever watch when he handled things HIS way on his own land.
Jackie’s greatest work is often cited as Drunken Master II. Certainly, that is a classic, but Police Story from 1985 is one of his best performances since it combines his trademark comedy with some of his best contemporary martial arts action.
As Jackie Chan was able to emerge from Bruce Lee’s shadow in the 1970s, his popularity on a global scale skyrocketed. Early in his career, Chan had begun to obtain leading roles. At the time, Bruceploitation, where impersonators were shamelessly pushed as Bruce Lee, was a trend in martial arts cinema. Sadly, Jackie was coerced into playing the same types of parts. He was even given the role of the character’s brother in the New Fist of Fury sequel to Lee’s Fist of Fury. It was a blatant error.Jackie grabbed the world by storm when he was finally able to perform his own style and incorporate some of his major influences, including Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. The rest, as they say, is history.
Even though Police Story was not his first non-period martial arts movie, it was the first one that felt modern in Hong Kong cinema in 1985. In the original Chinese version, Jackie would portray a character by the name of Chan Ka-Kui; however, in international renditions, he is known as Kevin Chan. Although Supercop, a 1990s film from Dimension Films, may be familiar to casual viewers, Police Story III: Supercop is truly where this character first appeared.
Chan is a Hong Kong police officer who is a member of a specialized task group tasked with battling organized crime. As soon as the opening titles are through, the case is immediately presented to us. It’s noteworthy to note that all of the Police Story movies begin in the middle of the action and seem to conclude suddenly without any typical character introduction or resolution. We first meet the main characters in the massive sting operation. The boss, Chu, is involved in numerous businesses but is often short on cash. As a result, he has turned to drug peddling and always has his nephew Danny handle the grubby labor.He also has Brigitte Lin’s Selina Fong, a recently hired secretary (famous in Hong Kong cinema circles for The Bride With White Hair and Swordsman 2).
The undercover operation is well planned, and each cop in the village of a shanty community where a huge deal is about to happen has a specific duty to play. Everything goes wrong, and in the center of the hamlet, the cops are engaged in a gun battle. Chan decides to pursue the evading suspects on his own. The next scene features one of the most well-known chase scenes ever captured on film. A automobile pursuit through the shanty town village is what happens first.I mean STRAIGHT THROUGH when I say “through.” Each automobile plows into structures, destroying everything as it down the slope. Chan ultimately wrecks his car and pursues the bus on foot while stealing a bystander’s umbrella. When Chan finally catches up to the bus and latches on, that scene becomes even more famous. He clings on for dear life as he attempts to elude autos and protect himself from attacks. Chan is expelled, and the third memorable scene occurs when he makes a detour around a hill, blocks the bus off from continuing, and engages in a game of chicken with the driver.The bus stops moments before Chan and the thieves are thrown out the front windows in one of the riskiest stunts of the entire film. Remember, EVERYTHING OF THIS WAS REALLY DONE!
And not a second too soon since they are actually ambushed as Chu sends a group of thugs to assassinate Chan and Selina.
When Jet Li’s Hero was released in the United States, American audiences also got to see Maggie Cheung as May, who is obviously still one of Wong Kar Wai’s favorite actresses. As Selina is taken into protective custody by Chan, we are introduced to another recurring theme of the franchise where Chan’s job always interferes with his relationship with May. Chan always seems to be caught by poor May at the worst possible moments, as she observes him with Selina who is still wearing her seductive negligee.After taking a piece of birthday cake to the face, Chan displays his naked ass while getting cleaned up. Yet, if you’re an action star in the 1980s, it’s just required by your contract to display your expertly sculpted butt.
When Chu is finally freed from custody, he puts Hong Kong’s supercop through the wringer and frames him for murder in an effort to ruin his name and reputation. Jackie takes things more seriously in the film’s final act. He’s not being funny, and his protagonist seeks justice along with some retribution.
One of Chan’s best finales in his whole career is set up by this. With a briefcase packed with proof of Chu’s misdeeds, Selina flees. Chu, his nephew Danny, and all of his thugs pursue her after she seeks sanctuary at a mall. In one of the bloodiest climaxes in action film history, Chan catches up with them all and engages in combat with them all. With all the fighting, Jackie claimed the crew began referring to the film as “Glass Tale” while it was being filmed since so much glass gets destroyed. And to top it all off, Jackie performs one of her riskiest tricks, sliding down a four-story pole that has been decorated with lights before falling into a playhouse.I became a fan of his work because of this scene alone. It’s the epitome of unadulterated, pure fighting. It serves as the best illustration of how Jackie differs from other action heroes who take on several foes at once. Chan is assaulted from every angle at once, unlike in most movies, particularly martial arts movies, when the attackers often approach the hero one at a time while the others appear to wait. Chan can hardly keep up while fending off each opponent. Until he switches to beast mode, that is.
When Jackie launched his second attempt to penetrate the American market, Police Story was born. His debut was in the 1980 movie Battle Creek Brawl, in which Mako also acted as his uncle. Jackie had disagreements with Robert Clouse, who also directed China O’Brien’s famous Reel Action movie China O’Brien and Enter the Dragon. He despised how they brought him to the United States expressly because of his work in Hong Kong movies, but they never gave him authority over the action scenes. The same thing would transpire with his second effort, The Protector, a 1985 movie in which Danny Aiello also starred. According to Jackie, they tried to make him look more like Clint Eastwood in The Protector and gave him tough man lines as a stern New York cop.This belongs to the lower tier of 1980s action films. Once more, he felt out of control during his action scenes and that the American action scenes lacked any opportunity for originality and were really dull. Jackie actually reshot the fights to his own satisfaction and filmed a full storyline not included in the US version of The Protector before it even had its Hong Kong debut.
The Protector only receives praise from Jackie for serving as the source of inspiration for Police Story. Jackie had previously played police officers, but Police Story offered the best of both worlds.A realistic villain and a gritty crime tale would be combined with some of the comic scenarios that Jackie enjoys incorporating into his films, coupled with some of the political red tape of the Hong Kong police department. Even in Chu’s trial, there is a passage when Chu’s defense attorney uses specifics from the initial pursuit sequence to support the case. The fact that the action design is actually used as pertinent information for the story to take a new turn is an incredibly beautiful touch that is uncommon in action movies.
Not only did Police Story transform Hong Kong action filmmaking, but it also had a noticeable impact on Hollywood productions.Stallone pays tribute to Jackie in 1989’s Tango & Cash with an opening sequence that is almost a shot-for-shot reproduction of the bus pursuit ending, replete with the thieves being propelled through the wind shield. Then, as a self-proclaimed admirer of Jackie, Brandon Lee employed a stunt in 1992’s Rapid Fire where he drove a motorcycle through many panes of glass and included a clothes rack in a fight scene. The full shanty town hill montage was then used in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II in 2003.
Jackie would release Police Story 2 in 1988 as a sequel to Police Story. It’s a worthy sequel that eventually falls short of the first, but it also boasts some excellent action.The second half of the film adds new antagonists in the form of a trio of crazy bombers after the first half of the film continues with Chu’s business partner abusing Chan’s personal life. Chan then collaborated with Michelle Yeoh on Police Story 3: Supercop in 1992. Chan and Yeoh go undercover to bust a dealer in drugs and weapons. Chan’s regular fighting would take a backseat in this movie to Rambo-style gunplay and explosives, but the stunts are as insane as ever as Jackie hangs from a helicopter and Michelle Yeoh matches the craziness with her own feats. Police Story 4: First Strike is the final film from the first wave of Police Story movies. Chan is engaged in a James Bond-esque spy adventure.This episode is a long way from the others and could have easily been a standalone film, which is what New Line called Jackie Chan’s First Strike when it was released in 1996.
Eventually, Jackie would return to the brand name twice more with a stand-alone remake called New Police Story (a sequel to this movie was announced this week). In this, Jackie completely abandoned the humor in favor of showcasing his acting chops as a tormented officer who accidentally killed his team while pursuing X-Game, rich child gangsters commanded by Daniel Wu from Into the Badlands. Chan would revive Police Story again in 2013.Again, Jackie would make for a more dramatic movie, but sadly, the movie is badly slowed down by epileptic editing and terrible shaky cam. Less is more while speaking.
The three original Police Story films are currently available to stream on the Criterion Channel if you have a subscription. Jackie Chan’s Police Story is currently regarded as one of the best action movies of all time. Look them up. They’re a lot of fun.