Friday, January 11, 2013

Classic Chan: Police Story (1985)

Welcome to the first installment of our ten part series taking a look at some of the better known  Jackie Chan films. We are big fans of Jackie, in terms of what he did to the genre of martial arts films, his impact on global cinema, and because he is just plain fun to watch. We start here with Police Story. Tune in next time to see Thrasher analyze Police Story II.

To be perfectly honest, I hadn't seen all of Police Story until preparing for this review and it was quite fascinating to compare it with some of Jackie's later works. One thing that was a bit surprising is how tongue-in-cheek it was, even for Jackie. Police Story is not at all similar to the demeanor of Crime Story. It is actually more reminiscent of Spy Next Door in that Jackie starts out somewhat like a glorified babysitter when he is assigned to protect a mob boss' girlfriend as a witness. He plays tricks on her in order to convince her that she needs his protection, which eventually backfires in several ways. This demonstrates that when Jackie works solo he tends to be the competent policeman who doesn't take his superiors too seriously. But when paired up with a Westerner, the latter takes the part of the screw-up and Jackie is the serious one. Both styles definitely work, but I think that I prefer to see Jackie be the goofball, as he can be very funny. And this is not only in terms of his ability to do physical comedy, but also, in this case, in his chauvinistic treatment of his girlfriend and the witness he's protecting. Another interesting thing in Police Story is that it has a bit less fighting than we've come to expect from Jackie. In fact, the marquee scene from it (if the special features of the Mr. Nice Guy DVD are any indication) is Jackie driving a car through a shantytown built on the side of a hill. I can really only recall two major fight scenes from this movie. The thing that struck me most about them is that they didn't seem ridiculous (like in some martial arts movies) but nearly believable. Jackie didn't engage legions of opponents; the most at once he fought, I believe, was maybe three, and he took a lot of hits doing so. The most enjoyable action scene for me was in the climax where Jackie shows off his athleticism and daring in the confines of a large mall. The biggest drawback might be the plot, which revolves around convicting a drug lord. After witnessing the danger the police put the residents of the shantytown in during their shoot-out and subsequent vehicular pursuit to apprehend him, it's hard to be convinced that the police's war on drugs is making Hong Kong safer. But overall, it offers some good (if far between) action scenes and laughs. 

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