Police Story

Jackie Chan is the world’s most devoted entertainer. There’s no questioning it. Name an entertainer who is more willing to sacrifice for their craft than him – it’s impossible to do. He’s a man in love with the moving picture and over his forty-plus year career he’s almost died numerous times (he’s broken his spine, been electrocuted, has had to have brain surgery, the list goes on) and yet it’s an odd time when there isn’t a new Jackie Chan movie every two years. Who can compare to Jackie Chan – name any actor or director willing to risk his life for make-believe on every single film and I don’t think you’ll be able to come up with any names. Sure, some directors drive themselves to the brink (Francis Ford Coppola with Apocalypse Now, Werner Herzog with Fitzcarraldo) but few entertainers reach the height of professional masochism that Chan plays at. And in Police Story the awe-inspiring stunts and set pieces are in full display.

Plot is a secondary effort in Jackie Chan films (for good reason), but Police Story makes a solid effort by spinning a tale of police corruption, evil drug dealers, and a complete lack of faith in the justice system that is countered by multiple roundhouse kicks and faceless goons being thrown through glass windows. Chan plays Chan Ka Kui, an earnest and devoted police officer who makes a name for himself taking down an international drug dealer single-handedly in the film’s opening reel (and the most thrilling beginning to a film since….any other Jackie Chan movie).

What may be a bit off-putting for some is the film’s wildly divergent shifts in tone. The opening assault sequence is tense and suspenseful filmmaking, which is then followed by slapstick comedy when one of Chan’s cop buddies attempts to frighten a witness into snitching on her boss by attempting to kill her with a knife. Yes, you read that right. It’s an odd sequence that delves deeper and deeper into absurdity until it becomes hysterical. And that is how the film ebbs and flows – tense action sequence followed by slapstick comedy followed by a tense action sequence followed by another slapstick comedy set piece. It’s quite different from earnest Hollywood action pictures where any attempt at levity is frowned upon for ruining the tension. Try to imagine a Dirty Harry movie where the action is halted by a scene with Harry slipping in the kitchen while trying to cook his spaghetti and meatball dinner before jumping back in to his hunt for Scorpio. It wouldn’t happen.

That’s also one of the most interesting aspect of Jackie Chan’s characters – they’re badasses, but they never act like such. There’s no self-serving scene that shows how “cool” these characters are – they’re generally pretty silly and sensitive outside the action sequences – but I guess that’s how Chan likes to play it. His characters are “cool” without having to act like so.

Going full circle with my “Jackie-Chan-is-the-hardest-working-man-in-showbiz” spiel, Police Story made me really appreciate his artistry during the climatic sequence in a mall when he slides three stories down an electrified pole – that was actually electrified. In the special features they mention that during that sequence Chan’s skin was literally melting off of his hands and that he passed out and needed urgent medical attention after the stunt was complete. Please, name another actor who would still do action movies – and his own stunts – twenty years after this happened to him.

Grade: A-

Favorite Jackie Moment: The scene where he’s the only one in the police office answering phones. Only Jackie Chan can make a person want to juggle nine phones at a time.

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