So once again we have survived.

Police Story

tn_policestoryPOLICE STORY, directed by and starring circa-1985 Jackie Chan, starts out seeming more serious than most of his movies. Jackie and a bunch of other cops have to raid a huge shantytown looking for drug dealers, and it leads to a chaotic shootout through narrow paths and rickety structures. One of the cops is so scared he actually pisses his pants, and it’s played for humiliation, not for laughs. These guys know that alot of people are about to be killed, including some of them.

It’s a bleak, moody opening about the hellish pressure of being a cop… but don’t take it too seriously, it’s all just setup for some incredible footage of vehicles driving down the hill, over and through the shantytown. Jackie had just gone to the U.S. and made THE PROTECTOR in English, but it didn’t turn him into an American movie star and he wasn’t happy with the movie. So he came back home and made his own version of that type of cop movie, and his version has all the most ridiculous and dangerous stunts he could think of.

It’s like some of the Thai movies now, you watch it and think they couldn’t have possibly known if that was safe or not. They must’ve just crossed their fingers and went for it.

mp_policestoryThe story is pretty stupid, with a complete failure to balance different tones. Sometimes it goes for the DIRTY HARRY cliche, he’s a cop that’s fed up with all those pesky regulations preventing him from stopping the bad guys. Other times he’s a buffoonish clown, upsetting his girlfriend (Maggie Cheung) so she smashes a cake in his face (this after a long series of events where nobody mentioned it was his birthday), getting tangled up in phone cords because he tries to take six calls at the same time, that kind of thing. The main story is about protecting a kingpin’s secretary (Brigitte Lin) so she can be a witness at a trial, but also it’s got all this Three’s Company shit about his girlfriend thinking he’s cheating and getting in trouble with his boss and stuff. Not the greatest.

But it’s easy to forgive all that because there’s such a high level of crazy action sequences and stunts. There’s the part where he chases after a bus on foot, then hangs off the side of it using an umbrella handle. There’s alot of jumping over and onto moving cars, or fighting on top of non-moving ones, slamming people against the doors, through the windows. There’s a fight in a mall that uses the location to full advantage, with store windows, jewelry counters, garbage cans, mannequins and suit racks sustaining damage or being used as weapons. Of course there are escalator stunts. There are many jumps from high places, including off a building into a swimming pool and a legendary one from the top floor of the mall, sliding down a pole breaking real lights and causing real electric sparks – Jackie wasn’t sure he would survive that one but for some reason he did it anyway.

Of course most of these things you rarely see in Hollywood movies, but there’s a couple cases where these scenes were directly copied. TANGO AND CASH re-created Jackie in the street with the gun forcing the bus to slam on the breaks and send three dudes through the windshield (holy shit I can’t believe they did that!). BAD BOYS II did the driving-over-the-shantytown scene, but there’s a meaningful change in the way the filmatists justify this reckless endangerment of the lives of poor people. In POLICE STORY the officers are repeatedly warned to be careful about hurting civilians (but they don’t do a very good job). In BAD BOYS II they say it’s okay because everyone who lives in the shantytown manufactures drugs.

Not that POLICE STORY is much more morally sound. Jackie’s a bumbling goofball but then every once in a while he gets upset about the justice system and goes way overboard. Even Dirty Harry never took his superintendent hostage. At the end he catches the kingpin and has a chance to take the high road and allow him his civil rights. Instead he beats the shit out of him and his lawyer! Pretty good ending, actually, even if it’s in the same movie that played breakdancing music while he moonwalked to scrape dog shit off his shoe.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 at 1:03 am and is filed under Action, Crime, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “Police Story”

  1. Police Story rocks!!!

    Watching Jackie bound over a gate, like a 12 foot tall gate or something, with such ease and grace is, can I say this here on this badass web sight?, it’s incredibly sexy. He’s at his athletic prime, and not a bad Michael Jackson impersonator either.
    I enjoyed the dvd’s interview with Jackie, where he just talks about all the crazy dangerous stuff and how they got around the budget. And that ending shot after the end credits is absolutely classic!

  2. This is probably my favorite Jackie film. The stunts are crazy in a good way and I do think while he is awful in the dramatic scenes, Jackie has great comic timing.

    He is indeed in his prime and a joy to watch many times over.

    I also like Police Story III (aka SuperCop) with Michelle Yeoh.

  3. An interesting bit of trivia for you then Vern – when the bus stops and the three guys all fall out the front windows, they were actually all supposed to land on the cars either side of Jackie (clearly in shot), but the bus stopped short and they all hit the road instead. I believe one of them was quite badly injured, but it sure looks badass.

  4. I definitely preferred the sequel to this one actually. “Police Story 2” is one of my favorite Jackie films, mainly because of the villains (the three thrill-seeking mad bombers). But this is still good. And some great stunts and action sequences.

    I can’t believe you found a legitimate reason to compare “Police Story” to “Bad Boys 2”.

  5. The first Jackie Chan movie I ever saw, and the moment I became a fan of HK cinema (the vhs rental I saw it on had a trailer for Royal Warriors which was just crazy). As DirkD13 says – check out Jackie’s lightning-quick moment of hesitation when he realises the bus stopped short, but then runs off to finish the scene.

  6. The first three Police Stories are pretty great, but I think Supercop is my favorite. New Police Story isn’t too bad either but it lacks the out and out craziness of the others.

  7. Back in 1985 when this hit the Chinese theaters, it was a bleak time for Hong Kong films. The initial love affair with the kung fu movies had long ago worn off, and it wouldn’t be until 1989 when America would discover John Woo’s The Killer and HK films were cool again. I’m not really going to try and write a history/timeline about this (there is always someone ready to shit on you for some nitpicky bullshit), but in DC at least the popular Asian movie theater was seeing very small crowds. The theater where I saw these films was showing a new triple feature every week, except when a movie was real popular it might stay two weeks. But when “Police Story” came they made it a double feature (for more showings of PS every day). The place was packed. The audience was almost entirely Asian except for a few African American men (and myself who is very pale). It played there over a month. I went every Sunday (I did that no matter what was playing, that was part of my movie going routine) I would watch PS, then it’s co-feature then PS again. I saw it 8 times during it’s one month run. I have always loved action films and kung fu movies and I had seen a lot of them by this time, but this was so different it really just blew my mind about what people could do in an action film.
    I think it most be impossible for people who didn’t see it at the time to realize how important this was to HK cinema and by trickle down effect, world cinema. It was really just so hard to see a good copy of the film here in the US unless you were willing to work to track down a copy. The release of the dub version of the movie (titled Jackie Chan’s Police Force) was crazy limited and the video(terribly cropped of course) was extremely hard to find. By the time the film was finally easy for the average action movie fan to see, Jackie was making movies that were a mere shadow of his early movies, and everybody else in the world had ripped off the style he and the other HK directors had created. I really wish it was a better movie over all so that people had more of a reason to check it out. Hell, when I used to lend people my bootleg tape of the laser disc back in the day many people would stop watching before the end because they couldn’t stand the comedy.
    Still Jackie and this film will always have a special place in my action loving heart.

  8. if you’re gonna review old Jackie Chan movies, you should check out Armor of God 2 aka Operation Condor

    it contains a pretty random scene where Jackie hides in a bathroom while a blond woman takes a piss and puts on face cream while in her underwear

  9. If you want to see pervy humor in an action movie, check out the Lucky Stars movies. And here is a link to my unused blog that has a reproduction of the hand out for the kung fu theater I mentioned in my post above.

    http://rave-sensation.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2010-02-13T17%3A54%3A00-08%3A00

  10. what kind of perverted stuff happens in the “Lucky Stars” movies?

  11. Oh nothing compared to say the Porkies movies, but in one film the comedy relief find themselves a charm to make them invisible so they can spy on pretty girls getting undressed for bed. Needless to say the charm doesn’t really work and they end up parading around nude in front of the female lead. Another time they fake a fire alarm in the hopes that the panicked girls will run down stairs in their underpants. And then there’s the time they dig a tunnel on the beach so they can spy on girls in bathing suits up close and personal.

  12. Anybody ever listened to the Bey Logan commentaries attached to most of the Jackie Chan movies (at least in the UK)?

    While Bey himself is a bit of a legend he ruined the “Jackie Chan illusion” for me, basically all those amazing wall runs and climbs are done with wires, and yeah, it’s obvious that he must be on a wire while hanging off the side of the bus, but deep down you still want to believe he just went for it for real.

    Anyway, I still love me some Armour Of God, I think that’s still my favourite of his, probably because it was the first I saw, another Jackie movie that was ruined for me, this time by my cousin who pointed out the tree in the balloon landing, damn you Tom!

  13. insert name here

    May 17th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    One thing I didn’t like was the way they repeated the same money shot at the end when he slides down the strip of lights. I mean yeah its awesome and you almost killed yourself doing it, but it would be that much cooler if you pretended like it was no big deal and just moved on with the film. What’s even worse is that it influenced the people who made the first Ong-Bak movie, and they ended up doing it for just about every stunt in the film.

  14. So you saw the version with the phone call scene where he hilariously mistakes a rape victim for a different caller. I chalk it up to lost in translation, but that scene is cut out of many other versions.

    I have no problem with Jackie using wires. It’s a stunt, not reality. What’s important is someone is doing the most creative physical movements I’ve ever seen.

    But the Jackie Chan movie everyone MUST see is Miracles a.k.a The Canton Godfather a.k.a. Mr. Canton and Lady Rose. Climactic battle in a rope factory. Enough said, but also a beautiful film with a funny and sweet story too.

  15. This is the greatest movie ever made.

  16. I recommend PROJECT: ALPHA for the clock tower fall, pedal bike chase, and Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao working together. Also, the villain’s a pirate.

  17. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    May 17th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Yeah, Project A was a favourite of mine back in the day. Armour of God was a good one too. Was Armour of God the one where Jackie fights the women in high heels at the end? I seem to remember that being an incredible fight.

  18. The first ARMOUR OF GOD was that one, Ace. It also has this nonsensical, but hilarious scene at the end of a car chase when one of the bad guys drives straight for them on a suicide mission, and when they jump out of their own car, he throws his hands up in front of his face and screams…as if he wasn’t planning to die 2 seconds ago.

  19. Every one of Jackie’s early movies (once he got out of the imposed Bruce Lee Wannabe mode) has some truly golden moments, but nothing is as 100% badass as this movie and the entire final confrontation in the shopping center. I studied that shit for hours on end, watching all the edits, all the choreography, every thing, because it has, more than any other of Jackie’s films, the best combo of the pain and the humor that is emblematic of his style.

    Between this and the review of Freebie and the Bean I am super-pumped right now. Any body who wants to study the pure audacity of stunt-driven films needs to see both of these flicks right now.

  20. Any Chan movie that he directed is worth seeing. Some are almost unbearably goofy, but all the ones he directed have great fight scenes and usually have some other great stunt work. Both Project A films are must sees, both Armor of God films, the first two Police Story films are all well worth checking out. Some of his work with other directers (especially Samo Hung) should be seen too. At one point I would have listed Jackies filmography among the best and most consistant of any stars. But after Operation Condor he really became very hit and miss, to the point that I really don’t think he’s made a really great film in a very long time. The sad thing is that on the DVD for Shanghai Knights they have the rough cut of the fight scenes the way Chan shoot them and they are fantastic. But the actual scenes on the finished film as edited by the American team are weak. What a waste.

  21. Of all the movies Jackie made in the 80’s I think those directed by Sammo Hung and starring the three dragons (Chan, Hung and Yuen Biao) holds up better than those directed by the man himself. Dragons Forever for instance is a masterpiece of R rated bloody and silly comedy.

  22. Dragons Forever is one of my faves as well. The end fight with Benny the Jet outdoes the one in
    Wheels on Meals. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Drunken Master 2 yet – arguably one of Chan’s best,
    even though the script changed drastically mid-shoot and the original director left/was sacked.

    Rob B Hood is one of Chans better recent films, even though it deals with him and louis koo having to look after a baby for a great deal of the time, it contains some of his best fights and stunts of recent years.

  23. I love the shantytown drive through scene in this movie.
    It’s one of those moments for me that I could not believe was really happening onscreen when I first saw it.

  24. Does anybody else think that the song accompanying the trailer is some sort of alternate universe Mandarin (Cantonese?) version of “You’re the Best (Around)”?

    I know its not a cover by any means but the sound just hits me the same. Ironic since Chan did a remake of the film that put that song on the map…

    Best JC; Police Story 1-2, Op Condor, Rumble in the Bronx, OG Drunken Master, Supercop, oh and THE CANNONBALL RUN.

  25. i don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but that song is actually sung by jackie chan himself.

  26. Man I love this movie! This and DRUNKEN MASTER II (AKA LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER) are my two favorite Chan films.

    insert name here, it is my understanding that in Asian cinema when they repeatedly show a stunt it is not only to highlight the stunt, but often when it is replayed multiple times it is in honor of a stunt person that was harmed during the scene. The more times they reshow the stunt the worse the stunt person was injured while shooting it.

  27. Charles; Do you own a version of the original Drunken Master II? And if so, where did you buy it? I’ve been trying to get a hold of this masterpiece for 15 years. The American version (Legend of the Drunken Master) just doesn’t cut it. I own an Indian version that’s very close to the real thing, but it’s a bit blurry and the subtitles are just horrible…

  28. Hell, Vern, It’s about damn time you reviewed some JC films lol. Just kidding. Completely disagree with you concerning the “B” story involving May. That’s part of the charm of the series. Serious stories involving the bad guys and there is always a funny B story involving his relationship with May. Not much different from…the Lethal Weapon films. They did the exact same thing. “B” story comedy with the “A” story following the serious bad guy action stuff.

  29. Reading this made me want to see Police Story II again, so I watched it. It’s got some really great action in it, and it’s pretty amazing how it still ends up being an unmemorable sequel. That’s something I sort of love about sequels. Some of them can just do another solid adventure in this genre, and you can pop it in and be less familiar with it than the original, appreciate what they tried to do, and in a few years you still won’t remember it so you’ll have the same experience again!

  30. pegsman, I have an out of print letterboxed Import double VHS with subtitles of DRUNKEN MASTER II. I bought it from Tower Records around like 99 or 2000. I think it is worth a couple hundred bucks now.

  31. For years I remembered POLICE STORY 2 being better than the original. Then I rewatched both in the past few months and realized, no, part 2 has way too much down time before the final act.

    Still awesome, though, and the playground and factory action scenes are all-time greats.

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