As I believe I’ve made clear in many reviews over the years, as well as this week’s Profiles in Badass column on Rebeller, I’m aware of Michelle Yeoh’s wide range of talents and accomplishments. I love her most for the movies that really showcase her fighting and her swagger, like WING CHUN, and YES, MADAM!, or her fighting and her regret, like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, and the totally-worth-checking-out straight-to-Netflix sequel, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY. I also very much admire her dramatic acting chops from AH KAM to CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Still, the timing of my specific movie-watching path, discovering Hong Kong action in the ‘90s, means that I will always think of her as Michelle “jumped a motherfucking motorcycle onto a motherfucking train in SUPERCOP” Yeoh. That’s just a fact.
SUPERCOP (the American name for POLICE STORY 3) is not my favorite Michelle Yeoh movie, my favorite Jackie Chan movie, or even my favorite POLICE STORY movie. But it can’t be emphasized enough: this dancer-turned-actress-and-screen-martial-artist, who had been in six movies in the ‘80s but then got married and quit the business for several years, came back to do this movie where she jumped a motorcycle onto a moving train. And did more than one take. What the fuck? How did this really happen? How is it possible that she pulled that off and we as a society didn’t decide to carry her around and put her on a throne like the Ewoks did to C3PO? I feel like we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain on that one.
I don’t know if other people associate her with that anymore, and like I said, she’s so much more than that. But it will forever and always be part of The Legend of Michelle Yeoh to me. Hercules killed that lion, Shine escaped the Titanic, and Michelle Yeoh jumped a motorcycle onto a train in SUPERCOP. For that reason only, SUPERCOP is important to me.
So it’s weird that I never watched SUPERCOP 2 until now. I can see that when I wrote about SUPERCOP I wanted to watch the sequel, but I could only find Dimension’s dubbed version. That’s still the case eight years later, so I gave in and watched that version. Fortunately Yeoh does her own voice, so I was able to roll with it.
I guess in some countries it’s called PROJECT S or ONCE A COP, but it really is a direct sequel/spin-off of POLICE STORY 3. Same director (Stanley Tong), came out the next year (1993), and Yeoh returns as Inspector Jessica Chang, decorated mainland cop, called this time by regular POLICE STORY boss Uncle Bill (Bill Tung) to help with a case in Hong Kong. Jackie does have a special appearance as Inspector Chan, but I wish he didn’t; it’s an abominably bad comedy scene where he’s undercover in the same drag costume as a criminal, and they go into mugging overdrive, popping each other’s fake boobs and stuff. It has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and very well could’ve been cut out of some unrelated one. Should’ve stayed that way. Jackie might even agree, since he didn’t do the dubbing for it.
The scene at least makes me appreciate the comedy-free tone of the rest of the movie. It knows you can take everything seriously and still make a fun movie. It opens with Inspector Yang doing the old “enter the building disguised as a medical professional to neutralize the terrorists” trick (see also THE SEVENTH CURSE). She uses a defibrillator as a weapon, does the splits while firing a gun, falls out a window and gets another big medal ceremony. A certified, documented Supercop.
But things aren’t as great at home because her handsome, rugged boyfriend David (Yu Rongguang, IRON MONKEY, MY FATHER IS A HERO, LITTLE BIG SOLDIER, THE KARATE KID remake) has decided to up and move to Hong Kong. He tells her “I could get a job there, and once I’m settled in, I would send for you.”
This is how she feels about it:
And ten seconds later she finds out he has a train ticket and is leaving in the morning. Motherfucker, you were just talking about how she got a promotion and is on a path to make colonel. And you don’t even discuss this with her? “Send for you.” Jesus. Fuck you, David. You’re the worst.
(Full disclosure: this kind of reminds me of how I fucked up a relationship once when I was a young man, but I deserved the cold shoulder and so does he.)
Six months later, to our delight as an audience, David is leading a crew of his ex-military buddies in an armed robbery in Hong Kong. I say “to our delight,” because we know he’s gonna get it. They’re gonna call in Inspector Jessica Yang.
They team her with Inspector Martin Lee (Emil Chau, who later played an ice cream man in RUMBLE IN THE BRONX and MR. NICE GUY), who immediately has a crush on her and acts awkward all the time. She stays in a house with him and his fashion designer sister Annie (Athena Chu, A CHINESE ODYSSEY), whose boyfriend Alan is Martin’s partner, also on the case. Alan got a laugh out of me because he seems like a total doofus when he’s introduced at Annie’s 21st birthday party, looking like a vapid pretty boy, and only when a gunfight broke out outside and he ran into action did I realize he was RIKI-OH himself, Louis Fan (also of IP MAN, IP MAN 2, THE LEGEND IS BORN – IP MAN, THE FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE, WU DANG and KUNG FU KILLER). Sorry I misjudged you, Alan!
The other thing about him is that he’s introduced wearing a pullover hoodie shirt, which he wears again a couple days later, that says “POPEYE.” There’s no picture of Popeye, but it’s definitely talking about the cartoon character, because the smaller text says “Born in a typhoon off California, © King Features Syndicate, Inc.”
The man loves Popeye. I respect that.
David’s team are very formidable, scary looking, highly trained and armed with machine guns and explosives. There’s definitely a DIE HARD type of feel to much of the action, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t kung fu battles. They know how to do those too. Jessica, Martin and Alan quickly track the thieves to a building, but they’re listening to a police scanner and know to ditch and blow up the building behind them. This is, of course, when David catches a glimpse of Jessica from a distance and stops the others from bringing the building down on top of her. He seems more sympathetic when you see how scared he looks when the walls are closing in on him but he’s not willing to sacrifice her. There’s a dramatic moment where she sees him jump from the building onto a bus but he manages to hide his face from her.
And then she does an amazing jump! You can see that she has a cable attached to her, but you can also see what sure as hell looks like Yeoh’s face, not a stunt double. Maybe I’m gullible.
When David calls her up she swoons, and she doesn’t immediately reject him when he asks her to stay in Hong Kong. So it turns out she’s not over him yet. In fact she’s about to (reluctantly) have sex with him when one of the thieves (Dick Wei, THE SEVENTH CURSE, EASTERN CONDORS) attacks the house and David pretend-fights-him-off. The motherfucker. He gets close to her so he can bust his other associate out of jail, and she gets blamed for it. Lucky for us it turns into pretty good melodrama at that point.
A funny thing is that near the beginning of the movie, right before David tells her about his moving to Hong Kong plan, he gives her the gift of a white coat and hat that he says are “the latest style” from Hong Kong. It seems almost like a shitty “sorry babe, here’s flowers I guess” type of gesture, especially since she tries it on over her uniform and it looks like a fuckin lab coat. But when she goes to Hong Kong she wears them and she looks really fucking cool!
She knows it, too, because at some point she purchases a similar hat in a different color. So I guess David was right about that one thing. He also looks good in his suits with vests, and I like the big collars and colorful sport coats on some of his criminal associates. Some good fashion in this one.
The climax takes place at a bank vault the gang is robbing. They get to fight on money piles. My favorite scene is Jessica’s duel with a giant white dude, whose identity I was not able to determine from IMDb and other internetting. But it’s good stuff – lots of shots that emphasize the size difference, Jessica getting thrown around like a toy, and moves like running between his legs to kick him from behind or standing on a table to meet his height.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a specific Kareem-in-GAME-OF-DEATH homage when he kicks her and leaves a footprint on her chest. This guy’s no Kareem, but he’s wearing boots, and also his kick sends her flying across the room and slamming against a wall. Ouch. I think the mark is gone by the time she defeats him (spoiler) and then does this beautiful pose:
After that she collapses, exhausted.
(By the way, fucking Dimension put that first picture on the cover of “TWIN WARRIORS,” their first release of the Yuen Woo-Ping classic TAI CHI MASTER, to hide that it was a period piece.)
There’s a muscular black dude who shows up with the giant, and he doesn’t get to do as much, but I thought it was worth noting that he’s somebody named Big Yank, who was a sparring partner in ROCKY III, a trainer in RUNAWAY TRAIN, and a boxer named Rock in PENITENTIARY III. If you ever meet Big Yank, ask him who the giant guy was.
Near the end of the movie, Jessica has the bad guy – her boyfriend – cornered, at gunpoint, in a train tunnel after being double-crossed in an armed robbery, and it’s emotional. That’s one of the things I was trying to convey in that column: the greatness of Yeoh is that her spectacular kung fu chops would be enough for me, but then she goes and underpins them with genuinely moving performances. Is there anyone else as good at that?
And then right after that he’s on fire and she’s putting him out and then they’re running from a flood.
One big question: what was the original ending? I could be wrong, but this version seems to have been Weinsteinized. I’m sure it had the same tragic conclusion, but I question the bizarrely out of place voiceover: “That was five years ago. Many things have changed since then, but one thing has stayed the same: I’m still a cop. It’s what I do.”
What the fuck was that?
But I really like SUPERCOP 2. That’s what I do.