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Police Story

For a decade or two, Jackie Chan had a legendary reputation among hardcore movie fans without having a real American film career. Obviously, the two aren't mutually inclusive, but it seemed odd for the guy to be held in such high esteem when most Americans dimly remembered him for The Cannonball Run. Maybe someone caught The Big Brawl on cable.

While many here stayed ignorant of him, Chan became an international superstar. He eschewed the chance to be a sidekick in U.S. film, instead staying on top in his own films in Hong Kong. In the late nineties, he had a resurgence of popularity, culminating in the buddy cop movie Rush Hour. The success of that Brett Ratner-directed movie made Chan as big here as he had long been in the rest of the world, and it was about damned time.

For while mainstream American audiences weren't seeing his films, guys making American movies sure were. So it makes sense that the recent (and overdue) DVD release of Police Story spends almost as much time on Ratner gushing over Chan as it does on the movie itself.

But it's worth his gushing. Though obviously steeped in conventions of 1985, Police Story makes it absolutely clear why Chan is so cool. When you take into account that it's also directed by him, it seems a shame that he hasn't chosen to stretch that muscle in American film.

By turns action-packed and comedic, Police Story noodles along a bit in leading up to its climax, but that's part of the Chan style. Inspired and influenced by silent film comedians, he creates a stew that shows the grittiness of police operations in Hong Kong while giving relief that a cop could still be a bit goofy.

You can probably see the influence on American movies already.

It's not a comedy, though, as the third act is incredibly intense. Unremitting in its action and violence, it ratchets up even more so when you realize that there aren't really any camera tricks going on - Chan never cut away so someone else could step in for him.

(Like one of his idols, Buster Keaton, age and American insurers has lessened Chan's ability to be outrageously physical by himself.)

Police Story was also a turning point for Chan. Putting his own reputation on the line, Chan used a lot of his own money to finance it, and pushed the limits of what Asian audiences would expect in an action storyline. Asian cinema expert Bey Logan notes in the commentary that even so, the film has a different ending in Asia than it does here. That's included in the disc if you're interested.

Logan and Ratner provide the commentary (and a separate tribute), which provides a lot of detail but also contains a lot of enthusiastic gasps from Ratner.

As much a love letter from an obviously man-crushing director, the commentary reveals how much this movie has influenced Ratner's career - and he lets slip plot points from Rush Hour 3 as he admits how he's borrowed a few ideas and shots from Chan. Depending on your opinion of Ratner, thank Chan or forgive him.

That's not to say Chan isn't involved here. The interview included here is fascinating to watch, especially when Chan opens up about the truly dangerous physical work he and his stunt team were doing. One stunt in Police Story gets shown three times; Logan claims it's because at point in the story, Chan had generated enough good will to get away with something like that. Let me offer up instead that, hey, if you could have been killed doing a stunt, you'd better wring as much mileage out of it as possible.

If you're looking for a different perspective, Chan's stunt team also gets featured. Known as Sing Ga Ban, they offer fairly honest insights about their standing in the Hong Kong film industry as a result of working with Chan. The featurette also leaves an impression that despite sometimes literally putting their lives on the line for the filmmaker, they don't feel particularly close to him. That could be the result of translation errors, as the subtitles seem to be pretty literal instead of nuanced.

Without all those extras, this release would still be a worthwhile purchase. As a movie, Police Story meets the most important test: it still stands up as a good story with a finale that has to be seen to be believed. Hopefully, this will pave the way for another resurgence of Jackie Chan's best being pushed to the mainstream.

Jackie Chan's Police Story (Special Collector's Edition)

Derek McCaw


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