Ah, pure 80s goodness! Not only was this decade full of loud clothing, Michael Jackson, ridiculous movies and TV shows, but it was also blessed with a rising star in Jackie Chan, at least over in Hong Kong. The two Police Stories came out in 1985 and 1988 respectively, and have been packed together on Blu-Ray and made available on Amazon. That’s where I got my copy, and I couldn’t resist because hey, it’s old-school Jackie Chan, and who doesn’t love that?
This review may be aptly named “A Tale of Two Movies”, because Police Story and Police Story 2 are worlds apart. Nonetheless, I will do my best to talk about both in my traditional categories.
The most entertaining aspect of Police Story is how comedy and action have been blended together seamlessly. However, the humour is distinctly based on Hong Kong culture and the Cantonese language, and no doubt much of the humour will be lost in translation for foreign viewers. Nonetheless, Police Story possesses that distinct Jackie Chan charm, that of a good guy caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and must fight his way throughout the movie to beat the bad guy.
All the fight scenes are impressive. In every single one it feels like the actors are going all out to try and hurt each other, and they actually are, as shown in the behind-the-scenes reels at the end of most of Jackie’s films. Every time I watch one of Jackie’s older movies, it’s impossible not to be amazed at how much pain these actors went through just for the sake of entertainment.
But it’s not only the action that makes Police Story great. During the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Jackie knew the perfect formula for getting the audience to cheer for the protagonist, and Police Story does it by presenting Jackie as a good-guy cop who finds himself wrongfully framed and landing in a couple of funny situations. Working in combination with a simple and straightforward plot, Police Story is an entertaining hour and a half, full of punches, kicks, and laughs.
Police Story 2, unfortunately, only inherited one aspect of what made the original so good, and that would be the action. Even then, there are really only two memorable fight scenes, the playground and the final fight, the former of which is amazing. Simply put, Jackie’s fight scenes are so fun to watch primarily because Jackie actually knows how to fight, and that’s also why no Hollywood action flick has ever come close to producing an action film as intense as those from Asia.
It may be impossible to review two movies side-by-side fairly, but it is difficult for me to think of what I didn’t like about Police Story. There are some politically incorrect moments in the film, but the movie can’t be faulted for that. I initially assumed the movie was going to have some cheesy B-movie plot, but it actually wasn’t that bad.
Most of what is bad lies in Police Story 2. The plot just simply fails to be engaging. This is because the antagonists never really stand out in any way. With the original, there is something personal going on because Jackie foiled the boss’ plan right at the beginning, and the rest of the film is about the animosity between them. By contrast, the bad guys in Police Story 2 aren’t introduced until midway through the film, and their actions have nothing to do with Jackie, and so it never really seems to matter, thus turning them into mere punch fodder.
As mentioned above, there are really only two fight scenes that stand out in the second film, and as I watched the movie I found myself noticing how slow the pace of the film was. I’m not saying I want every movie should be like Transformers 2/3, where there’s so much action it becomes redundant, but the main issue with Police Story 2 is that it never made me care, and so the movie felt slow and inconsequential.
Except for this part:
If you’re like me, then you’ve seen your fair share of JC movies, and you know what I mean when I say “that distinct Jackie Chan charm.” It’s a combination of how kick-ass and funny Jackie can be, and for an entertaining and insightful dissertation on this subject, I highly recommend this video.
The classic JC movies will always have that unique character to them. It’s really a testament to what abstaining from CG and shaky-cam can do for a film. JC films are a genre in their own right, and while there have been many imitators and copyists, no one has really come close to producing a cinematic experience that is simultaneously as endearing and intense as Jackie Chan.
It is fairly obvious Police Story 2 was banking on the success of the first one, and probably produced in a hurry, as Jackie starred in a slew of movies in between the two releases. I would highly recommend watching the first one, especially if you’ve enjoyed his films from the 90s (Rumble in the Bronx, First Stike). Although it’s not really considered part of Jackie’s roots, Police Story does demonstrate him taking a first step in the right direction. Skip Police Story 2; you won’t be missing out on much, and it would save you a lot of time to just watch the fight scenes on YouTube.
This has been a gamobo review.