Jackie Chan is returning to theaters with a one-two punch. The action legend’s two classics Police Story and Police Story 2 have just been restored by the good people at Janus Films. The two Police Story films are the perfect vehicle for Jackie Chan as each film features his death-defying stunt work and his oddball sense of humor that blends lightning fast kung-fu with the comedic stylings of silent cinema’s greats.
Chan stars and directs each of the first two Police Story films. The actor-director takes on the role of Chan Ka-Kui, a dedicated police officer in Hong Kong’s police force tasked with taking down the crime boss Chu Tao (Chor Yuen). It’s hard to think of an action film that opens with the brazen insanity of Police Story. The undercover operation quickly goes awry, and there’s a shootout in a shanty town. Bullets and fists fly in the chaos.
Most action films would be content with just this little bit of action but most action films aren’t directed and starring Jackie Chan. Chu Tao and his cabal of henchmen flee Ka-Kui’s pursuit, driving their car through the shanty town. Glass and metal fly as the cars come crashing through the ramshackle buildings. An already stunning sequence continues to go for broke as the cars crash and the pursuit finds Ka-Kui hanging onto the side of a speeding bus with only an umbrella keeping him from the pavement. Right from the start, Chan and his team of collaborators establish that Police Story is going to be an epic entry in the annals of action cinema.
After the wild opening scene, Police Story settles into a rather straightforward plot. Chan Ka-Kui must protect Selina Fong (Brigette Lin), Chu Tao’s secretary, from any attempts on her life as she’s prepared to testify against the crime boss. However, some complications, including Chan Ka-Kui’s sweetly girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung), lead to Chu Tao being released. All of which sets the stage for an epic conclusion, an all-out brawl in a shopping mall which features some of Chan’s best work as a stunt performer, the kind of dazzling feats that are absolutely jaw-dropping and make you question the sanity of its director and star.
In Police Story, Chan is able to highlight all of his gifts as an action star, a comedic star, and as a director balancing the two. His stunts feature the grace and speed of a dancer, choreographed into violent perfection. Chan’s camera stays focused on the action, giving plenty of room for the viewer to fully see all of the fists of fury fly in a frenzy. And yet Chan is able to counteract all of this brazen spectacle with some truly goofy comedy. The mix up with May results in an embarrassing moment in court where double entendres run wild. Other moments of absurdity have Chan getting hit with a pie in the face or forcing himself to fake a fight with an unconscious man. While the action and crazy stunts are such a key part of the selling point for Jackie Chan’s action spectacles, his gifts as a comedic actor are so integral to the enduring appeal of the Hong Kong icon.
Chan Ka-Kui returns to action in Police Story 2, which sees the supercop taking on a whole new threat while the villains of the past still lurk in the shadows. Chu Tao has been released from prison due to medical reasons, and soon his goons are hounding Chan Ka-Kui and his girlfriend May. Pushed to brink, Ka-Kui takes on Tao’s henchmen in a brawl. The extrajudicial beating, though, forces Ka-Kui to resign from the police force. It’s a short-lived resignation as the daring police officer is soon returned to duty when a gang of mysterious bombers are using explosive devices to extract ransom. This latest assignment will push Chan Ka-Kui to the brink of his personal and professional lives.
Police Story 2 does feel somewhat like a step backwards. It’s not that it’s a bad movie or lacking in eye-popping action. It’s more that the first film is such a piece of perfection that it’s almost impossible to match it. The sequel is more plot heavy, and that does lead to some diminished returns as it lacks the simplicity that propelled the first film. And yet the film is still a breezy blast to sit through because it features all of the hallmarks of a great Jackie Chan film – lots of crazy action, visually clear direction, and wacky sensibility that once again sees Chan taking on the spirit of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
Jackie Chan is such a distinct presence in cinema and he’s been around so long it almost seems like we take him for granted. For decades Chan has been churning out stunning works of action cinema punctuated with bits of physical comedy, presenting him as a dual threat unmatched in the modern cinema. Police Story and Police Story 2 are definitive works that capture everything that makes Jackie Chan so special. These are big action movies with jaw-dropping moments of wild stunts and a sincere streak of goofiness that prevent these films from devolving into dour macho-fests of outrageous violence.
Police Story and Police Story 2 opens February 1, 2019 at Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn and March 8, 2019 at the NuArt Theater in Los Angeles.
Police Story/Police Story 2
Two action classics from star and director Jackie Chan, Janus Films has restored Police Story and Police Story 2 with all of their death-defying stunts, no-holds-barred action, and the unique sense of humor of its director and star.