The film that made Jackie Chan an international star, Police Story fully embodies the martial artist’s spirit of entertainment – equal parts endearing, goofy and packed with eye-popping kung fu action. Bundled with its first sequel, Eureka’s new package includes a surfeit of extras, including alternate versions, and archival material.
Both films centre on the actions of well-meaning Chan Ka Kui (Chan), an impulsive cop who habitually acts before thinking. Chan’s persona of the precise clown is perfected here, building on his previous work in kung fu flick Drunken Master. The opening scene, a heightened but suspenseful sequence involving an operation atop a mountain-side village sets a balance between semi-serious crime drama and Chan’s acrobatic antics.
Less successful is the goofy slapstick that fills the gaps between the kung fu action. Chan is as charismatic as ever, but there are only so many custard pies he can take to the face before proceedings begin to feel less Shaw Brothers and more Chuckle. Nevertheless, when the action does kick in, it really is unparalleled. The climactic and lengthy mall-set scene is a masterclass in choreography, editing, and a total disregard for cast and crew safety. Indeed, one of the joys of these films are the closing credits, proudly showing off the array of injuries Chan and his team sustained during the shoots.
Police Story 2 does a far better job of balancing the action and humour (one needless elevator gag aside), and overall works more as a coherent crime film. Where the first film sees Ka Kui pursuing slippery crime boss Chu Tao (Yuen Chor), the sequel’s primary antagonists are a gang of terrorists, blowing up malls to extort the police for a fortune. The sequel suffers slightly in that Chu Tao is such a deliciously hateful baddie, his smugness and calm self-satisfaction juxtaposed with Ka Kui’s awkward insecurity and hair-trigger temper.
The action, too, is less memorable than the original, with a final fight at a fireworks factory not a patch on the first film’s mall scene – the trade-off, perhaps, for a more consistent tone. Nevertheless, in Police Story 2, it’s intrigue, not clumsy slapstick, that drives the plot, and a night-time fight in an adventure playground goes some way to salving our desire for kinetic action. Once again, it’s an unadulterated pleasure to watch Chan and his stunt team at work, jumping, contorting and throwing the human form around in ways that simply don’t seem possible.
For completists, Parts 3 and 4, and the 2004 reboot New Police Story, will be missed, but one suspects that this collection retains the lion’s share of quality. Imperfect and often tonally baffling, these police stories remain among the most charming – and impressive – entries in Jackie Chan’s career.
Christopher Machell | @Dr_Machell