Director: Benny Chan
Writer: Alan Yuen
Cast: Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse, Charlie Young Choi Nei, Daniel Wu Yin Cho, Dave Wong Kit, Andy On Chi Kit, Yu Rong Guang, Charlene Choi Cheuk Yin, Terence Yin, Philip Ng
Running Time: 124 min.
Right movie. Wrong people.
That’s a two-sentence short summary of Jackie Chan’s comeback effort, first movie he decided to do after ditching Hollywood and playing the mandatory goofy kung-fu sidekick to the proverbial white (or, well, black) cool dude. Playing it safe, Chan decided to extend one of his most famous products – namely, the Police Story saga (saga being used very loosely here) – and so, what we here is a new sequel in an old franchise, with very much past-his-prime Chan trying to get another run at the Asian box office.
New Police Story is sort of a confusing title. New it is, but Police Story (unless you think in terms “story about policemen”) it ain’t. Totally unrelated to the first three (or four, if you account for the semi-abortive First Strike) Police Story movies, this one tells a story of a former hotshot cop Wing (take this name with a grain of salt, I saw the mandarin dub), played by Chan. Wing used to be a big time hero of sorts, but when a gang of loons robs a bank and slaughters his fellow cops just for the piss of it, he decides to take his heroism one step further and wipe ’em out himself. Alas, alas, his special taskforce gets butchered by the gang of evil nerds (I’ll explain this later), and he himself has to watch them die slowly as the criminals are toying with his men. Wing survives just barely, but is severely traumatized by the incident and takes a one-year hiatus, drowning his sorrow in drink…until a young cop (played by Nicholas Tse) revives the case and inspires Wing to finish the unfinished.
Unlike the previous PS movies – and the majority of Jackie Chan HK movies, that is – New Police Story is not the usual mix of crackerjack action and slapstick. Director Benny Chan, who already directed Jackie’s “Who Am I ?” few years back, tries to emulate the look and feel of newer Hollywood actioners via Johnny To with varying success. There is not much if any comic relief here, so the film can be called a straightforward actioner. The biggest odd one out here is definitely Chan himself, who is badly miscast as a tough, but washed up law enforcer. Probably sick of playing second fiddles in Hollywood, this is a sort of a rebound performance for Chan, who woefully overacts in film’s many emotional moments and has a torrid time looking like a believable drunkard. The absence of comedy is abridged with a lot of nods to the heroic bloodshed genre – fallen comrades, male bonding, lotsa gunfire, family endangered, usage of slo-mos – which is really odd for a Chan film. All those things summed up (add an atypical operatic, thumping soundtrack to it), this is a Chan movie in name and credits only, and one gets the feeling that this would have been an IDEAL but IDEAL comeback project for, ahem, John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. Not to take anything away from the director who certainly did a credible job, but one feels that the above given combination might have had a real score on their hands with this. Not to mention that CYF would look much, much better at the things Chan is trusted in here – including the alcohol habit and frequenting jazz bars (Hard Boiled, anyone ?).
Another gripe is the techny-ness of the script and story. Probably trying to cater to the youthful hi-tech Asian teenage crowd, scriptwriter Alan Yuen pits Chan against a gang of “dudes” who like to play video games and screw around with the police just because they can. Being children of well-to-do Hong Kongites (make your own noun for “Hong Kong resident” yourself if you don’t like the one above), they don’t have to work so they program PC games, post their exploits on the net and practice extreme sports. The scene in which they torture Chan’s comrades and Chan himself was supposed to reveal how diabolical they are – however, they just come off as snotty (Chan’s attempt of looking heartbroken and devastated is probably the only diabolical thing in that part of the film) and the whole thing feels grotesque. Daniel Wu does a credible job of breathing life into his character Joe, the ringleader of this nerd outfit, but even his performance can’t save the fact that the main villain is just a trigger happy dork. Again, I wonder if the new wave HK scriptwriters play too much GTA 3 and Max Payne – I asked myself literally the same question while watching Johnny To’s Breaking News.
Thankfully, not all went haywire here. The action scenes and stuntwork are exciting as ever, with a few really well done bits – the race down that huge building is a treat, along with the big bus scene which is a nod of sorts to Police Story 2. I would also single out the director of photography for the job on this film – after seeing Breaking News, I felt Hong Kong lost its glamour and glitz and surrendered the title of “most photogenic Asian city to be a backdrop of an action movie” to Seoul, but New Police Story represents Hong Kong at its best – shiny skyscrapers, beautiful cityscapes, great shots of modern architecture. Supporting cast doesn’t disappoint (although Charlene Choi gets progressively ingratiating, but you have to forgive her ’cause she’s kinda cute) and oh, Chan showcases his fighting skills again, and I must say those scenes look pretty good as well…ol’ Jackie was never a thespian to write home about, but at least he could stage a good fight and that ability still didn’t abandon him.
Overall, New Police Story is a return to form of sorts for Jackie Chan, albeit a limp and half-baked one. This could have been a real gem, but I guess it could have been a real stinker as well…at any rate, New Police Story is light-years ahead of, say, Tuxedo and Medallion.
Mairosu’s Rating: 6.5/10