Police Story (1985) Review

"Police Story" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Police Story" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Police Force
Director: Jackie Chan
Writer: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang Ging Gan
Producer: Leonard Ho Koon Cheung
Cast: Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Lam Gwok Hung, Mars, Bill Tung Biu, Chu Yuan, Fung Hak On, Charlie Cho Cha Lei, Tai Bo, Paul Wong Kwan, Ken Tong Chun Yip
Running Time: 85/94 min.

By Alexander

First of all, if you want to read a kick-ass review of this film, scroll down to Vic Nguyen’s below.

And since every second of Police Story has seemingly already been pulled apart, analyzed and slavered over in the 36 (yes, 36) reviews on this site, I’ll keep this one short (although not as short as Dennis’ three word gem a few inches down: “Just watch it!”).

While it’s certainly not the greatest action film ever made, Police Story is definitely required viewing by any fan of Hong Kong cinema. The fight scenes are amazing, Jackie gets absolutely punished throughout, and it’s filled with some surprisingly funny slapstick comedy. Chan is a far better performer than I previously gave him credit having only watched the embarrassing Rumble in the Bronx and the so-so Rush Hour 2. The guy can act, and the knowledge that he is actually performing the ridiculously dangerous stunts on screen further heightens his appeal. Sure, the bits in the middle are pretty lame, especially the poorly written courthouse scene, but the action that bookends the film more than makes up for this.

Based on the plethora of reviews below, I’m SO thankful I watched the Mega Star version of the DVD and not the obviously horrid New Line butchering. (Read Dan-O’s great review below for more details on the differences.)

Now, could somebody PLEASE explain to me what the HELL that motorcycle was doing in the mall?!

Alexander’s Rating: 8/10

By Vic Nguyen

It is 1985, and after a nightmare of a film shoot in the form of James Glickenhaus’ ” The Erector….er..The Protector”, our hero Jackie Chan returned to top form by writing and directing the film that many would call his masterpiece. That film is Police Story, and even after a decade of other worthy classics, this one certainly lives up to it’s name, and stands as “king of the hill” above the rest.

In this first installment of a series spanning 4 (possibly 5) films, the story finds Chan playing rough-and-tumble supercop named Chan Kau-kui. As the film opens, the audience is treated to a series of action sequences in which an undercover drug bust goes wrong. Destruction runs rampant, civilians and cops get injured, but in the end, Kau-kui takes down the fleeing suspect, known as mob boss Ku. Ku, as it turns out, is the prime suspect in a multi-million dollar cocaine ring, and will stop at nothing to get himself off the hook. That includes murder, which leads to the intro of the character Selina Fong. Fong is the only witness who can take Ku down, but the problem is that she will not cooperate. The police suspect a potential hit on Fong by the treacherous Ku, so of course, they assign their toughest supercop Kau-kui, to protect her. When Kau-kui takes Fong back home to his place for the night, this of course leads to some tension between himself and his girlfriend May. After a disastorous trial, Ku gets off the hook, but that doesn’t mean that Selina is. Eventually, Ku’s thugs gets to Selina. Kau-kui, learning of her kidnapping, finds the spot she is being held and helps her escape, but due to a series of events, Kau-kui is now being framed for the murder of a fellow officer. With the help of May, he must now go on the run, and therefore, decides to go solo in bringing Ku to justice. Meanwhile, Selina (now finally realizing that Ku is trying to kill her) manages to hack into Ku’s files, and subsequently prints out incriminating evidence against Ku. They all unintentionally meet up in one of Hong Kong’s large shopping malls, leading to the classic action finale, which pits Kau-kui and Selina against many of Ku’s gangsters, intent on killing both of them once and for all.

Police Story is magnificent in each and every aspect. The cinematography again shows that Chan is an exquisite filmmaker when using the scope format. Each and every shot is framed perfectly, making a pan and scan version nearly unwatchable. Let’s just say that Chan has filmmaking down cold. The comedic sequences, which openly shows the influences of some of Chan’s favorites in silent film, are well handled, making them a pleasure to watch. The performances perfectly fit the film. The villains are appear nasty and cruel, as they should be, and the heroes are the ones you cheer for during the final reel. The whole cast made the best of their characters, and it shows. Even the music works, something you cannot say often about a Hong Kong film. You just gotta’ love the final tune, sung by Chan himself.

Then there is the action…… It is impossible to sum up the action is 1 word, many other words come to mind, but basically, I’ll sum it all down with a commonly used praise, “Kick ass”! From the adrenaline pumping first reel, featuring Chan getting into a shootout, destroying a shantytown with a single car, clinging on a bus using only an umbrella, and then standing right in the middle of an oncoming bus (all in that order), you know you have something special going. But, of course, it doesn’t end there. Many more action scenes follow, which up the kick ass quotient off the scale, but when you though it was over, it doesn’t end yet. The final reel, with Chan utilizing everything, and I mean everything, inside a shopping mall to dispense of the bad guys is the grand poobah of all the action in Police Story. It also features the show stopper, or the stunt that generates the “oooohs and ahhhs” from the audience. This stunt features our hero sliding down a 5 story pole decorated with lights, only to crash through glass and onto the ground, and getting up for some more (all in one shot!)! This is Chan’s best stunt, period. All the “does all his own stunts” slogans will lead to this one right here.

The outtake reel is also the best one featured in a Chan film. Here, it shows him taking more bumps, blood, and bruises than anywhere else. Again, that catchy tune helps it out a bit.

Jackie Chan’s Police Story went through a variety of versions following it’s release in Hong Kong theaters in 1985. First came the batch of VCD’s, laserdiscs, and videotapes released in the 80’s. Only the laserdisc is letterboxed, but I don’t think it’s subbed. Next came the films release upon America, beginning with a screening at the New York Film Festival. Following this came it’s release on video. This version is dubbed, pan and scan, and is edited, typical America. All these versions existed until the machine known as DVD hit the shelves. Mega Star, a Hong Kong company, subsequently released the entire trilogy onto the format, all letterboxed with removable subs. This is the best version of the film available today. And finally, New Line Cinema wanting to cash in during Chan’s growing popularity in the states, released a redubbed, pan and scan, cut version of the film onto the rental market. Besides the incredibly crisp quality, there is nothing else to recommend about this version. The dubbing is annoyingly bad, and furthermore, it is presented in pan and scan. Get the DVD if possible, it is the only true way to view this masterpiece.

Incase you didn’t already get the picture, Police Story is my all time favorite Jackie Chan film. Before then, it was Drunken Master 2, but after viewing the film subbed and letterboxed, the way it was meant to be seen, it made me appreciate the film so much more. When Chan said that he was going to make the ultimate cop movie that the Protector should have been, he wasn’t kidding. Police Story is a required viewing for all those action junkies who crave something more different than the typical Hollywood $400 billion dollar explosion-thon. Very highly recommended.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 10/10

By Marcia

So much has already been said about this film, there’s not much I can add. I can definitely understand why, for action, it’s Jackie’s own favorite. I don’t know that there’s anything which could be done to improve upon it directly, but I find it ranks third out of the four Police Story installments for me. Regardless, it should be part of any fan’s collection.

Marcia’s Rating: 9/10

By Dan-O

New Line Re-release: As soon as I heard the opening theme of this ’98 re-release (of a film 95% of Americans are blissfully ignorant of), my stomach contents stewed to a boil. It was the opening theme New Line used for “First Strike”, revisited and recycled. Now, I can understand if this were some fledgeling, nickel and dime company from a banana republic country, but this is New Line Cinema, who milked Freddy Kreuger for a mint and a half. They can’t afford to commision a decent opening theme? I guess not. Also, New Line, and Miramax, seem to be quite intent on hiding the fact that Jackie Chan can sing from the American public. What would I rather hear?; the original theme music, featuring Jackie, digitally remastered, or would I rather hear some crap-can generic cookie cutter music that was probably lifted from the “demo” song on a new Korg keyboard they bought at Service Merchandise. The music added to the fight scenes is all wrong. The scenes didn’t require music, they had a rhythm all their own, but Hollywood really digs mood music, so I guess there was no avoiding it. Oh, and ANOTHER thing, now that I think of it, the “punch” and “kick” sounds are in some cases laughably bad. The multi bootlegged British version I have had MUCH more convincing effects. Half the time the foley artists seem to have gotten the impact sounds back-asswards, so a kick to the stomach now makes a “WHACK”, rather than a duller “WHUD”. Great Job, New Line.

They have also put their half-assed stamp on this movie by renaming Jackie’s character “Jackie”, again. What the hell is this cop’s name anyway? I’ve heard KaKui, Kevin Chan, and now Jackie. There’s about as much continuity there as in any given David Lynch movie.

Now, the next atrocity committed by New Line is dubbing Jackie’s character with an even more pathetic imitation of Jackie’s thick accent than the one I reviled in Crime Story. This idea was pure rocket science. I’m sure there’s a rational reason why Jackie, and maybe 2 or 3 other characters in the movie have these ridiculous fake Chinese accents, while everyone else speaks “American”, but I is far to stoopid to figg’r it owt. The only voice I found appealing was that of “Selina”. The voiceover in this version makes her out to be more competent than the whiny, nails-on-a-chalkboard voice of the British version I have. Now about the editing. Like the Brit version, the 3 scenes cut that I recall from the original are 1) the scene in the beginning where that cop loses his nerve and wets his pants, 2) the phone scene, which was kinda stupid anyway, but fun all the same. Some of the humor doesn’t really translate well, I imagine, and 3) the scene just before he takes the commissioner hostage where Jackie got REALLY pissed off and ranted about his crappy job vs. the commissioner’s cushy job.

The one saving grace of this version is the picture quality, which is GORGEOUS! Crystal clear, obviously taken from the an original print. This alone makes this worth seeing, or owning, unless you own a Chinese laserdisc or DVD copy, in which case, why the hell are you reading this?

Dan-O’s Rating: My rating for the new Police Story: 6/10, but but a 10/10 for the picture quality. The reason for the low score has nothing to do with the movie itself. Click here to read Dan-O’s original review for the old version.

By James H.

Great day in the morning! I’ve been waiting so long for New Line’s re-release of “Police Story.” I decided to hold off from reviewing the movie until the New Line version came out. I bought it for $29.95 at a local video store (the only one in town that has it). It was worth EVERY penny. While still running only 90 minutes the quality is much higher than the Simitar version I had on tape.

Now the movie itself is a masterpiece. This is one of my top ten favourite movies of all time. Everything about this movie is amazing; the action, the fights and the comedy. In my opinion Jackie reached his pinnacle (thus far) with “Police Story.” The film is built to deliver and amaze the audience. The opening chase is great, the fight in the parking lot is great as well, but the finale in the mall is a fist fight raised to the Nth degree. It’s absolutely sensational!

The comedy bits were woven very well with the action. I loved the bit were he was “talking” to May on the phone, and the court scene was great too. The only drawback with the New Line version is that Jackie didn’t dub himself, but the guy they got did a good job. The other weird thing was that Jackie plays Jackie Chan! I guess it is to keep up the continuity with “First Strike.”

I also liked how they used the main theme from “First Strike,” implying that “First Strike” is a sequel. Anyway, a spectacular film from start to finish. And if you haven’t seen it, may your stomach become bloated and your head be plucked of all but three hairs.

James H’s Rating: 10/10

By Numskull

With America having gone apeshit over the good-but-not-great Rumble In The Bronx and First Strike, just imagine the reaction if this puppy were re-dubbed and shown in theaters. As I write this review (December 13, 1997), I think of what a great solution it would make to the Home Alone 3/Flubber/Anastasia/Mouse Hunt/candy-coated-dog-shit-passed-off-as-solid- entertainment-and-crammed-down-your-throat-in-lieu-of-half-way-decent-movies blues (Happy Holidays my ass!).

This movie is readily available in the USA, courtesy of Parade Entertainment, purveyors of such fine cinematic achievements as Eagle Shadow Fist and 36 Crazy Fists. It has about 15 minutes cut out, but as far as I know, you’ll still get to see all the good stuff (and you won’t have to put up with those damn subtitles that run off the screen and blend into the picture). The opening action sequence with the cars, bus, and shanty village and the most excellent closing one in the shopping mall (if it’s made of glass it ain’t safe!) seem to have gotten most of the spotlight, but the one that takes place in, on, and around two other cars is also quite good. Plus, the comedy in this is some of Jackie’s best (“Do you want something to drink?” “Yes, orange juice.” “Well, get it then!”).

No true JC fan will finish this one disappointed. Fellows, if you ever happen to be caught in a situation where you must choose between watching this movie and being suckled upon like a Charms Blow-Pop by Playboy Magazine’s Playmate of the Year, don’t be a fool…WATCH THIS MOVIE!!!

Numskull’s Rating: 10/10

By Sean Johnson

What a film! This is truly one of Chan’s best ever. The action starts from the beggining and never lets up. Jackie plays Kevin Chan a Maverick cop from the Royal Hong Kong Police. He is destined to get gangster Ku behind bars once and for all, but it’s not going to be that easy. Ku is a sly one who has numerous bodyguards and associates backing him up. Ku’s game is drug trafficking, a game he plays with precision and efficiency. The film starts out in a scene with Chan and other team members trying to bust Ku’s operation, but when the planning goes awry Chan has to, let’s say improvise on what to do.

That improvising means going on a mad car chase through an actual shanteytown (one of the best filmed car chases in movie history), then slides down a steep hill to get onto a double decker bus that has Ku and his men in it; on the street Chan steals a woman’s umbrella, runs after the bus, and grabs onto it by the crook of the umbrella (wait not done yet), hangs on for a couple of minutes until he is thrown off. Chan meets up with the bus again in a minute, blocks it’s way and corners Ku. Ku temps Chan with a bribe but is ultimitly arested. Telling anymore about the film’s plot would ruin the film, but if you are reading this you have most likely seen it. Anyways, so onto the praise…

The film always keeps the action going and has many outstanding fights that make your jaw drop from pure amazement. There is the fight at night with car parts a flying, there’s the fight at a hideaway house of Ku’s men, and finally the daddy of them all the fight in a populated shopping mall that breaks the record for the most glass broken in a single scene. The fight at the end in my opinion is one of the best choreographed and executed fights of any action film ever released. The stunts are so great in this one scene and the fighting so fluid that you’ll be talking about it for days after you see it. I only wish that Chan would continue to make scenes that flow this well in his upcoming pictures.

With films like First Strike, the action is there but there is only one fight scene in the middle. I believe that in all Chan pics there should be an outstanding fight that has the audience yelling and clapping trough it. Okay so I’ve said that onto the rest of the movie, the homour is some of the funniest Chan has done. The best part about the humour is that it really isn’t corny and does fit in perfectly with the storyline. If you pick up the American version called Jackie Chan’s Police Force about ten minutes of the film will be cut out which just happens to be some of the humour. Two scenes are cut out to be exact. On the bright side the film is dubbed and us non Chinese speakers can pick up on some of the dialoge we missed while watching the pan and scanned Asian version that has the classic cut off/blend into the background subtitles. Oh yeah the American version is only ten bucks while the other is forty. But if you can find a widescreen fromat of the film, I say go for it!

Sean Johnson’s Rating: 10/10

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