Review for Jackie Chan's Police Story & Police Story 2
I remember when I was a kid, and they’d just invented widescreen VHS. I say invented, but sticking a letterbox image on a format with just 350 odd lines of resolution wasn’t the home entertainment revolution the world needed. Around that time, towards the end of the nineteen eighties, Star Wars made its VHS widescreen debut and I remember the trailer, “So you think you’ve seen Star Wars on video, well think again...” as a pan and scan postage stamp exploded into a widescreen image. Taking a look at these Blu-ray discs, I feel like saying, “So you think you’ve seen the Police Story movies on HKL DVDs... well think again!” Hong Kong Legends gave as good as they could when it came to Police Story and Police Story 2 on DVD, but trimmed down international versions, limited audio options, and dodgy aspect ratios don’t give the whole picture.
It’s now Eureka Entertainment’s turn to take on the Jackie Chan catalogue, having kicked off with Drunken Master, and at the time of writing, they have City Hunter, Project A and Project A II lined up for release on Blu-ray. But this summer, they’re going for the most well-known and probably finest Jackie Chan movies ever made, the first two Police Story movies, and they’ve gotten the 4k restoration treatment, on discs packed with the kind of extra features fans will really appreciate.
In the seventies, Jackie Chan made his name with kung-fu action movies, and developed the kung-fu comedy genre that ensured his cinematic immortality. But those films in the seventies were period films, all set in the classic era of characters like Wong Fei-Hung, and tended to boil down to rival kung-fu schools, and moustache twirling villains. Come the nineteen eighties, the conceptual leap was made that kung-fu could happen in any era, any genre, and Jackie Chan started to give us contemporary kung-fu action movies, films like Winners and Sinners, My Lucky Stars, the aforementioned Project A, and Wheels on Meals. Perhaps the most perfect genre fusion came in 1985, with Police Story, after all cop movies have a lot of action in, why can’t it be kung fu action?
Introduction: Police Story
The Hong Kong police achieve a coup by busting a drugs deal, during which officer Chan Ka Kui (Jackie Chan) is instrumental in apprehending the leader Chu Tu. Also arrested is Chu’s secretary Salina Fong, but rather than charge her, the police decide to use her as a star witness in the trial. This naturally makes her a target, and it’s down to the police’s new poster boy Ka Kui to take her into protective custody. However Chu Tu’s reach is long, and courtesy of an expensive lawyer he soon walks free. Pretty soon Ka Kui is a fugitive himself, framed for the murder of a fellow police officer. He’ll have to take the law into his own hands to clear his name.
Picture: Police Story
Police Story gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and it is excellent. It remains properly filmic throughout, with a natural level of film grain, while detail levels are outstanding, colours are strong, consistent, and redolent of eighties fashions, and the action sequences come through with exquisite impact. About the only aspect that might raise an eyebrow is the prevalence of artefacts from anamorphic lensing, distorted edges of the frame and such-like.
Sound: Police Story
In terms of audio, I’m never going to try an English dub in a Jackie Chan film, so all I can tell you is that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English dub exists, as does the PCM 1.0 mono alternative English dub. I started watching the film with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround Cantonese track, and found it to be rather contrived and digital, the placement of effects very sterile and inorganic. And at 10:01 into the film I encountered a drop out in the audio, from which point I switched to the PCM 1.0 Cantonese mono track and stayed there for the rest of the film, the authentic, original experience, sounding organic and natural. The subtitles are accurately timed but needed proofreading, as there are the odd typos and missing words, although the sense of the meaning always comes through.
Extras: Police Story
The disc boots quickly to a static menu.
You get two more versions of the film, beginning with the long sought after Japanese Cut of Police Story, which runs to 105:13, 5 minutes longer than the main feature, is presented in 1080p native HD, and with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono Cantonese. It’s a print which shows its age, with dirt and scratches present, the image not wholly stable. As it’s for the Japanese market, as well as the optional English subtitles, you’ll also see Japanese subtitles burnt into the print on the right hand side. The extended version really adds two scenes to the film, an extended opening that shows Ka Kui even more of a supercop than in the original version, as it’s shown to be his first day on the job, and also a conclusion that shows him facing the consequences of his actions. Any other changes are minor.
“Police Force” US Video Version is an 88:01 cut of the film presented here in 1080p scaled up from SD, and with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English. See above for my opinion about dubs.
There are 5 Alternate & Extended Scenes on this disc running to 16:25, 1080p upscale, a tad more than on the HKL disc.
Jackie Chan Stunts Promo runs to 4:45 1080i upscale, and does exactly what it says.
The Interview with Jackie Chan lasts 19:34 1080i upscale and is lifted from that Hong Kong Legends DVD.
What remains on that DVD, and ensures that I won’t be getting rid of it anytime soon is the Bey Logan audio commentary.
Finally there are two trailers for the film, the original theatrical trailer and the 4K restoration trailer.
Conclusion: Police Story
When I first reviewed Police Story, I opined that Police Story wasn’t my favourite Jackie Chan movie; instead preferring his more purely comic vehicles like Wheels on Meals and Project A. I don’t think that anymore, as comedy has a tendency to date, especially in the former. How I still feel about Project A, I’ll find out in a couple of months. Police Story has a slightly darker outlook. It is more of a drama, with the Hong Kong police in the thick of things battling drug dealers. There is an emotional weight to the story, the characters have something at stake, and Ka Kui’s unbridled rage at the inequities of the justice system towards the climax of the film gives it a dramatic impact that leaves a lasting impression. It wouldn’t be a Jackie Chan film without comedy of course, but it’s carefully interleaved with the story and never overwhelms the dramatic intent of the narrative. I have to say that today, Police Story is my favourite Jackie Chan film. Of course it’s never looked as good as it has on this Blu-ray, which certainly helps.
The story isn’t necessarily complex, but stories in these films seldom are, constructed as they are around the action sequences. The action is something special indeed in Police Story, from the stunning destruction of a hillside slum as cars tear through the shantytown, to the amazing climax in a shopping mall, where Ka Kui finally confronts the bad guys. The fight sequences are stunning with Ka Kui having to face multiple opponents in several scenes. The sheer amount of glass shattered in this film resulted in several lacerated stuntmen and actors, as well as the film being called Glass Story on set.
Jackie Chan is the perfect everyman, and it’s easy for audiences to root for him, similarly his penchant for putting himself where stuntmen fear to go results in some amazing and unforgettable cinema. Whether he is hanging precariously from the back of a bus, or leaping to grab a pole 30 feet above the ground, a Jackie Chan film always delivers full value. In Police Story he also gives a good performance as a policeman on the edge, as he is framed and becomes a fugitive fleeing from justice.
Police Story is a great mix of action, drama and comedy. The fight sequences are spell binding, the stunts are awe-inspiring and the entertainment is relentless. I’m still at the edge of my seat at the action in this film. Back in 2005, I thought the Hong Kong Legends disc was long in the tooth, and due an upgrade. Well, it only took 13 years... This Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment presents the film in stunning clarity, and the original Cantonese mono audio was sorely missed from that DVD. The icing on the cake has to be the extra features, and while we don’t get the Bey Logan commentary, we do get the Japanese laserdisc version of the film in HD which is some 5 minutes longer. Dub fans also get another version of the film as well.
Introduction: Police Story 2
Police Story 2 follows on directly from Police Story, with Ka Kui having to face the consequences of his vigilante action against gangster Chu Tu. He may have arrested him, but his methods mean that he has to face censure from his superiors, and be assigned, back in uniform, to traffic duty. It’s made worse by the early release of Chu Tu from prison. A dying man does deserve compassionate release, but there’s no compassion in his vendetta against Ka Kui and the people that he cares about. One violent altercation later, and Ka Kui is ready to resign from the police force and take a well deserved holiday, much to the delight of his long suffering girlfriend May. But that’s all nipped in the bud when a bomber strikes at a shopping mall, and a blackmail threat follows. Soon Ka Kui is back doing what he does best, detecting crimes and kicking criminal ass. But this time the criminals can kick ass too, and they’re going to use Ka Kui to commit their crimes for them.
Picture: Police Story 2
Police Story 2 gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer which is on a par with the first film in terms of clarity and quality. The image is clear and sharp, colours are strong and consistent, and detail levels are excellent in all but the darkest of scenes. There is no sign of compression or aliasing, and the action comes across with explosive impact. This is a film that makes my eyes hurt, having to keep them opened so that I don’t miss a single detail of a fight sequence tends to dry them out; although it could be considered training for a staring contest.
Sound: Police Story 2
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround Cantonese and English, as well as the original mono Cantonese soundtrack in PCM 1.0 form. Once again, the latter is the way to go here, as it sounds natural and organic. I did try the 5.1 surround, and once more was faced with an audio experience that sounded artificial and forced. The subtitles are accurately timed, and this time they are free of typos.
Extras: Police Story 2
The disc boots quickly to a static menu.
In the extras you’ll find two more versions of the film, both scaled up from SD to 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen.
The Original Hong Kong Version lasts 106:08, and is the version released previously in the UK by Hong Kong Legends. This time Eureka have also brought over the original commentary from stuntman and actor Jude Poyer, and critic Miles Wood. The audio is DD 1.0 mono Cantonese only.
The Original UK Video Version lasts 95:52, and this contains an alternate English dub in DD 2.0 Stereo.
Also taken from that HKL disc is the Interview with Benny Lai, which runs to 15:41, 1080i upscale.
The Outtakes (2:06), and Alternate Outtakes (3:09) are the goofs and b-roll footage that play under the end credits at the end of the film. The former is presented with credits removed.
You get the Original Theatrical Trailer and the Alternate Theatrical Trailer.
The most interesting extra for me was the Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show episode that profiled Jackie Chan, as presented by Jonathan Ross. I hadn’t seen this particular episode since its original broadcast in 1989, and it was a joy to rediscover. It’s interesting when JR asks JC how much longer he’d keep making action movies, he replies 3 or 4 years. 29 years later and IMDB states that Jackie Chan has 9 films in various stages of production...
Conclusion: Police Story 2
There is some sixteen minutes difference between the extended version on this disc and the original Hong Kong Version. Sixteen minutes cut out of a film can encompass entire characters, whole plot arcs; it can drastically alter the narrative and indeed quality of a film. That doesn’t happen in Police Story 2. It may be longer, but it is effectively the same movie, edited a little more loosely, characters given more time to breathe, a little more narrative juice to enrich the flavour, a little more time for the comedy to work. It’s an easier film to watch, less rushed, but in terms of the overall narrative beats and plot threads, it’s just the same.
Police Story was such a breath of fresh air in Hong Kong cinema, so groundbreaking in its departure from the traditional period kung fu stories of the era, that it’s almost unfair to expect something as equally special from its sequel. The best that you can hope for is more of the same, and expecting Police Story 2 to deliver something different may be doing it a disservice. Yet in the end, Police Story 2 does do something different, it plays its story more for laughs, the comedy is broader, and the seriousness and sense of token realism that permeated the first film is wholly absent here. It’s a lot like every other Jackie Chan movie from the late eighties then, which is no bad thing in my book, but if you want a movie that stands out the way Police Story did, then you’re in for a disappointment.
But if you want action, comedy, stunts, and blisteringly fast fight sequences, then you are in for a treat, as Police Story 2 comes from that era when Jackie Chan was at the height of his powers, film makers were ludicrously happy to endanger their stars in order to get a good shot, and the principle aim in making a Hong Kong action movie was to get the audience grinning from ear-to-ear in appreciation. Police Story 2 succeeds in every regard. Story is a secondary concern to all this, but it does keep ticking along quite well, and you don’t even mind that the major villains from the first film have been reduced to comic relief in the second. But I have to admit that I’m blown away every time I see that playground fight sequence, and the climactic battle between Jackie and Benny Lai is stunningly fast, and brilliantly choreographed.
And ditto. Eureka’s Blu-ray release of Police Story 2 is a godsend, especially as this time we get the longer version, and with the correct aspect ratio, which the Hong Kong Legends disc lacked. Speaking of HKL, we also get that cut on the disc as well, along with the audio commentary this time. It’s another jam-packed disc with three cuts of the film to enjoy, along with some excellent extra features.
The Blu-ray age has been chugging along for the last ten years and more, and there has been a steady flood of back catalogue titles getting the upgrade to high definition. It’s been evenly distributed among genres and titles, studios and labels. If you want to watch a certain type of film, or a certain actor, you’ll be guaranteed that something will be available in high definition. The one gaping hole in that statement was classic Hong Kong cinema and the works of Jackie Chan in particular. For most of those ten years, if you typed Jackie Chan, Golden Harvest, and Blu-ray into a search engine, you would have found nothing but bootlegs. That is finally changing, especially thanks to Eureka Entertainment, and they seem to be getting it right first time. It’s reassuring that Jackie Chan’s finest classic Hong Kong action movies are as good as they are on Blu-ray. The first two Police Story films have never looked better, and I can’t wait to get my mitts on the retail version, peruse its packaging, and take in the bonus booklets.