Children of Bond - Police Story

Police Story is a 1985 Hong Kong action film directed by and starring Jackie Chan and written by Edward Tang. Full of eye-popping and bone-crunching stunts, invention, fun, laughs, spectacle and energy, Police Story is Jackie Chan in his eighties heyday, years before he was diluted by a move to Hollywood and required to speak English in some truly terrible films. This high-octane caper begins with the Hong Kong Police Force undertaking a huge undercover mission known as Operation Boar in an attempt to capture the infamous night-club owner and drug boss Chu Tao (Yuen Chor) close to a hillside shanty town. But the police, who naturally include Jackie Chan as Inspector Chan Ka-Kui, have their cover blown when they are spotted by the criminals, triggering a truly spectacular and destructive car chase through the flimsy hillside shanty dwellings.
Chan Ka-Kui manages to nab Chu Tao in ingenious - if unconventional fashion - and is lauded as a great hero and model police officer but his problems are only just beginning because the charges against Chu Tao are duly dropped. The police decide to use Chu Tao's secretary, Selina Fong (Brigitte Lin), as a witness for the prosecution and Chan Ka-Kui is assigned to protect her while she waits to testify. Selina is rather reluctant to accept Chan's help but soon attracts all manner of Chu Tao's hoodlums out for their blood. If that wasn't enough, Chan also has to deal with the domestic jealously of his long-suffering girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung).
There is a joyous spirit to Jackie Chan's best Hong Kong films that makes you smile throughout them and often astonished at what you are seeing onscreen - this feeling magnified by the knowledge that it was Jackie Chan himself who really did all these crazy stunts you are watching. It is I suppose Bruce Lee meets Buster Keaton meets a seventies or eighties Bond film (and the Police story series would become more Bondian as it went on - Police Story 4 is essentially a globetrotting Bond film with Jackie as a Hong Kong version of 007) and always helped a great deal by the fact that Jackie Chan, despite all of his kung-fu shenanigans and athleticism, is a likeable and very human hero who often gets it wrong almost as much as he gets it right in Police Story.
The incredible shanty town chase that opens the film, with cars barreling down a hillside in a dusty cloud of destruction, buildings collapsing, washing lines flying, has more invention, fun, style and giddy wide-eyed spectacle during in its short duration than most Hollywood action films can manage in their entirety. The shanty town was built from scratch at a cost of half a million dollars to destroy for the film and it all makes for an amazing set-piece to open Police Story. This opening would have made a great PTS to a Bond film I think.
Jackie Chan apparently had a very dispiriting experience on one of his recent films at the time Police Story came out. He'd just made The Protector - which was an attempt to crack the American market and had a US director who didn't know how to get the best out of him. Frustrated by how it all turned out, Chan decided to go back to Hong Kong and take full creative control again. He put absolutely everything he had into Police Story and it really shows!
The police chase for Chu Tao continues on foot and we are treated to the sight of Jackie hanging onto a moving double decker bus with the aid of an umbrella (!) and an astoundingly painful looking climax where the stuntmen certainly earn their money. The fact that this is all done for real in an age before CGI makes it all the more impressive and far more authentic than modern action films could ever hope to be.
If there is one possible criticism to level at these Hong Kong action films though it is that perhaps not all of the comedy translates smoothly and can be rather broad at times, often veering towards farce. The performances certainly aren't subtle but one could say they match the spirit and free for all nature of the film. What the comedy does do though is set Police Story up for a rollercoaster third act and some of the comedy is definitely fun - like a moment where Jackie does some Shaolin moonwalking and an amusing sequence where he has to man the busy telephone lines alone at the police station while he eats some noodles for lunch with predictably comic results.

Chan Ka-Kui's attempts to protect Selina and ensure May doesn't become too jealous are a little overplayed at times but we do get some terrific fight sequences whenever Selina is threatened by Chu Tao's goons with Jackie Chan's physical dexterity showcased to great effect many times throughout the film. Fights with countless hoodlums are all carried off with great panache and skill with anything that happens to be nearby, including stationary cars, becoming part of the action and a prop for Jackie to incorporate into the fight.
This Chaplinesque grace and timing is what makes Police Story and these old Jackie Chan films in general so enjoyable. It also helps to alleviate the sometimes dark and violent nature of the film. Chan Ka-Kui is framed in the film and finds he can't trust anyone, consequently turning his wrath on Chu Tao and his gang. That said, this isn't Martin Scorsese or ever too concerned with a plot. It's just meant to be high-octane fun, a winning fusion of Hong Kong chop socky, action cinema, and the silent comedy era.
Police Story is perhaps best known for the amazing shopping mall sequence with an extraordinary amount of (obviously fake) glass (the stunt crew working on the film apparently jokingly referred to the project as 'Glass Story') being destroyed and smashed to smithereens through plenty of high-energy fight sequences with a motorcycle and escalators also incorporated into the action. It also contains one of the most incredible stunts of Jackie Chan's career (and one that seriously injured him) when Chan Ka-Kui slides down a huge lightbulb-clad pole that dominates the mall, lightbulbs bursting and popping as he obstreperously makes his way downwards at high speed.
The Hong Kong locations are great fun too and these films are of course only to be watched with subtitles - not in the dreaded dubbed English language versions which take away the atmosphere and irritate. In addition to the incredible work of Chan and his stunt team, Maggie Cheung as May is certainly put through her paces too with car and moped capers and proves well up to the task. Police Story is full of outrageous mayhem and incredible stunts and remains a highly entertaining example of Jackie Chan at his best.
- Jake

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