Year of release: 2004
Pictures courtesy of Sina
New Police Story
For Hong Kong movie fans, New Police Story was one of the most anticipated movies of 2004. It marked Jackie Chan's first return to a "real" HK production since 2001's The Accidental Spy. Not only that, this was the re-birth of one of Jackie's most popular and respected series; it could be argued that while Chan found his first taste of success with kung fu films like Fearless Hyena and Drunken Master, it was not until he fused Hollywood's big-budget aesthetics with Hong Kong's go-for-broke attitude with 1985's Police Story that he became a bonafide international star. While the results here are not as mind-blowing as many fanboys had hoped for, New Police Story is still a very solid movie that fans of Jackie Chan's work from the 1980's and early 1990's should enjoy, especially in the light of recent anemic efforts like The Medallion.
The film is a sequel to the previous Police Story pictures in name only. Perhaps to drive this point home, the movie opens with a shot of Jackie puking his guts out in an alley after a night of hard drinking. He's trying to forget a mission he botched a few months ago, where his entire squad was massacred by a group of video game-loving bandits led by Daniel Wu. His new partner (teenybopper favorite Nicholas Tse) finds out the gang is planning another heist, and attempts to pull Jackie out from the bottom of the bottle to crack the case. Of course, his old precinct (headed by Yu Rong Guang) doesn't want to help out, but he finds an ally with a spunky hacker (Charlene Choi) and manages to track the gang down. Can Jackie overcome his demons and finally get revenge for his fallen comrades? I won't spoil anything for you, but it does end in a big sequence at the Hong Kong Convention Centre, which is fast becoming the "cool" place to have a finale in Hong Kong action movies.
At any rate, unlike most of Chan's other work, New Police Story is driven by the narrative, not the action sequences. Thankfully, Chan shows that he is up to the task. Those who have been long-time fans of his work know he can actually act, as seen in films like Crime Story. But those used to seeing Jackie Chan basically playing a caricature of himself, as he has been in his recent work in the US, will probably be pretty surprised to actually see him bringing up tears in a few scenes. Most of the cast also does well. Nicholas Tse provides some nice comic relief, and Daniel Wu makes a suitable (if a bit whiny) villain. Even Charlene Choi manages to keep herself from screeching.
But what's a Jackie Chan movie without some action? Even though I would have liked more of it, what's in New Police Story is solid for the most part. There's some obvious nods to the previous movies, most notably a slide down an electrified pole and a sequence involving a double-decker bus like in the first installment of Police Story. On the other hand, there is a nice bit of inventiveness and outright violence during some of the action bits that help New Police Story stand out from most of Jackie Chan's other films. The brawls are also nicely done. Of particular note are the two fights Jackie engages in with relative newcomer Andy On (star of the horrible Black Mask 2). Granted, Jackie is really nowhere near his prime, but Andy held his own and managed to impress this jaded action movie viewer.
The main issue that I have with New Police Story is the same that I have with a lot of the recent output coming from Hong Kong -- the movie looks nice and is pretty entertaining, but there's really no heart to it. From the casting of numerous young popstars (besides Tse and Choi, we also have Kenny Kwan and Stephen Cheung of the unfortunately named group Boyz) to the obvious product placement (one sequence takes place in a Lego festival, which is kind of strange considering that this is a IIB movie), New Police Story comes off at times more of an excercise in marketing than film-making. There are attempts to bring in weight into the movie with veteran stars like Yu Rong Guang, but their roles are little more than glorified cameos, especially Charlie Yeung, who replaces Maggie Cheung in the "pretty woman who gets into trouble and Jackie has to rescue" role.
To New Police Story's credit, at least there's no sappy slow-motion sequences featuring the latest Twins single. But one would think if there's anyone who could bring back the spirit of the balls-out film-making Hong Kong seemed to embrace back during its' "golden age", it would be Jackie Chan. However, times change, and -- let's face it -- at fifty years old, Jackie Chan's not really going to be physically able to make anything close to the level of his classics like Drunken Master II. Depsite its' flaws, New Police Story is a satifying movie that should fill the needs of fans looking for a new Jackie Chan fix, unlike the small morsels which have come over in the majority of his recent work. Honestly, I would be happy with Jackie cranking out movies like this for the remainder of his career, instead of subjecting himself (or his true fans) to the drudgery of pictures like the The Tuxedo.