Recently I have been going through my old Hong Kong movie catalogue and have re-watched a number of classics and not so classics. With this I decided to recheck one of Jackie Chan’s most popular series of films, The Police Story series, which began back in 1985, with the latest instalment only being a few years ago in 2013.
Police Story – 1985
Jackie Chan had previously tried to make it in Hollywood with Battle Creek Brawl (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981) and its sequel Cannonball Run 2 (1984), none of which used him to his best potential. In 1985 Jackie Chan tried once more to break the Hollywood market. His attempt at this turned out to be James Glickenhaus’ The Protector (1985). The film turned out to be a financial and critical failure, which resulted in Chan returning to Hong Kong. Chan has went on record voicing his disappointment with how The Protector turned out, stating that it wasn’t his style of film as it was overly violent with copious amounts of nudity. Due to this Chan re-edited a version of The Protector for the Hong Kong market, removing and also reshooting certain scenes to make it feel more like a traditional Jackie Chan film. Like the American cut, the Hong Kong version of The Protector was also a failure.
Due to Chan’s frustration and disappointment, he decided he would make his own police film without the interference of a Hollywood studio or director. This time he would also direct the film himself. It would prove to be one of Chan’s finest achievements and even to this day is still on many people’s top ten lists of the best action movies ever made. It has also been copied numerous times by Hollywood.
Chan plays Hong Kong Police Officer Chan Ka Kui. The film opens with him and his team infiltrating a shanty town in order to capture a big time drug boss. Of course everything goes to hell, and Chan ends up having to capture the boss and his gang single handed. This has Chan taking part in some of the best stunt work an audience will probably see in an action film, let alone a Hong Kong action film. To capture the drug dealers, Chan ends up driving a car through the shanty town, destroying everything in his way, barely missing pedestrians. He then hangs from a double decker bus with an umbrella. The chase ends with Chan stopping the double-decker suddenly and two stuntmen fly through the top windows, painfully hitting the tarmac. This scene was later copied for the Sylvester Stallone movie Tango and Cash (1989). All of this happens within the films first 15 minutes.
Ka Kui ends up framed for the murder of a fellow police officer by the drug dealer, who isn’t too happy about his arrest. The remainder of the film is about Ka Kui trying to clear his name and also stop his long suffering girlfriend from leaving him.
This was Jackie Chan’s fifth film as director. Before this he had directed The Fearless Hyena (1979), The Young Master (1980), Dragon Lord (1982) and Project A (1983). Unlike Police Story, the four of these were period pieces, with only Project A being the close in style, incorporating dangerous stunt work amongst its fight scenes. In terms of action direction, he has never been better than he is here. There is not one action scene in the film that doesn’t impress, and the last 20 minutes that take place in a shopping mall must have taken months to perform, as there are numerous stunts, with a whole host of stuntmen being thrown through windows, down stairs and over railings. This scene is also famous for nearly killing Chan (something that would happen again), as he stopped breathing after performing a stunt of him going over a balcony and smashing through a light display. He also burned the skin off his hand after performing the famous pole slide in the film, due to the wattage of the lights being too high.
Like a lot of Hong Kong films of the 1980’s there are the usual ridiculous comedy scenes in between the action. It wouldn’t be a Jackie Chan film if there wasn’t. It does seem that the comedy is separate part of the film, with it not really being integrated into the main plot. This is normal for Hong Kong films of this era, as the Lucky Stars series is also guilty of this. A lot of the comedy may appear politically incorrect in this day and age, but wouldn’t have been an issue at the time.
Of the supporting cast, no one really gets a chance to shine, especially compared to the film’s star. This was close to the start of Maggie Cheung’s career. Staring off in television, she had made a couple of films before Police Story, the early Wong Jing comedy Prince Charming (1984) and Behind the Yellow Line (1984), where she co-starred with a young Leslie Cheung. Sadly Police Story doesn’t use her to the films advantage, with her being pretty much there to give Chan Ka Kui a love interest. She spends a good deal of the film being poorly treated with her being kicked down stairs at one point. She isn’t bad in the role, just that she doesn’t get a chance to show what she is capable off. Sadly, this is something that would continue throughout the series.
It is interesting to look back at this period in Maggie Cheung’s career, as for the majority of the 1980’s and early 90’s she acted in a number of silly Hong Kong movies (but still good), with only the films she made with Wong Kar Wai, As Tears Go By (1988), Days of Being Wild (1990) and Ashes of Time (1994) being the real critical stand outs. She would of course go on to work with Kar Wai again in the critically acclaimed In the Mood for Love (200) and briefly in 2046 (2004).
Brigitte Lin is also sadly wasted in her role of Salina, mistress to the drug boss that framed Chan Ka Kui. She does get slightly more to do than Maggie Cheung, as she ends up assisting Chan in trying to clear his name, but considering the action roles that she would go on to take, it is disappointing to see her needing to be rescued. Lin had already appeared in a Jackie Chan previous to Police Story. She played Lily in the insane Fantasy Mission Force (1983). She would go on to become a major star, headlining Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues (1986), and would also co-star once again with Maggie Cheung in Dragon Inn (1992), a remake of the King Hu classic. She is probably best known in the West for her role of Lien Ni Chang in The Bride with White Hair (1993) or as Asia the Invincible in Swordsman 2 (1992), a role which she would reprise in The East is Red (1993). Due to the success of these, Lin was typecast in swordsplay drama’s, playing a wronged female. She would end up playing similar roles in Fire Dragon (1994), Deadful Melody (1994) and The Three Swordsmen (1994). During this time she did manage to break things up by acting in Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express (1994), playing a double crossed drug trafficker. Lin sadly retired from the film industry in 1994.
Bill Tung also co-stars and adds comedic relief as Uncle Bill, a role he has played in numerous films, and not just in the Police Story series. As well as this series he has also played the role of Uncle Bill in Esprit D’amour (1983), Fast Fingers (1983) and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World (1987) as well as others. His roles in Project A 2 (1987) and the Inspector Wears Skirts series are also pretty much the same character. You can always guarantee for him to brighten a film up, something he doesn’t fail at in the Police Story films.
Director Chor Yuen plays the films villain, Drug Boss Koo. Although Yuen has acted in almost 40 films, he is much more accomplished as a director, directing over 120 films. He is decent enough in the role of the drug boss, but should have had more scenes to show his villainous side. As a director Yuen started out in the late 1950’s directing a wide array of genres such as swordplay drama, crime thriller and comedy. The most famous of his films would be those he made for Shaw Brothers, the best of these being the comedy, The House of 72 Tenants (1973), a sequel of which, 72 Tenants of Prosperity (2010) was recently produced. Other noteworthy films he directed are the martial arts films Killer Clans (1976) and Clans of Intrigue (1977). Later in his directorial career he made the excellent comedy the Diary of a Big Man (1988) starring Chow Yun Fat and also worked with a young Chow Sing Chi on Sleazy Dizzy (1990). Both of these are highly recommended.
The film was produced by Leonard K.C. Ho who Jackie Chan has worked with on numerous occasions starting back with Dragon Lord (1982) where he worked as a planner. He produced 10 Jackie Chan films in total, with the first two Police Story films amongst them. His name was still attached to a lot of Jackie Chan films throughout the years, mainly as an executive producer. The last of these was Who Am I? (1998). He also produced The Millionaires Express (1986), Eastern Condors (1987) and Painted Faces (1988) for Sammo Hung. Ho sadly died in 1998.
Jackie Chan co-wrote the screenplay with Edward Tang. Chan has had a hand in writing a number of his own films such as Miracles (1989), Armour of God 2: Operation Condor (1991) as well as the first two Police Story films amongst others. A good number of these he co-wrote with Edward Tang. Tang has written over 20 films, with the majority of them having links to either Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung. The only films he made to not involve them in any capacity are Wedding Bells, Wedding Belles (1981), Missiles Over Falklands (1982), The Peacock King (1989) and Red Zone (1995), which is also his one directing credit.
There was a number of credited action directors involved in the making of Police Story. As well as Chan himself, his stuntmen association was also involved along with Danny Chow, Benny Lai, Paul Wong, Chris Lee, Fung Hak-On and old Jackie Chan pal Mars, who also acts in the film as Kim.
I would advise anyone who hasn’t seen Police Story to seek out the original Chinese language version if they can. New Line Cinema released a version of the film in the late 1990’s, dubbing the soundtrack, with a terrible musical score by J. Peter Robinson also added. The film was also missing over 10 minutes from the Hong Kong version.
Police Story 2 – 1988
Due to the success of the original film, a sequel was inevitable. Coming 3 years after the original, Jackie Chan managed to fit in 3 films in the interim, Armour of God (1986), Project A 2 and Dragons Forever (1988). This isn’t including the cameo he made in Naughty Boys (1986), a film which he also produced. Police Story 2 is another excellent Jackie Chan film, but sadly doesn’t match the high quality of the original, even though the film appears to have a larger scope with a high number of pyrotechnic scenes. There are certain aspects of the film that are better than the original, with the film having a more serious tone and the stakes being much higher, with Chan Ka Kui going up against local terrorists who are blackmailing building owners. Unlike the first film, the villains in this film feel very real, and there is a death toll, although some critics have criticised Chan for toning the film down in comparison to the original. I would have to disagree as unlike the first film, where the gangsters seemingly just got a beating, characters in this are actually killed.
Chan once again does excellent work in front of and behind the camera. Although he is playing Chan Ka Kui, he is essentially playing the same role he plays in most of his films: Jackie Chan. There seems to be less action involved in the sequel, although this is due to the film having a slower pace. There are still the expected fight sequences, all excellently choreographed and a number of death defying stunts, which by this point in Chan’s career was to be expected. The best stunt of the film involves Chan jumping from one double-decker bus to another whilst trying to avoid street signs by jumping over them. The stunt sequence climaxes with Chan jumping from the bus through a pane of glass. In the film this sequence shows Chan cutting himself only to shrug it off, but during the end credit outtakes, it shows that Chan was in considerable pain. Visually the sequel is also a major improvement, with excellent cinematography and a visibly larger budget.
As well as having Chan deal with the bombers, he also has to contend with the drug boss from the original film. This part of the film feels slightly tacked on; just to give Chan’s character more to deal with and also an excuse for there to be more action scenes.
The majority of the main cast return from the original. Maggie Cheung once again plays May. She gets treat even worse in this than the first time around, getting beat up and then taken prisoner. Cheung also suffered for her art, as it shows in the outtakes she ended up having her head split open, requiring stitches.
Chor Yuen is back as the drug boss, but his screen time is limited, as his character is bed ridden for a large part of the film. Bill Tung gives his obligatory appearance as Uncle Bill, and Lam Kwok-Hung plays Superintendant Raymond Li, a role he played in the original.
The bombers who are the main villains of the film can be pretty faceless, other than Benny Lai who plays Dummy, a deaf criminal. Chan has to fight him in the finale, with Lai pulling off some excellent moves. A member of Jackie Chan’s Stuntman Group, Lai had actually already appeared in the first Police Story, playing a different character, as well as assisting with action direction. Lai has appeared in over 80 Hong Kong films, and would also continue to share the screen with Jackie Chan on a number of occasions, with Dragons Forever, Miracles (1989) and Armour of God 2: Operation Condor amongst them. Other than Lai, one of the robbers is played by Ben Lam, who had appeared in the first film of the series, during the finale as one of the many men to get beaten by Chan. This time he gets a bit more to do, but doesn’t make as much of an impression as he would later do in films like Long Arm of the Law 2 (1987) or as the lead in Angry Ranger (1991), which was produced by Jackie Chan.
Leonard K.C. Ho once again returns as producer. This would be the last entry in the series that Ho would produce although he would go on to executive produce Police Story 3: Supercop (1992), Project S (1993) and First Strike (1996). Edward Tang also returns from the original to co-write the film alongside Jackie Chan.
Action choreography is this time credited to the Jackie Chan’s Stuntmen Association.
There are three main versions of Police Story 2 available. The Hong Kong cut runs at 101 minutes long, with the Japanese cut being considerably longer, running in at 122 minutes. Both versions are worthwhile, although if you think the Hong Kong version is slower paced, you will be disappointed with the Japanese version. I would give the version released by New Line Cinema in the late 1990’s a miss, as like most Asian action movies released in America, it has been re-cut and dubbed, with a poor musical score, once again by J. Peter Robinson, being an extra unnecessary addition.
Police Story 3: Supercop – 1992
Coming three years after Police Story 2, Jackie Chan once again returns as Chan Ka-Kui, but hands over directing duties to Stanley Tong. Police Story 3 is famous for Michelle Yeoh’s (credited here as Michelle Khan) return to movies after her brief retirement in 1986 and is also noteworthy as being the first Hong Kong action film to be shot in sync sound, finally giving the film makers a chance to use the real voice of its star, as Chan had always been dubbed by different actors in the past.
Compared to the first in the series, Police Story 3 comes closest to its classic status, being a much faster paced action adventure than its first sequel. It is only slightly let down by a few pacing issues, with the film taking longer than normal (for a Jackie Chan film at least) to get to the action, although once the action starts, it is some of the best of his career. Police Story 3 or Supercop as it has been renamed in certain territories, was more successful internationally than locally. It still regularly shows up on the top 10 favourite action movies from film critics.
This time Chan Ka-Kui is sent to Guangzhou, where he teams up with Inspector Jessica Yang (Michelle Yeoh) to take down drug lord Chaibat, played by the excellent Kenneth Tsang. They end up having to infiltrate his gang by befriending his henchman Panther (Yuen Wah), after he has broken him out from prison. From this, Chan Ka-Kui and Jessica end up in a collection of exciting action scenes, each one upping the ante from the last. Unlike the first two Police Story films, Police Story 3 is set in a number of different locations, with the cast showing up in Thailand for one of the films largest action scenes and then on to Kuala Lumpur for the stunt filled finale.
Jackie Chan is his usual reliable self, always trying to outdo himself from his last film. Police Story 3 has some of his most dangerous stunt work to date, most memorable of these being him hanging from a helicopter over the streets of Kuala Lumpur before moving on to a fight scene atop a moving train. Unlike the last two films in the series, Police Story 3 has a higher level of violence. Although not gratuitous, it does have Chan kill a number of people with a machine gun. Although people ended up dead in the previous film it was not to this extent.
Police Story 3 proved to be a star making film for Michelle Yeoh. Of course she was already famous before her retirement, acting in classics like Yes Madam (1985) and Magnificent Warriors (1987). Her last film of this period was the disappointing thriller Easy Money (1987) a female led version of the Thomas Crown Affair (1968). She ended up retiring due to her marriage to entrepreneur Dickson Poon, one of the heads of D&B Films. Unlucky for Dickson Poon but lucky for film fans, her marriage ended in 1992, which resulted in her return to films, the first of which was Police Story 3. She almost steals the film from Jackie Chan, taking part in the majority of the action and carrying out some death defying stunts herself. The best of these is her motorbike jump, which she lands on a moving train. The outtakes prove her bravery, as she attempted and failed a number of times to land on the train before getting it right. Her character proved to be so popular she was given her own spin off the following year.
Maggie Cheung makes her usual appearance as the still suffering girlfriend of Chan Ka-Kui, May. This is the least screen time she had in any of the films, only showing up in the last third of the film to be the damsel in distress. Due to the nature of her character she is totally overshadowed by the more capable Michelle Yeoh. This would be Cheung’s last appearance in the Police Story series.
Bill Tung once again makes his obligatory appearance as Uncle Bill, but only appears briefly at the beginning of the film to give Chan Ka-Kui his mission.
The excellent Yuen Wah gets a featured role as Panther. One of the seven little fortunes, Wah never gained the same amount of fame as Chan, Sammo Hung or even Yuen Biao. One of his major claims to fame was that he previously worked as stuntman to Bruce Lee. At this point in his career, Wah was usually relegated to smaller parts, showing up in films like On the Run (1988) and She Shoots Straight (1990). Although still playing a supporting role and a villain at that, he gets a lot more screen time and appears in the majority of the film. Taking part in a good number of the action scenes, he sadly doesn’t get as much of a chance to show off his martial arts skills as hoped. For a better chance to see him in full on action I would recommend The Iceman Cometh (1989), where he plays the lead villain against his old Peking Opera pal Yuen Biao.
Kenneth Tsang rounds out the main cast as the films main villain Chaibat. Tsang is more of an actor than an action star in the film, so it is not surprising that he doesn’t take part in much action, leaving the majority of it to his henchman. Tsang is no stranger to action movies, starring in a number of martial arts and swordplay dramas throughout the 1960’s and 70’s as well as more modern fare such A Better Tomorrow (1986), The Killer (1989), No regret, No Return (1993) and even a brief stint in Hollywood co starring with Chow Yun Fat in The Replacement Killers (1998) and Anna and the King (1998). During this brief foray he also found time to work again with Jackie Chan in Rush Hour 2 (2001) and even appear in a James Bond film. Still working to this day, his most recent appearance being in the James Nesbitt series Stan Lee’s Lucky Man (2016). Not bad for someone pushing 80 years old.
Also lookout for an appearance by famous Shaw Brothers star Lo Lieh, star of many martial arts classics. Lo Lieh also happened to be the brother in law of director Stanley Tong. There is also another appearance of old pal Mars, although he plays a different character than he did in parts 1 and 2.
With Stanley Tong taking over directing duties, there is a decidedly different look and feel to the film, being more of an international action film than the previous two films in the series. If one complaint could be made about him is how he seemingly favours explosions and vehicle stunts over martial arts action, with there being a distinct lack of martial arts action in comparison to the previous entries. Tong had worked in the Hong Kong film industry since the late 1970’s, starting as a stuntman and working his way up to director. His first film, which he apparently self funded, was The Stone Age Warriors (1991), which he wrote, produced, action choreographed and directed himself. Although the film wasn’t a large financial success, it did receive some positive praise from film critics, attracting the attention of the higher ups at Golden Harvest. He was then invited by them to join the company as a director. The first film that he directed for them turned out to be Police Story 3. It is not difficult to see why he and Jackie Chan get along so well, as both of them are stuntmen, and Tong is famous for attempting stunts himself before his lead actors do them. He even acted as Ken Tsang’s stuntman during Police Story 3’s finale. It was also Tong’s idea to shoot Police Story 3 in sync sound, making the film appear more professional when compared to other Hong Kong action films of the time.
With Leonard K.C. Ho leaving the producers chair, the job was taken up by Willie Chan who co-produces along with scriptwriter Edward Tang. Willie Chan had already worked on the series, working as a planner on Police Story 2. Willie Chan had worked as a planner on a number of other Jackie Chan films, such as Rouge (1998) and Angry Ranger, which Jackie Chan produced. Since Police Story 3, the majority of projects that Willie Chan worked on all involved Jackie Chan in some capacity, be it star, producer or executive producer. Only his latest film as producer, crazy sci-fi action movie Let’s Go (2011), has no involvement from him.
Unlike the previous entry, Edward Tang was one of three writers who worked on the script. The other two writers were Lee Wai-Yee and Fibe Ma Mei-Ping. This would be Lee Wai-Yee’s only credited work as a writer, but Fibe Ma Mei-Ping had already worked with Jackie Chan, co-writing Armour of God 2: Operation Condor the year previously. The remainder of his writing credits all have him co-writing alongside Edward Tang, and they also star Jackie Chan with only the movie Red Zone having no Jackie Chan involvement. His last writing credit would be on Mr Nice Guy (1997).
This time there was a host of people working behind the scenes on the action choreography, no surprise considering the size of the production. As well as Stanley Tong himself, Mak Wai-Cheung, Dang Tak-Wing, Ho Hon-Chau, Sit Chun-Wai, Chan Man-Ching and Wong Ming-Sing all contributed to the action choreography throughout the film.
There are two versions available of Police Story 3. The original version and the version released by Dimension films. The Dimension version was re-cut and dubbed in English. I would advise to give the Dimension version a miss, although the dub isn’t as bad as others with Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh at least providing their own voices.
Project S - 1993
The only spin off to date of the main Police Story series. Due to the popularity of her character in Police Story 3 and the fact that a lot of the critics singled her role as a standout, Stanley Tong decided to reteam with Michelle Yeoh, who this time headlines this entry in the series. Fans of Jackie Chan’s character Chan Ka-Kui shouldn’t be too disappointed as he does appear in a brief cameo role.
The plotline concerns a crime wave sweeping through the busy street of Hong Kong. The authorities call on the expertise of Jessica Yang (Michelle Yeoh), to help them in apprehending a gang of dangerous thieves, who turn out to be ex soldiers. She is ably backed up by fellow police officers Martin (Emil Chau) and Alan (Fan Siu Wong), whilst also having to contend with the reappearance of her ex-boyfriend David (Yu Rong-Guang). Noticeably lower budget than its predecessor, Project S is a decent action drama that unfortunately fails to live up to the high quality of the previous films in the series. Both Stanley Tong and Michelle Yeoh work well together, but possibly due to lower budget, there is far less action than expected., moving at a slower pace than Police Story 3, with a good portion of the film focusing on a romantic subplot between Yeoh and Yu Rong-Guang. There are still a number of well executed action sequences throughout, once again relying more on firepower than martial arts although Yeoh does take part in a number of fight scenes the most memorable of these being her fight with a 7 foot terrorist. The largest and best action sequence in the film is kept for the lengthy finale, which is only slightly let down by some poor rear projection.
Michelle Yeoh is great, with her character being more developed than previous, due to her now being the lead character. Although Yeoh wasn’t initially a martial artist, her dancing background enabled her to pick up the fight choreography fairly quickly. Although she had been better utilised in her earlier action movies, she still gets a chance to show off her moves, at one point doing the splits whilst shooting a bad guy.
Yu Rong-Guang is probably best known to western audiences at the title character in Iron Monkey (1993) alongside Donnie Yen. He plays the role of David extremely serious, which appears to be his default setting most of the time. He makes for a good romantic lead, with his good looks, but it is pretty clear from the beginning his character is more shady than he makes out, although he is more of anti-hero than full blown villain. Yu Rong-Guang is always good value, and I can’t think of a time he has phoned it in. He may not be the best Hong Kong actor around, but in comparison to some newer stars, it is bewildering how he didn’t become more famous, He does well in the film’s action scenes, where his Peking Opera School training comes in handy, although it would have been good to see more martial arts action from him. Considering his martial arts background it is surprising how little full on martial arts movies he has made. There have been big action film in his career but for pure martial arts action you would have to look at the afore mentioned Iron Monkey or Shanghai Affairs (1998), which he once again co starred with Donnie Yen.
Emil Chau gives good support as Martin Lee. Although not coming from an action background, he does take part in a good number of the films action scenes. Chau is better known as a singer than an actor, releasing albums in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. During this he has managed to fit in a film career, and should be recognisable to Jackie Chan fans as he has made appearances in Rumble in the Bronx (1995) and Mr Nice Guy as the same character, and also as the main antagonist in Gorgeous (1999). His best role to date would be in the thriller Purple Storm (1999); giving him a chance to play a tough guy instead of the more comedic roles he has played in the past.
Athena Chu also makes typical flower vase appearance in the film, playing the sister of Emil Chau’s character. She was seemingly cast more for her looks than acting ability. This was common for her, as she also appeared in Raped by an Angel 2: The Uniform Fan (1998) and Raped by an Angel 4: The Rapers Union (1999). I think the titles of these films tell you everything you need to know. She was used to better effect in A Chinese Odyssey Part 1 & 2 (1995), acting alongside comedy superstar Chow Sing Chi, who was coincidentally her boyfriend at the time.
Stanley Tong also managed to cast one of his Stone Age Warriors actors, the underrated Fan Siu Wong. Unfortunately his role doesn’t give him a chance to show off his full martial arts capabilities. Wong may be best known for playing the title character in Story of Ricky (1992), but has been doing excellent work throughout the years, recently showing up in hit films such as Ip Man (2008), Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011) and Kung Fu Jungle (2014). Always a welcome addition, it is a shame that more international fame still eludes him.
The last cast members of note are cameos from Jackie Chan and Eric Tsang. Chan plays his Police Story character, Chan Ka-Kui, who is on a mission to capture jewel thieves, one of which is Tsang. Chan and Tsang play out the whole scene in drag, with Chan even getting to do a bit of action. The scene serves no purpose to the main plot of the film, and is just an excuse to have Jackie Chan make an appearance.
Possibly due to the low budget nature of the film, Stanley Tong ended up not only directing but working as action director and co-writing the film along with Sandy Shaw. Considering the amount of work Tong put in, he should be commended, as even though there are certain elements of the film that fall short, he still makes a worthwhile action thriller.
This wouldn’t be the only Michelle Yeoh film Sandy Shaw would work on, as after Project S she went on to write The Heroic Trio (1993) and its sequel Executioners (1993). Personally her best work as script writer would be Francis Ng’s directorial debut 9413 (1998), a character driven crime drama/art film.
There are two producers credited, Barbie Tung and So Hau-Leung. This would prove to be So Hau-Leung’s only credit. Barbie Tung had already worked with Stanley Tong before, as a planner on Police Story 3 and would go on to work with Stanley Tong on multiple occasions, producing Rumble in the Bronx, First Strike (1996), China Strike Force (2000) and The Myth (2005).
First Strike – 1996
After their success with the previous year’s Rumble in the Bronx, Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan once again reteamed to make the fourth main entry in the Police Story series. It would also prove to be the last Police Story film to focus on the character of Chan Ka-Kui (renamed Jackie in the American dub), with the remainder of the films only being thematic sequels. Unfortunately, First Strike proves to be the weakest of the series, being decidedly light on action compared to the previous three films. Surprisingly it is also the most successful of the series locally.
Moving away from the usual cop stories of the previous three films and having more of an espionage based plot. The aim seems to be to make this fourth entry more like a James Bond film than a typical Jackie Chan film. This time we have Chan Ka-Kui working with Interpol to track down and capture an illegal arms dealer. He soon finds himself in the thick of it, being lied to by supposed Russian Intelligence. The film, not unlike the third entry, finds Chan Ka-Kui travelling to a number of different locations, although First Strike has a much wider scope, with a large portion of the film being shot and taking place in Australia.
Not as action packed as hoped, there is still excellent stunt work, and the action throughout is off a high quality, although there are only three main action scenes in the film, in addition to a couple of smaller skirmishes. Only one of these action scenes is a proper fight scene, with Stanley Tong once again favouring pyrotechnics and stunt work over fighting. The first main action sequence is a chase down the side of a snow covered mountain, resembling scenes from James Bond films like The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and For Your Eyes Only (1981). Unlike those films, this has Chan carrying out the stunts himself, with the climax of the sequence having him on a snowboard skiing of the side of the mountain, grabbing the skids of a helicopter. Later on in the film he takes on a gang at a memorial hall. Although this is essentially the only proper fight, it is lengthy and has all the trademarks you expect in a Chan fight with a number of props being used throughout. It is by far the best scene of the film. The finale, taking place in a large shark tank is suitably dangerous, but is mainly played for laughs. The saving grace of this sequence is the crazy car stunt that follows with Chan Ka-Kui driving a car onto a moving boat. This stunt was pretty much copied for the finale of 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003). The only other scene that could be classified as action would be a sequence of Chan being chased around his hotel by man mountain Nathan Jones, but again this is mostly played for laughs, even though it contains excellent stunt work and choreography. Jackie of course puts in his usual hard work, it’s just a shame that the film doesn’t live up to his enthusiasm.
One of the main issues with the film is the lack of returning faces from the previous films. There is no Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh or even Mars. The only returning face is Bill Tung, making his final appearance as Uncle Bill. This would also prove to be the last film Tung would appear in, retiring from the film industry. He still continued on as horse commentator until 2005. Sadly he passed away in 2006 due to lung failure.
Jackson Lau plays the triple agent Jackson Tsui. Lau is okay in the role, but has been used to better effect in villainous roles such as The Last Blood (1991) and Fist of Legend (1994). He would also go on to work with Stanley Tong again in China Strike Force.
This was only Annie Wu’s second credited role, after appearing previously in the Andrew Lau directed Best of the Best (1996). As the main female character, Annie Tsui, she is a poor replacement for who had come before, not even matching the underused Maggie Cheung from the previous instalments. Also her voiced had to be dubbed due to her poor delivery of Cantonese dialogue. She was used to slightly better effect a couple of years later by Donnie Yen in Ballistic Kiss (1998).
Barbie Tung, who produced the previous entry Project S, returns once again, this time as sole Producer.
Main series script writer Edward Tang doesn’t return this time, with Police Story 3 being the last entry in the series that he worked on. He was replaced by four script writers, one of which being director Stanley Tong. The other three were Elliot Tong, Nick Tramontane and Greg Mellot. Tramontane and Mellot would appear to have been brought on board to work on the English speaking parts of the movie. This would be Tramontane’s only credit, but Mellot has written a number of Hollywood productions. Admittedly they are all DTV efforts such as the Lorenzo Lamas action movie The Rage (1997) or the Dolph Lundgren spy thriller Direct Action (2004); it would appear he was hired by the production due cost more than talent. In regards to Hong Kong movies, he would also contribute to the script for Skyline Cruisers (2000), the ill advised sequel to Downtown Torpedoes (1997). This would also be Elliot Tong’s only screen writing credit, working mainly as a producer throughout his career, with varying success.
Action choreography was carried out this time by both Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan.
Like other entries in the series, First Strike was once again released in America in a heavily edited and dubbed version. The American cut was supervised and released by New Line Cinema, changing the opening credits scenes and giving the film a new god awful music score. The dialogue was also all dubbed into English, even though a large proportion of the film was multi lingual. Lastly the film was cut of almost 30 minutes, reducing the running time to a swift 83 minutes, from the original Hong Kong cut of 110 minutes. I would advise to seek out the uncut version if you have any interest in watching First Strike. Unfortunately the American version is the most widely available version.
New Police Story – 2004
8 years after First Strike, Jackie Chan decided to return to his favourite film series. In that time Chan had eventually found major success in Hollywood with both Rush Hour (1998) and Shanghai Noon (2000). As well as working on the sequels to those two films, he also managed to fit in Hong Kong based production such as Mr Nice Guy and The Accidental Spy (2001) as well as working on a number of other productions.
New Police Story is an in name only sequel to the previous films, being more of a reboot of the series with Chan playing a different character than previously. It also proved to be one of the best Hong Kong based Jackie Chan films in years, and a major improvement on the previous entry in the series, containing everything someone has come to expect from the serious but adding enough new elements to make it feel fresh.
This time Jackie Chan plays Police Officer Chan Kwok-Wing, who has fallen into drunken despair after a failed mission which got all his team killed. The main villains of the film are a gang of spoiled rich kids, who are robbing banks and carrying out sick games, such as the one that got Chan’s team killed. He ends up teaming up with Frank Cheng (Nicholas Tse), who informs Chan that he is a fellow cop. The two of them both work together in trying to track down the gang of robbers. Along the way there are a number of excellent action scenes, reminiscent of earlier scenes in the Police Story series but factoring in the advancing age of its star.
This is a very different role for Jackie Chan, and Chan Kwok Wong, even though a police officer, is the opposite of the happy go lucky Chan Ka-Kui. When we first see him, he is getting increasingly drunk, until he finally passes out in an alley. His character suffers from a deep depression, with drink being his way to cope. It isn’t until he meets up with Nicholas Tse’s character that he gets back a sense of purpose and gets his life back in order. He also has a failing love life due to his lifestyle, which plays an important part in his character development throughout the film.
This was the second film of Benny Chan’s to star Nicholas Tse. He had previously been the lead in the smash hit Gen X Cops (1999), which was also produced by Jackie Chan. His role as Frank doesn’t give him as much to do as Gen X Cops, but he still performs well, also taking part in a number of the action scenes. He would go on to work with Benny Chan again on a number of occasions, appearing in a hilarious cameo role alongside Daniel Wu in Rob-B-Hood (2006), as the hero in the Gen X Cops like Invisible Target (2007) and a rare villainous role in Shaolin (2011). Coincidentally these films all star Jackie Chan.
As the villain, Daniel Wu is sadly the one part of the film that I could class as a negative. Wu has been used to great effect in other films, such as the lead in Dante Lam’s Hit Team, or as a mainland gangster in Derek Yee’s One Nite in Mongkok (2004), one of the best Hong Kong thrillers of that decade which was made the same year as New Police Story. When the motives of his character in New Police Story become apparent, you can’t help being disappointed, as his motives don’t make a lot of sense and he comes across as incredibly whiny. Wu had also worked with Benny Chan on Gen X Cops, acting as one of the main villains. Although he had less screen time in that film he was used to better effect. He would also star in Benny Chan’s next film, the crime thriller Divergence (2005), a role more suited to Wu’s strengths as an actor.
The great Charlie Yeung came out of retirement to appear in New Police Story, making it her first film in seven years. Even though she is good, it isn’t the best part, playing a similar role that Maggie Cheung played in the previous films, although her part isn’t played for laughs. At least New Police Story was responsible for her return to acting. Charlene Choi show up and does her usual thing, looking cute but not really stretching herself on the acting front.
Most famous for being part of the famous Twins girl group alongside Gillian Chung, she has gone on to have a fairly decent film career. Personally her best performance to date has been alongside Anthony Wong in Gangster Payday (2014), proving that she has been getting better with age. Like some of her other co-stars in New Police Story, she would also work again with director Benny Chan, co-starring in Rob-B-Hood.
Yu Rong-Guang also makes a re-appearance in the series, playing a different character from Project S, starring as Chan Kwok-wing’s Commander.
The remainder of the robbers are played by Dave Wong, Terence Yin, Coco Chiang and Andy On. The parts are quite underwritten due to their limited screen time. The best of them would be Andy On who gets a terrific fight scene with Jackie Chan in the action packed finale, with their fight taking place during a Lego exhibition. Even though it is a supporting role, Andy On is certainly better served here than his debut film, Black Mask 2: City of Masks (2002). On never really made it as a lead star, although he has consistently been in work, getting better with every role. Again, he would also go on to work with Benny Chan again, starring as one of the villains in Invisible Target.
Hong Kong cinema fans should also look out for cameos by Carl Ng, Ken Lo, Andrew Lin and John Shum amongst other recognisable faces.
Barbie Tung once again returns as producer, joined this time with Willie Chan, Solon So and Benny Chan himself. This would be the last Police Story film that Willie Chan would produced, but like everybody else it seems, would go on to work with Benny Chan again on Rob-B-Hood. Solon So had also worked with Benny Chan previously on Gen X Cops and its sequel Gen Y Cops (2000), both of which were executive produced by Jackie Chan. After New Police Story he would continue to work on a number of Jackie Chan films, The Myth, Rob-B-Hood, Shinjuku Incident (2009) and Little Big Soldier (2009).
Writer Alan Yuen turns out one of his better scripts, giving his lead actors more to chew on than normal. There are still some usual action movie clichés, and as mentioned some of the supporting characters are somewhat underwritten, with the villains getting especially short thrift. Director Benny Chan must like him as he had written Heroic Duo (2003) for him the year before and would continue to work for him, co-writing Rob-B-Hood and Connected (2008), which was a remake of the Hollywood movie Cellular (2004), as well as having a story by credit on Chan’s Shaolin. Yuen has also worked as a director, most recently on the terrific action movie Firestorm (2013), starring Andy Lau. Fans of the Police Story series should definitely give it a look.
Action Choreography was carried out by a number of individuals. As well as Jackie Chan himself contributing, they also had the assistance of Nicky Li, the former head of Jackie Chan’s Stuntmen’s Association before he branched out on his own. Working alongside Jackie Chan’s Stuntmen Association, he creates a number of memorable action scenes, and brings out the best in his performers. Li is undoubtedly one of the best action directors/choreographers in the business whose name is unfortunately overshadowed by the more famous, but not necessarily better, Yuen Woo Ping, Yuen Kwai and Ching Siu Tung. You only have to watch his recent work in SPL 2: A Time of Consequences (2015) to see the talent he has.
Police Story 2013 – 2013
This is the last entry in the Police Story series to date. Coming almost ten years after the previous entry, Police Story 2013, like the previous film is a standalone affair, having no connection with any of the other films in the series. It is also the furthest removed from the rest of the series, being more of a thriller, focusing mainly on a hostage situation. There is only one real fight scene in the film, a brutal one on one cage fight that is unlike usual Jackie Chan action. There are brief action sequences peppered throughout the film, such as a brief car chase and some short shootouts, but the focus this time is more on tension than action. The look of the film is also very different, with director Ding Sheng choosing to shoot a lot of the film digitally.
On its release there were some poor reviews which were more to do with expectations than the quality of the film. Having Police Story in the title does not do the film any favours, as comparisons to the other films in the series are inevitable, and also unfair. Police Story 2013 is a very different film, and Chan should be congratulated for doing something unexpected and playing closer to his age.
Unlike the previous films, Chan doesn’t play a Hong Kong Cop, with his Detective character hailing from Mainland China. Chan stars as Zhong Wen, who ends up in a bar looking for his estranged daughter, Miao. His daughter is currently dating the owner of the bar, something Zhong Wen doesn’t approve of. They end up having an argument and Miao storms off. Just after, he ends up being struck unconscious, waking up tied to a chair. He finds out that himself and the other people in the bar are being held prisoner by Wu (Liu Ye), for unknown reasons. It is up to Zhong Wen to find out why and try to stop Wu and his gang.
During the film, there are a number of flashbacks, with a lot of the film being told in a non linear fashion. This works to the films favour, making a generic plot appear more interesting than it really is. It also helps build the tension as it is not clear from the start the motives of the criminals, with the revelation of the criminal’s motives making them more than your average villains.
Like New Police Story, Chan is given a more dramatic role than normal, with none of the trademark Jackie Chan style comedy being used. It is definitely the best dramatic role he had since Shinjuku Incident 4 years earlier, although the previous film he made with director Ding Sheng, Little Big Soldier, took him in unexpected directions. It would seem that Ding Sheng prefers Jackie Chan the actor to Jackie Chan the action star. Of course he still gets involved in action, but it is a more realistic type of action, akin to what would appear in a Ringo Lam film. Unlike other action heroes, the character of Zhong Wen is more interested in saving lives than taking them, and even goes out of his way to even save the life of the main villain.
Liu Ye gives excellent support as the villain of the film, Wu Jiang. His role gives him a chance to be more than just a typical villain, especially when his motives become clear. His character has quite a lot of depth, having serious mental problems. He shares a good number of scenes with Jackie Chan, each one of them increasing in tension. Ye had previously worked with director Ding Sheng on the offbeat thriller The Underdog Knight (2008) and its sequel He-Man (2011). Both of the films gave Liu Ye a chance to stretch himself as an actor, with his character having a mental disability after being injured when he was a soldier. After Police Story 2013 he would go on to work with Sheng again on the similar Saving Mr. Wu (2015), this time in a heroic role.
Tian Jing stars as the daughter of Chan’s character, Miao Miao. Her character unfortunately falls into the trap of a lot of movie daughters, coming across as annoying, making her dad’s life a misery and acting as if the world revolves around her. She is also looks too old to be acting like a spoiled teenager. In the same year she appeared in Special ID (2013), alongside Donnie Yen in a more action orientated role which she seemed more suited to.
Yu Rong-Guang, like Jackie Chan, returns from the previous film, this time playing Captain Wu. It is a mainly dramatic role, with him and Chan having some verbal confrontations on the best way to deal with the situation. Unlike a lot of films where he would be shown to be incompetent or stupid, his character is a good guy who just so happens to disagree with Chan’s opinion.
This was the fifth film as director for Ding Sheng, and his second to star Jackie Chan. Unlike a lot of other directors who have worked with Jackie Chan through the years, he incorporates his own style of film making, setting the film apart from other Jackie Chan films. He could have re-cast Chan’s part and probably had the same film. Sheng is also the sole credited writer for the film, a role he has carried out on the majority of his own films. Sheng and Chan must get along as they have recently worked together again on Rail Road Tigers (2016).
There were a number of producers credited, mainly Yong Er, Zhang Wang and Yang Du, all more known for Mainland China productions than Hong Kong films.
The action choreography was carried out by He Jun and Han Kwan-Hua, giving the action involved in the film a more hard hitting approach from what is expected. The best scene is the main fight scene in the cage, which has Chan and an MMA fighter brutalising each other. There is no finesse involved in the action. Both He Jun and Han Kwan-Hua had worked with Jackie Chan before and since in various capacities, be it as assistant action director, fight choreographer or as an actor.
Police Story 2013 was released in America and the UK as Police Story: Lockdown. Thankfully other than the title, there were no changes made to the film.