Police Story: Collector's Edition (US - DVD R1)
Gabe starts catching up on Jackie Chan's early career, and loves it...
Chan Ka Kui (Jackie Chan) single handedly captures a crime lord after a sting operation goes violently wrong. To ensure the crime lord is convicted of his crimes, Chan must protect the lord's unwilling secretary (Brigitte Lin). Events are put into action, and Chan finds himself struggling to save his life and the secretary's, all while keeping his girlfriend happy. When Chan is framed for the murder of another police officer, there's no turning back.
I'm not very well schooled in the cinema of Jackie Chan, I must admit, and his lacklustre American efforts haven't made me care enough to seek out the master's backlog. I've seen Drunken Master II, Police Story III: Supercop, and Armour of the Gods II (which I've been told are the man's finest work), and I loved them all, but I've always found the horror-hybrids and wushu period pieces of '80s and early '90s Hong Kong cinema more interesting. I apologize to Chan fans everywhere for my basic ignorance on the man's work.
After Rumble in the Bronx saw a US release, I remember seeking out earlier Chan work with friends, but the only movies we could find at our local video store were the Fearless Hyena films and Police Story II. I wasn't impressed, and assumed for years and years and years that if Police Story III was such an improvement on Police Story II, that the same must be true for the original Police Story. It makes some sense. I didn't realize that Police Story was Chan's career breaker. Thanks to my new best friend Bey Logan's commentary track, I now know the importance of this film to Chan's cannon, and in turn the greater Hong Kong action cannon.
First of all, for those that didn't already know, Police Story is not a comedy. I had always assumed that pretty much all of Chan's work was comedy. I know, I'm ignorant. Though there are a few funny scenes, the majority of the film's action is not slapstick oriented, to the contrary it's surprisingly violent. The opening shoot-out/car chase is a bit over-the-top (in both physics and performance), but has a mean edge to it, and the final beat down would make Steven Seagal proud. The funny scenes are never related to the life and death struggle of catching the bad guy, they consist of fake fights, girl problems, and Abbot and Costello operating services.
The serious tone even finds its way into Chan's performance, which is shockingly good considering the Jackie I'm used to seeing. Chan gives himself a solid breakdown scene, where he ends up taking his own police chief hostage out of desperation. I'm personally used to seeing the Clown Prince of Kung Fu as a goof ball or, as seems to be his fate as of late, a straight man to some American comedian. The idea of acting in '80s era Hong Kong cinema is a little less subtle than most Western audiences may be accustom to, but even by modern standards this is surprisingly emotionally affecting stuff. There's even a reasonably suspenseful courtroom battle.
Amongst all this grit, grime, and genuine drama, is the crown jewel of the film, the action. The films first and last reels are some of the most invigorating I've seen in quite a while. With the advent of DVD extras I can learn all about how brutal some of these stunts really were. Some of those extras leaping out of the way of on-coming cars didn't make it, and those guys dropped on moving elevators didn't have much in the way of padding. Even star Bridgit Lin was seriously injured when she was thrown through a pane of glass. This is the real deal, no strings or digital enhancements. If it looks like a fall or punch hurt, it probably did. Superb.
This Collector's Edition DVD looks pretty damn good for a 21 year old film. There's a lot of grain, and some artefacts, but it's all pretty fine, and is evenly textured so as to not be too distracting. Colours could use a bit of a bump up, but look accurate and are vibrant enough to earn a pass. Details are sharp considering, and black levels are deep without loss of image. There are instances of the anamorphic image compressing horizontally on the edges of the frame. This could have to do with improper mastering (perhaps the film is supposed to be 2.40 or 2.45:1), but more likely has to do with the original D.P.'s filming process. This is not uncommon, especially in the lower budgeted Kung Fu field, and is mostly allocated to scenes featuring tracking or dolly shots.
The sad thing here is that the blasphemous English 5.1 dub has the best sounding effects track, though it was probably greatly re-recorded in the dubbing process. The two Cantonese tracks (5.1 and Mono) are surprisingly similar. Neither track is very dynamic, and effects, dialogue, and music can be jumbled a bit. This is probably very true to the original recorded tracks, which is most likely thin. It doesn't hurt the film, and it's most likely the best the DVD's producers could manage without replacing effects and music (which is a big no-no for fans especially).
The extra features start with a standout commentary from Bey Logan, who all my UK friends already know from the Premier Asia line. I've just gotten to know the guy over two DVDs, and he knows his Hong Kong cinema like no one, and ranks with Tom Mes and Kim Newman as far as information per second on commentaries. Unfortunately, Logan is joined by the infamous Brett Ratner, the painfully pedestrian director of Red Dragon and X-Men 3. Ratner also made the passable Jackie Chan American made Rush Hour films, so you might think he has some insight. Either Logan talks too fast, Ratner is too into watching the film, or Ratner doesn't know a damn thing about the film or Chan, because he adds nothing but insight into which sequences are "awesome".
The Rat finds his way into a short featurette entitled A Tribute to Jackie Chan by Brett Ratner and Bey Logan. Basically, Logan introduces the fact that Chan had little success in Hollywood, then gives Ratner too much credit for making the first successful American made Chan film. Anyone actually paying attention in the mid '90s will remember that about a million of Chan's films were re-released in American cinemas to decent numbers, indicating the star's interest in crossing over. In tribute, Ratner basically goes over his favourite scenes. From a purely personal standpoint, Ratner rubs me the wrong way, the way he speaks, his image, etc. This hatred is unfounded and rude, and I do apologize to his fans, but frankly, I hope he doesn’t show up on any more of these Dragon Dynasty DVDs, maybe Tarantino can grace us with his presence next time.
The deleted and extended scenes are the most important feature, next to Logan's commentary. It would be best to have included an addition Logan commentary with the scenes. The alternate opening is more light hearted, less to-the-business as the final cut, and contains a lot more of Jackie's singing. The alternate ending is the one that needs explaining, as it sees Chan carted off in handcuffs after beating the bad guy senseless. The reason for this is that some East Asian countries require (or required at the time) anyone breaking the law in a film to be punished, even if he or she is the hero and in the right. This section also contains a montage of split second additions from a longer cut, which are marked within brief clips with a quick 'deleted scene' display, and the end credit outtakes minus the credits themselves.
The East end point of view is covered in two interview segments, one with Chan the Man himself, the other with the man's stunt crew. There are quite a few good tales of battle here, and though some are also covered by Logan on the commentary, it's good to hear these tales from those that lived them. Chan expresses the fact that he wishes behind the scenes documentaries were the norm when he made the film because there were lots of accidents and hardships that would've made for interesting entertainment.
It all comes to an end with some trailers, including the awful re-release trailer from Dragon Dynasty.
I'm so happy to have seen this film. It's one of the finest martial arts action films of its era, and should satisfy even the most rabid Hong Kong fanatics. Of course, I'm sure everyone here already knew how good the film was, and those folks should be happy with the A/V quality. The extras are a tiny bit weak, just above average, and are hurt by the presence of Brett Ratner, who just isn't a charming lad.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 19th December 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Mono Catonese
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Brett Ratner and Bey Logan Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Opening and Ending, A Tribute to Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan Interview, "Stunts Unlimited", Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Maggie Cheung, Charlie Cho, Yuen Chor
Genre: Action and Crime
Length: 101 minutes
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