Judge Jason Panella is doing 6-10 for harsh criticism.
Police Story / Police Story 2 bundles two of Jackie Chan's best movies in one Blu-ray release. Is this just a twofer cash grab, or does Shout! Factory actually offer up something of value?
Chan was relatively unknown outside of East Asia before the release of these films, and it's easy to see why they helped launch his international career. Chan—who directed and co-wrote both pictures—mixes martial arts, jaw-dropping stunt work, and a healthy dose of physical comedy. Not a new formula, but it's infectious and endlessly creative in Chan's hands.
Police Story starts with a totally gonzo action sequence and maintains that level of insanity for 100 minutes. To catch a drug lord, Hong Kong cop Chan Ka-Kui (Jackie Chan, Rumble in the Bronx) gets into a running gun battle, uses a double-decker bus as a pommel horse, and totally levels a shanty town with a car. This is just in the first 15 minutes. Ka-Kui is soon assigned to protect a star witness (Brigitte Lin, Chungking Express) who is set to testify again the kingpin. After some inspired pratfalls and one jealous girlfriend (Maggie Cheung, In the Mood For Love), Chan caps off the movie with what might be one of the best action scenes in film history: a sprawling, utterly destructive battle in an urban shopping center. The plot moves along at a fast clip, partially because co-writer Ed Tang (Supercop) designed it around Chan's crazy stunts, but the less active scenes—especially those focusing on Ka-Kui's girlfriend—never feel extraneous. Though Chan's direction may seem ham-fisted at times, when the content is this rich it doesn't detract from the overall picture. Police Story is an absolute blast.
Police Story 2 picks up right where the first film left off. Nothing seems to be going right for Ka-Kui, having been demoted to traffic cop after pulverizing a shopping mall in his pursuit to bring drug lord Chu Tao (Chor Yuen, Twin Dragons) to justice. To make matters worse, his girlfriend May is having doubts about their relationship. But Ka-Kui gets dragged back into the mix after Tao decides to wage war on him and everything he values. Police Story 2 is a stereotypical sequel, equating more with better. There are more explosions, more comedy bits, more May moping, and a whole lot more garish '80s technology which seems to exist solely to provide flashing red lights and loud beeping sounds. Shout! Factory uses the 122 minute Japanese cut of the film, which adds more fluff to the original Hong Kong and US releases. Police Story 2 lacks the spark that made the first one so memorable. The set-pieces, while exciting, lack its predecessor's relentlessness, and the finale (in a fireworks factory, no less) is particularly underwhelming. Gripes aside, it's still an incredibly enjoyable movie, aided by Chan's better command of the camera and some inspired turns from Bill Tung and Lam Kwok-Hung as Ka-Kui's superiors.
Shout! Factory does a nice job improving upon previously released DVD versions of both films, though that bar wasn't set all too high to begin with. The 1080p/2.35:1 HD transfers are relatively free of the problems that plagued the standard def versions, both being noise-free and fairly sharp. Sadly, time hasn't been kind to either picture, Police Story in particular still sporting a fuzzy haze that clings to many scenes like a dayglo track suit. Though make no mistake, this is the best these films have ever looked. A quartet of audio tracks for each picture fare better, with both films sporting 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks in Cantonese and dubbed English. These tracks are mixed well and have a nice amount of depth and clarity. Some parts of the Cantonese tracks were dubbed, resulting in some unintentionally goofy sync issues. Otherwise, these picture sound nice, especially if you like glorious '80s synthpop. Shout! Factory also includes a fair number of bonus features for each film: alternate endings, deleted scenes, outtakes, and some international and domestic trailers. Nothing essential, but still fun to dig into.
I realize Chan's brand of action comedy isn't every film lover's cup of tea, but these first two Police Story films have such a joyful, kinetic nature I found them hard to resist. Despite the poor quality of the masters, Shout! Factory did a great job of making the films look better (though still not perfect). If you're a fan of either of these movies, Police Story / Police Story 2 (Blu-ray) is a must-have.
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