Judge Adam Arseneau is a Supernerd.
Our review of Supercop / Twin Dragons (Blu-ray), published June 3rd, 2011, is also available.
Meet the cop that can't be stopped!
Police Story 3 continues the popular Hong Kong series of Jackie Chan adventures in improbable law enforcement with the addition of a new female cohort. The film received a small theatrical release in North America by Dimension back in 1996, dubbed into English and edited for content with a new generic title, Supercop. If you were a particular fan of that version, than this two-disc Dragon Dynasty set will thrill you to no end.
Facts of the Case
Inspector Chan (Jackie Chan, Rush Hour), Hong Kong police officer extraordinaire, is up for his latest all-star assignment, much to the chagrin of his overprotective superiors. His mission: venture into mainland China to crack open a drug smuggling ring. With the assistance of beautiful INTERPOL agent Yang (Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Chan goes undercover in a Chinese prison, masquerading as a criminal and assisting a drug czar's escape.
Having gained the trust of the drug ring, Chan and his criminal associates travel to Malaysia to orchestrate the breakout of the kingpin's wife, who has been arrested. Unfortunately for Chan, his girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung, In the Mood for Love) is staying at the same hotel. For the cop who can dodge bullets, leap over ever obstacle, and fight through every battle, this may be his toughest assignment yet—a blown cover and an angry girlfriend!
It's tough being a Jackie Chan fan. Most North American audiences received their first taste of the prolific stunt man after watching Rumble in the Bronx, which brought the veteran Hong Kong action star into the money spotlight in Hollywood. The surprising and sudden success of the film led to the quick adaptation of Police Story 3, the third film in a long and successful franchise of action-oriented Hong Kong cop films into a standalone adventure for Americans called Supercop. A few cuts here, an English dub there, a Tom Jones song thrown in for good measure, and nobody would be the wiser, right?
And so it goes being a fan of Hong Kong cinema in North America. What few films make it here on DVD come truncated and dubbed within an inch of their life. Don't get me wrong: Supercop is a great example of Chan at the apex of his career; young enough to still be doing insane stunts and fight sequences, but experienced and polished enough in his acting and comedic timing to entertain audiences. It's just slightly disingenuous, this rebranding and disassociation of franchising of established, successful HK films. Can you imagine trying to take Lethal Weapon 3 abroad and market it with a new name and sell it as a standalone film? Sure, you'll rake in the money…but wouldn't you feel just a bit empty inside?
When you get down to brass tacks, Supercop is your standard Jackie Chan film from the 1990s—he jumps, he flips, he dances, he falls around in Buster Keaton-style physical comedy, and he does some of the most jaw-dropping stunts you'll ever see. It's a great film in and of itself, but as Chan films go, not a standout. Sure, the stunts are good, and the story is good, and the action is good, but few fans will list this as their favorite film, because it's all pretty much by-the-book, save for the all-important edition of Michelle Yeoh. The female ying to Chan's yang, she matches his humor, his physical prowess, and his willingness to put her body into harm's way at every step. If you've seen Tomorrow Never Dies, you'll understand how she got the job, because she basically plays exactly the same character here, but four years earlier and in Cantonese. She's as close to a female 007 as you'll likely ever see.
As for the plot, well, there is a plot, but it's like getting into a thematic breakdown of a dumb 1980s action film—why bother? Jackie Chan goes undercover, kicks a lot of people in the face, and runs around with a pretty girl, and a lot of stuff blows up. I defy anyone to come up with rationalization to go into more detail than this. What more do you need? If you're not already sold, then nothing more we can say will sell you. Accepting that Supercop isn't the best of Chan's work does not diminish its charms, because this is still a fun, entertaining action comedy full of ludicrous action done the old-fashioned way, before CGI came and leveled the playing field. As for the stunt work, Chan's work here is okay—nothing spectacularly notorious or outrageously dangerous, save for an impressively choreographed sequence involving a moving train and a helicopter in the finale.
What you will remember about Supercop above all is the pantomime and physical comedy between Chan and Yeoh, cracking wise and bouncing from action sequence to action sequence with the polished air of stunt men with years of experience working together. Without Yeoh, Supercop would be but a footnote in a long and illustrious career of hilarious action films by the veteran stunt man—a good film, but not a great film. With her, Supercop gets that much-needed bump into "worth the price of admission" territory, if only to see them escape from increasingly improbable situation after situation. Boy, improbable is right! One can't help but realize how painfully dull and boring Hollywood action films are in comparison to Hong Kong-styled action. These guys really knew how to party.
Like other Dragon Dynasty collections that alternate between being exceptionally kind and unexpectedly cruel to their material, Supercop is the ultimate mixed bag for Asian cinema fans. We get a top-notch restoration and presentation of a cut and edited film, and a bodacious DTS and 5.1 surround presentation of an English dub, leaving the original Cantonese audio languishing in ear-wrenching mono. It's like a poison-coated candy bar: it looks delicious, but tough to swallow if you know what's inside.
The 2.35:1 transfer is a thing of beauty for a Golden Harvest film; nary a scratch or mark to be found anywhere, with clean lines and detail abound. Black levels are washed and colors are muted, but for HK cinema, this looks fantastic. Unfortunately, we only get the 91-minute North American cut of Supercop, and the DVD includes no deleted scenes. The 5.1 and DTS tracks are punchy, but mutilated and edited by their English treatment. The Cantonese mono track is raw, jagged and tinny, and difficult to appreciate with a modern-day home theater system, and it is painfully clear absolutely no restoration work went into it. You might be tempted to opt for the DTS, which is sublime, until you hear the terrible hip-hop score and foolish dialogue. At least they had the good sense to get Chan and Yeoh to record their respective parts. Watching the film in English with English subtitles on is enough to give you a migraine as the English dub takes off on narrative adventures barely referenced on-screen.
As for extras, the standout is a commentary track by Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan, who delivers the chattiest and most jam-packed commentary track imaginable. The dude never shuts up for a single moment, but this isn't a bad thing—every minute detail, every shooting detail, every obscure actor reference is laid out in frenetic detail by Logan. It's a seriously impressive track. A second disc contains the lion's share of the features, which amount to featurettes, three of them created exclusively for this DVD release. "Flying High: An Exclusive Interview with Jackie Chan" interviews star Chan about his work in the film and the previous Police Story films, while "Dancing With Death: An Interview with Michelle Yeoh" does the same with the heroine and her past martial arts films, like Tai Chi Master. "The Stuntmaster General: An Exclusive Interview with director Stanley Tong" goes into detail with the director and his experiences behind the camera, while "The Fall Guy: An Exclusive Interview with Ken Lo" gives us insight into Chan's bodyguard, training partner and film co-star. The Yeoh interview seems to be the non-exclusive interview in the set, but you'd be hard-pressed to care; this is one of those rare occasions where interview featurettes are actually a worthwhile supplement to a DVD release and worth their own disc. Each feature runs a solid 20 minutes, so there's a sizable offering of supplements all told here.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What to do, what to do? By traditional DVD metrics, this is a great release: solid audio, superb transfer, full supplementary features…and yet, it feels wrong somehow. Oh Dragon Dynasty, why couldn't we have gotten the international edition? Why couldn't you have cleaned up the Cantonese audio just a bit? Why call it Supercop? Lamentations!
If you haven't seen Police Story and Police Story 2 yet, this must be done immediately—and then once you have seen them, Supercop just won't do. You'll want Police Story 3, unedited and authentic for your collection, with the extra 15 minutes of content and a Cantonese audio track that doesn't make you cry. The more dedicated and hardcore cinematic collectors and HK cinema fans will no doubt seek out more "authentic" versions of the film for their collections, if they haven't already.
If you can't be bothered, or aren't that into Chan's back catalog? Well, yeah, this is a fantastic DVD release. But…the dirt! It won't come off!
The Dragon Dynasty edition of Supercop is unquestionably the definitive English language version of the film, but the key word here is "English." If you're looking for the authentic version of Police Story 3 look elsewhere: everything on this DVD caters towards an international audience with English dubs and edited content.
But don't let my cynical, clutching Hong Kong cinema nerd tendencies scare you. Yes, okay, it might be edited and dubbed, but Supercop is still a kick-ass film, packed full of comedy, fantastic stunts, and an incredible collaboration between Chan and Yeoh kicking butt and taking names. Demanding nerdy perfection from our DVDs is one thing, but if your choices are this edition of the film or not seeing this film at all, don't be a martyr! Get it!
Not the defining edition for international fans of Hong Kong cinema may have been hoping for, but Supercop is way too fun to be guilty.
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