New Police Story

New Police Story


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Although martial artist extraordinaire Jackie Chan has been honing his on-screen skills since the 1960s, and has a formidable number of Hong Kong capers to his filmography (including 1985's Police Story and its three sequels), it was only in 1995 that he broke through to American mainstream audiences with Rumble In The Bronx, thanks largely to the film's US setting.

Hollywood was quick to snap up the pint-sized tumbler, and had little difficulty translating Jackie's crude brand of slapstick into its own dumbed-down idioms, but his already dubious acting talent hardly improved in another language, while the strict unionisation of the studios prevented the superstar from doing the one thing he is best at: his own bone-breaking stunts. The anodyne East-meets-West action-comedies that resulted, most notably the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon franchises, were like a distillation of all Jackie's worst qualities, without anything good to counterbalance them.

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Thankfully, Benny (Gen X Cops) Chan's New Police Story is the exact opposite. As its title implies, this is an attempt to revitalise Jackie's better Hong Kong form - even if the film is a sequel in name only. Here, as in the old days, Jackie directs all the stuntwork himself and performs his own acrobatic moves, including the first fight - and fall - to have been filmed on the domed roof of the new Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Our hero, now visibly older, has been sensibly rebranded as a serious, conflicted character, first glimpsed in the film staggering about in an angst-fuelled drunken stupor, and repeatedly shown weeping with grief and guilt. This new, gritty Jackie, already hinted at in Police Story 4 (1993), is a welcome relief from Jackie the Clown - even if his shortcomings as an actor, combined with the script's tendency towards mawkish melodrama, tend to undermine Benny Chan's best efforts to be the new Martin Scorsese.

The plot is pure cliché, albeit cliché tokenistically updated to Generation xXx. Jackie is Chan, a supercop whose perfect arrest record has been torn asunder by a group of rich kids (led by Daniel Wu's Joe) whose enthusiasm for extreme sports and computer games is matched only by their love of murdering police officers. After Chan fails to save any of his team (including his future brother-in-law) from one of the gang's vicious traps, he disappears into a binge of alcohol abuse and self-loathing, refusing even to communicate with his loving fiancée Ho Yee (Charlie Yeung). No matter, for Chan will soon be pulled out of the gutter by his vaguely mysterious new partner Frank (Nicholas Tse), be chewed out by superiors for his maverick ways, and, before you know it, will be redeeming himself with a series of high-octane clashes that culminate in a deathmatch with Joe over the Hong Kong skyline. You can guess who wins.

Pretty much everything in New Police Story seems so contrived that Alan Yuen's screenplay may as well have been written with a crowbar. The cyber-shenanigans of Joe and his crew, no doubt designed to make the film appear cutting-edge, are in fact uncomfortably similar to the supposed youth-smarts of Hackers (1995), which even in its day seemed dated. The film's father-and-son motif, as well as a Taoist coda, appear to have been shoe-horned into the plot merely for cheap tearjerks, and even the action set-pieces feel like set-pieces and, though elaborate, lack a certain spark to set them apart from other movies.

None of which is to say that New Police Story is so very bad. On the contrary, it shows Jackie Chan struggling to break out of his current Hollywood rut and to extend his range towards a more mature kind of action hero. And did he succeed? Well, let's just say that his next film on the slate is Rush Hour 3...

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2006
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A maverick Hong Kong cop takes on a dangerous gang.
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Director: Benny Chan

Writer: Alan Yuen

Starring: Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse, Charlie Yeung, Charlene Choi, Daniel Wu, Dave Wong, Andy On, Terence Yin, Hayama Go, Coco Chiang, Deep Ng

Year: 2004

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Hong Kong


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