Shout Factory presents a 'Jackie Chan Double Feature' with the first two installments of the Police Story franchise, appropriately titled 'Police Story' and 'Police Story 2.' The films won awards in Hong Kong and they showcase Chan's trademark blend of Bruce Lee and Buster Keaton, but offer little else. The same can be said for this Blu-ray release.
After a tumultuous production with director James Glickenhaus on 'The Protector,' Jackie Chan's second attempt to break into the U.S. market, resulted in poor box-office numbers, he returned to Hong Kong and began work on 'Police Story,' which he states in appropriately titled autobiography, I Am Jackie Chan, is his best action movie. Might be just a coincidence that he co-wrote, directed, and starred in it. He plays Chan Ka-Kui, a Hong Kong Police Officer who leads the fight against crime kingpin Chu Tao (Yuen Chor).
For those who watched Asian imports and low-budget fare during the '80s, the crude graphics identifying the companies involved in the movie's release and synth score may induce a wave of warm nostalgia. After introductions are made, Ka-Kui becomes part of a task force that goes after Tao, who is holding a meeting in a village. The operation is blown in spectacular fashion. The village is almost completely demolished (thanks to Chan and his stunt team), and Tao's lawyer triumphs. Ka-Kui is put in charge of protecting Selina (Brigitte Lin), who is set to testify against Tao rather than go to jail. Ka-Kui brings her home, which complicates things with his girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung). Naturally, things don't go easy with Selina, who constantly switches allegiances.
'Police Story's story is just an average "good guys vs. bad guys" premise. There's no great depth of character or plot, which only accentuates the desire to move on to the next action sequence. However, there are a couple of good twists in the story, such as the first hitman trying to kill Selina. There's a nice bit of comedy when he tries to show off in regards to upsetting his girlfriend. The court scene goes on way too long but concludes with laughs because of a joke set-up in a previous scene. A routine that shows Chan's slapstick skills in a small setting involves Ka-Kui alone dealing with a number of phones, but when one of the callers wants to report a year-old rape the humor deflates.
The action sequences are impressive, from the aforementioned village destruction to Ka-Kui fighting a group of thugs around and through a car, to the spectacular climax set within a mall. I would definitely revisit the movie just to watch them again.
What's not as impressive is 'Police Story 2,' referred to as 'Police Story Part II' in titles. The movie suffers like many sequels do, by not living up to the standards set by its predecessor, and the 122-minute Japanese cut is bloated with a boring story and characters. Viewers would have been better served getting the 101-minute Hong Kong cut or the 92-minute U.S. cut.
Taking place shortly after the events of the first movie, which are shown in a brief montage, and after the government has paid for all the damage caused by him, Ka-Kui is been demoted to traffic cop. Tao is released because doctors say he had three months to live, and May takes over Selina's role as Tao's men threaten her. After another run-in with the hoods, Ka-Kui quits the force, but just as he thinks he's out he gets pulled back in. While out buying plane tickets, the mall he's in receives a bomb threat. He ends up returning to the force to find the terrorists responsible.
While the depth of character is about the same in 'Police Story 2' as the previous movie, there's no emotional connection requiring the audience to revisit them. The filmmakers make an even greater mistake by not creating action scenes that rival or top 'Police Story'. There is certainly more fire and bigger explosions, but the fight scenes seem smaller, and the climatic scene in the abandoned factory doesn’t have the same visual impact as the 'Police Story'. A day removed, there's not a scene where I think, "I need to see that again."
I score 'Police Story' 3.5/5 stars and 'Police Story 2' 2.5/5 stars with the stunt teams earning part of the scores for the damage they endure.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shot Factory presents 'Jackie Chan Double Feature: 'Police Story' & 'Police Story 2'' is a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a blue keepcase. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen.
The source material does no favor to these Blu-rays. Both films are given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer with aspect ratios of 2.33:1 and 2.34:1, respectively.
The video on 'Police Story' offers solid colors and inky blacks. Contrast can be good but gets blown out in scenes where bright sunlight shines into an exterior, such as through the windows of the police office or the open door of a bus. Light sources are also slightly diffused from source. Grain is evident throughout as is a faint line that runs through the very top of the frame. There are also occasional appearances of white specks and black marks. All objects have soft edges and offer little detail. Depth is limited, and in some of the court scenes, the focus goes even softer. (Video Rating: 3/5)
'Police Story 2' has areas where it's better and others where it's worse. The image looks slightly sharper, and both whites and colors are brighter. The picture is cleaner with less defects and grain. The light sources are distractingly diffused due to the source, and on occasion it creates banding issues. There's also a quick light flicker during an exterior shot of the mall. Worst of all is the fact that the print has anamorphic issues that the transfer couldn't correct, so some wide shots are distorted on the ends, diminishing both the focus and depth. (Video Rating: 2/5)
Audio on both movies is available in Cantonese and English, in both DTS-HD Master 5.1 Surround and DTS-HD Master 2.0 Stereo.
I chose Cantonese 5.1 for 'Police Story' because the gun blasts and punches are louder than they are on English 5.1. Also, the English dub dialogue doesn't match the subtitles and gets a bit silly. The score mainly plays out the front speakers. The electric guitar has good loudness but the electric drums sound flat. Explosions have power in surrounds, and vehicles can be heard moving through channels. Some other effects are exaggerated in this mix, like when Ka-Kui rolls across pavement as if he's slapping it as he goes. Dialogue is adequate, but the mix isn't balanced, making the effects more of the focal point. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
'Police Story 2' swaps things with the English 5.1 track having slightly louder effects and the music definitely being louder. I still stuck with the Cantonese 5.1 because the English dub team isn't as funny as they think they are. The presentation was similar, with effects being of most importance in the mix. There's good imaging as trucks can be heard racing across channels in the opening. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
While I appreciate Jackie Chan's skills for comedy and action, I don't think 'Police Story' will hold the casual viewer's attention nor that of the returning viewer. I know I'll be skipping to the action scenes in the future. And 'Police Story 2' offers even less. Although the audio offers an adequate high-def experience, the video may not be much better than previous DVD releases in some areas, and the extras aren't really worth seeing. Make sure you wait until you can buy it at a reasonable price. For fans only.