1992, 95 minutes, 35mm, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Stanley Tong
Starring: Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Yuen Wah, Bill Tung, Mars
Thursday, June 27 @ 8:45pm (buy tickets)
It was risky from the start. Jackie was tired of starring in, directing, producing and choreographing year-long mega-productions. Golden Harvest wanted to shorten his shoots and get more than one movie a year out of him. Enter stuntman and self-taught director, Stanley Tong. Golden Harvest honcho Leonard Ho liked Tong’s first and only film, Stone Age Warriors, and tapped him to direct the third installment of Chan’s popular Police Story series. But Tong demanded one thing: total authority — and he got it.
First he hired Michelle Yeoh, a former action star who had married and retired from movies in 1986. Divorced and depressed, Tong thought the role would be just the thing to cheer her up, so he made her Jackie’s co-star, much to Chan’s dismay. Jackie doesn’t like his ladies to fight, and in SUPERCOP he felt Tong and Yeoh were conspiring to show him up. He grumped for most of the picture, but the competition also made him bring his A-game.
Set in China, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, POLICE STORY III: SUPERCOP sees Jackie’s indefatigable Ka-kui assigned to assist China’s Public Security Bureau in arresting an international drug thug. Under the supervision of Michelle Yeoh’s tougher-than-leather Inspector Yang of the PSB, Chan goes undercover in the druglord’s gang by breaking henchman Panther (his Chinese opera school brother, Yuen Wah) out of prison and infiltrating the gang, with Yeoh in tow.
The production was cut short in China because fans swarmed Jackie wherever he went. Things moved to Malaysia where Tong decided Yuen Wah wasn’t up to his climactic fight scene and replaced him with Ken Lo. A stunt on top of a train had to be dropped when Chan was knocked unconscious by a helicopter, and while testing a motorcycle jump for Yeoh (who had never ridden a motorcycle before) her stunt double broke his leg. Add to that Tong’s insistence on shooting in synch sound (requiring quiet on the set and slowing down production) and it looked like a disaster in the making.
Instead it was a movie that feels like a breath of fresh air for Chan. Yeoh pulled off her bike stunt and rose from the ashes of her retirement like some kind of po-faced, martial arts phoenix. The foreign locations give things an expensive sheen, and Tong’s eschewing of complex choreography in favor of wide, clearly presented stunt sequences brings a crisp, new feel to Chan’s movie repertory. Tong and Chan went on to collaborate on the Michelle Yeoh showcase movie Project S, then Jackie’s international break-out movies in the West, Rumble in the Bronx and First Strike, but they never again captured lightning in a bottle the way their first wild, contentious, rambunctious, near-disastrous collaboration did.