1985, 94 minutes, 35mm in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Jackie Chan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Chor Yuen, Bill Tung, Mars
Monday, June 24 @ 4pm (buy tickets)
Thursday, June 27 @ 4:15pm (buy tickets)
Jackie Chan’s first film set in the “real” world, POLICE STORY’s plot is the standard issue “protect the key witness from a nefarious drug lord sporting a giant, clunky mobile phone,” but the movie itself is an answer to years of sub-par American cop films. Where they are clumsy and awkward, POLICE STORY is all sleek, surprising speed. Chan’s fights have become more complex and more choreographed over the years, but few have approached the brutality of the ones in POLICE STORY. Almost 30 years later, it remains a truly ground-, and bone-, breaking motion picture. Directing, producing, choreographing, and starring, once again, Jackie claims it’s his favorite movie, and watching it today, even after its stunts and fight scenes having been copied in films like Tango and Cash and Brandon Lee’s Rapid Fire, it feels as fresh as it did in 1985.
It starts out, however, as a conventional police flick before moving into a well-choreographed but standard-issue shoot-out, then seamlessly seques into an “I can’t believe this” demolition derby car chase through a shanty town (a one-take stunt filmed by no fewer than ten cameras), and just when it seems to be slowing down it speeds up again leaving Jackie dangling from a double decker bus by an umbrella. Moving from the mundane to the insane, this transition from traditional cop movie to Jackie Chan paradise in the opening scenes is like walking into a burger joint and being accidentally served a ten course meal for $1.95. You can’t believe your good luck.
The rest of the movie involves Jackie protecting key witness, Brigitte Lin, from the guns and knives of her ex-boss, Chu, a drug dealer. Complications ensue, multiply and harry Jackie from scene to scene until we arrive at the final showdown in a multi-storied shopping mall where POLICE STORY earns its other title, Glass Story. Stuntmen hate glass, and candy glass (the kind that shatters into a thousand pieces on impact) always looks fake, so Chan set his final fight in a glass-filled department store and ordered up a batch of his own specialty stunt glass, halfway between real and fake (it breaks, painfully, into long shards when struck). Stuntmen bounce down metal-edged escalators face-first, they fall two and three stories at a time, landing on wooden shopping stalls. Faces (mostly Jackie’s), go through glass display cases, and knees and elbows bounce off the marble floor with bone-cracking force. But the final stunt is saved for Jackie: a six-story slide down a pole strung with lights. An incompetent electrician forgot to rewire the bulbs, and as a result the full-wattage lights peeled all the skin off Chan’s hands. But he got the shot.
Taiwanese screen favorite, Brigitte Lin, makes the transition to Hong Kong stardom turning in a rare comic performance as the witness to be protected and Maggie Cheung manages to make something out of the thankless role of the girlfriend who stands on the sidelines. It’s also the first movie to feature “Uncle” Bill Tung as the police captain and Jackie’s boss, who would become a regular in Jackie’s stable of players, appearing almost as constantly as Mars (the key member of Jackies’ stunt team). Watching this movie today it’s easy to understand the sea change it started in the West when it screened at the 1985 New York Film Festival. You can imagine the hanging jaws as Manhattan film snobs accustomed to Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman beheld the carnival of carnage on display in this flick.