AKA GING CHAT GOO SI, POLICE STORY 2013
ON BLU-RAY AND DVD
RUNNING TIME: 110 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Detective Zhong Wen goes to Wu Bar in search of his estranged daughter, Miao Miao, who is now the girlfriend of the nightclub’s owner, Wu Jiang. There, he’s knocked out and awakes to find himself strapped to a chair and his hands bound by metal wires. The other bar patrons, including Miao, are being held captive. Wu phones the local Lieutenant and demands a hefty ransom as well as an audience with prisoner Wei Xiaofu. Zhong escapes and discovers that Wu intends to blow up the entire bar should his kidnapping ploy fail….
“You’re not young any more” says somebody to Jackie Chan’s character around half way through Police Story: Lockdown. He may have used to say that he’s given up action movies, but he still keeps on making them, or at least movies with a hefty dose of action in them [let’s set aside for now the rather sad fact that some of his recent work is blatant Chinese government propaganda], while the upcoming Skiptrace seems like a throwback to the days of Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon. Chan’s desire to become “the Asian Robert De Niro” [I’m assuming he’s referring to that actor’s glory days] hasn’t quite worked out though – Chan can be a good actor but not a great one – so it’s now back to his popular Police Story franchise, though like the last instalment, it’s not really related to the first four flicks except that Chan plays a cop. If this is a Police Story film, then by that measure you could also include Chan’s 1993 flick Crime Story as one too, as there Chan is a cop in a film which is basically a Police Story film but with most of the humour taken out and a bit more attempt at realism. Crime Story, rather than New Police Story, is probably the Chan film closest to Police Story: Lockdown in approach and feel so if you really enjoyed that then you’re most likely enjoy this one, though it’s not as good, and of course Chan is now too old to do the crazy stunts or extended fight routines with which he’s famous for.
Directed by Ding Shen whose Little Big Soldier is perhaps the best of Chan’s recent outings [though I have yet to see Dragon Blade, which I intend to obtain the full version of to watch rather than the apparently mutilated international recent release – an old story where Chan’s movies are concerned – which has come out in the UK], Police Story: Lockdown is kind of a cross between The Raid and a typical hostage drama….which sounds very good indeed, though it doesn’t quite come off as well as it should. At times it’s a bit unconvincing and aspects of the plot don’t really bear thinking about too deeply, but the tension is well maintained and things do get pretty intense and even emotional towards the end, to the point where the few martial arts scenes don’t really come across as necessary. Chan obviously feels that he should still throw a few morsels to those of his fans who still want fight action , but there’s one brawl in particular where his character Zhong Wen has the choice of either fighting one of the villainous Wu Jiang’s henchmen and, if he wins, being allowed to free three hostages, or admitting defeat and having to go off and find Wei Xiaofu alone. The scene seems just thrown in there, though it’s nice to see Chan’s character being totally outclassed and having to win by means which are not at all fair.
Our first shot of Chan is of his bruised and bloody face, as he then puts a gun to his head and fires. It’s not clear whether this is a flashback or flash forward though all becomes clear eventually. After the unusually [but appropriately] melancholy title music, we next see him passed out drunk in the back of a car. As with New Police Story, Chan is playing a damaged character and he really looks his age here too which really helps. He’s headed for Wu Bar to find his daughter and we soon get a scene of the most cliched kind where she complains how he never had any time for her, though it’s adequately performed enough to take one’s attention from the fact that Wu Bar looks absurdly like a film set and not much like a nightclub at all. There’s a nice little moment where we get some quick cuts of scantily clad nightclub dancers, then a quick close-up of Wu’s face, showing what’s going through Zhong’s head as he tries to process the information that his wayward daughter is now going out with the nightclub owner.
After a bit where Zhong subdues a disgruntled employee of Wu equipped with a bomb, the main drama begins, though the use of flashbacks to give us background on both Zhong’s and the main story is a little awkwardly done, even if they do open out a film which takes place largely in one setting, and breaks the suspense a bit. We get a variant on Lethal Weapon’s great jumper scene, a short but exciting car chase,and a brief fight scene, but best in terms of actual martial arts is a lengthy flashback from the point of view of Wu, who spent many of his earlier years engaged in illegal mixed martial arts competitions. While the action is quickly cut together, you can still make out some nice moves and cool stuff here and there. This is just as well, because the main story doesn’t really give us the thrills one might expect and a lengthy trial scene takes the place of the typical big climax, but things still keeps moving at a nice pace and the plot, even if it doesn’t bear much scrutiny [once you’ve watched the film, ponder on whether it was necessary for Wu to go to the trouble of opening a club at all], unfolds in a neat way. Good and evil end up being blurred and you really feel sorry for the bad guys though the climactic scene doesn’t really follow through on what it seemed to be promising. The whole film has a slight feeling of holding back – I certainly expected it to be a lot more brutal – though this doesn’t ruin matters.
Shen certainly gives us a stylish piece here. Some time ago I’d read that he goes overboard with the shakycam and fast editing in this film, and my heart well and truly sank, but he doesn’t really. Things are cut quite fast but not so you can’t see what’s going on, and, while there’s the obvious editing and choice of shots to make Chan look faster than his much younger opponents, there isn’t really enough fight action for this to become laughable. The use of CGI though in places is glaringly obvious and at times a little sad. Why on earth do we need to see computer generated fish? Wouldn’t it have been less trouble to, you know, get some real creatures? There are some interestingly handled moments throughout though, such as when Zhong is knocked on the head but not so he’s totally knocked out, and we see things happen through his blurry point of view before he’s coshed on the head again and this time knocked totally out. There’s a vibrant, colourful look to the whole thing that almost seems at odds with the material and with the approach taken elsewhere, but Shen is certainly a major Chinese filmmaking talent to look out for. He’s got another movie with Chan due for release in Asia in a few months, Railroad Tigers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood snaps him up soon.
Chan isn’t really stretching himself actor-wise at all here, though he avoids his occasional tendency to go over the top, and overall he does give one of his best performances. Zhou Xiaoou stands out amongst the rest of the cast as the sympathetic and actually rather lovable petty criminal Wei Xiaofu, and it’s nice to see Chan not have a wife or girlfriend half his age this time. Police Story: Lockdown, which took its time to get released here in the UK, is overall a solid effort, and 58 year old Chan [well, he’s 62 now] still cuts it as a tough hero, though one of the disappointing things about this film is that it still feels the need to present his character as heroic from time to time even though it didn’t need to, and it would have strengthened the drama if it hadn’t have done so. While he’s flirted with this on occasion, I’d like to see Chan really go dark, and maybe play somebody truly nasty. Imagine how sinister and creepy that childlike smile could seem in the right circumstances?