AKA GING CHAAT GOO SI JUK JAAP
AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY: 20TH AUGUST, from EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT’S ‘JACKIE CHAN’S POLICE STORY AND POLICE STORY 2 BOXSET’
RUNNING TIME: 121 mins [Japanese release]/ 101 mins [Hong Kong theatrical release], 98 mins [US New Line cut]/ 90 mins [UK video cut]
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Inspector Chan Ka-Kui has been demoted to highway patrol as the result of his handling of his previous case, which involved the violent arrest of crime lord Chu Tao and heavy property damage. This pleases his girlfriend, May, who is glad that her boyfriend is no longer taking difficult cases and has more time to see her. However, Chu is terminally ill and therefore out of prison. He vows to make life hard for Ka-Kui and threatens not only him but May. When Ka-Kui fight his men at a restaurant after May has been hit, he’s ashamed of his behaviour and resigns from the Hong Kong Police Force. He plans to take a trip to Bali with May, but it seems that he could be needed to deal with a series of bomb threats…..
Though generally considered to be slightly inferior, I’m going to make a claim for Police Story 2 as being about equal to its predecessor. I seem to recall that the first time I saw it, it came across to me as a better film, though since then my opinion seems to sway back and forth on the fact. It doesn’t have the incredible beginning and ending that it has, and parts off it more resemble a conventional cop thriller, but it’s more evenly if overall slower paced, has a stronger plot, is more intense and has some real emotional involvement. It’s a prime example of a sequel that both gives fans of the first movie more of the same as well as tweaking things a little. It develops characters and threads from the proceeding picture, and, while it still contains much comedy, slightly reduces the amount of it and better paces it and the action throughout the film in relationship to the story. Ka-Kui really goes through hell in this film, and we are left with the impression that the central couple can never really be happy. In short, it’s a more mature film, if maybe not quite a better one.
Though it would be a while before he would really crack Hollywood, this really was the golden period of Chan’s career, full of incredible invention and madness. His previous film Dragons Forever had been a rare commercial failure, so Chan decided to return to the police force in the second half of 1988. Much of the same crew returned, in fact Chan often made movies with the same crew, and the eagle-eyed can spot many of the same guys turning up to fight Chan in film after film. Special effects people were imported from Hollywood to make sure the explosions really kicked ass. Again, Chan was badly injured when he jumped through a window of real glass rather than the one with fake glass next to it, and was almost killed when a car pushed him ten feet down the street. They were filming a bit when Chan had to run across a road, and they didn’t get permission to stop the traffic, so – this being Hong Kong film making – he just ran across anyway. Meanwhile Maggie Chung split her head open after being hit by falling metal frames, requiring the script to be altered while she was in hospital and long shots of her being used more. Police Story 2 took Chan back up to the top of the Asian box office charts. As before, the Japanese version was longer, here by 20 minutes, though it was mainly scene extensions. The UK video lost nine minutes, mainly some comedy moments including a major sequence of Ka-Kui planting a bug. This time, the New Line edit only lost three minutes.
So the first film hurls you into the action with a sustained set-piece that never seems to stop. Chan and his writer Edward Tang obviously realised that they couldn’t top that, so they open this film with highlights from the first one, then show us Ka-Kui directing traffic having been demoted in flashback segments, firstly with lorries which are of course all Mitsubishi due to Chan’s long standing deal with them. Nice to see a film in which a reference is made to the trouble the hero’s destruction of public property has caused, with villagers having to be relocated and money being paid for damages. We then gradually build up to the first action scene as Chu’s right-hand man John Ko [whom first time round I thought was the lawyer from part one as he’s played by the same actor Charlie Cho] and his lackeys annoy Ka-Kui and May in increasing amounts until Ka-Kui flips and heads to the bar the bad guys are in, resulting in a minute or so of the expected mayhem. The story than brings in the thread about the bombers as Ka-Kui’s hopes for holiday with poor May are quenched because apparently Ka-Kui is the only cop on the force who stands a good chance of solving the case and he’s an expert in everything. It almost seems like we’re watching two films at once, one a tense if not really remarkable cop thriller about the hunt for a group of blackmailing bombers who have no bones about carrying out their threats [the explosions here really are seriously cool], but maybe I’m saying that because of all the crappy CG ones I have to suffer through in films these days?], and one a more personal and intense one in which a poor policeman’s relationship with the girl he loves is ruined by the consequences of his job. Of course it does all link up properly with Ka-Kui being used by the bombers, who have May kidnapped, to pick up their ransom demand with a bomb strapped to his chest, allowing Chan to act even more intense and desperate.
There’s a scene where the bad guys mockingly read out a letter from May to Ka-Kui that he hadn’t read, in front of them both which is an unusually emotional one for a Jackie Chan film before it then turns into a surprisingly brutal one with both of them having firecrackers hurled at them. Police Story 2 shows us a very sad and honest portrayal of a couple who can never be happy because of the man’s job. Whenever Ka-Kui tries to escape to some peace and quiet and by extension be happy with May, circumstances, whether organised or not, always bring him back to fighting crime and putting her in danger. The ending may have the two admire the fireworks set off in the final explosion, but I certainly don’t think they have much of a future together, and it’s such a shame that this sub-plot was minimised in the third film of the series, as it really gave a personal dimension to the proceedings. Of course this is a Jackie Chan film so you still get your share of action. Actually, there is less of it than in part one especially when you’re watching the two hour version, though it’s better spaced out through the film. The second major brawl is a battle with a large group of henchmen [who, of course, manage to suddenly produce metal bars from nowhere] in a playground which is a simply stunning display of martial arts techniques and how human beings can fall in different ways. The final showdown in a fireworks factory, in which Chan’s bodyguard Ken Lo [not for the last time] takes part is decent, but it’s less for the fighting than for the crazy stunts like Chan having a bomb thrown between his legs to explode on the ground while he hangs from a chute, to Maggie Chung being visibly knocked over by those metal frames – though my favourite bit in the film is Chan’s second [his first was crazy enough] method of crossing a road. Normal people wait for a green light. Chan stands on a balcony, then jumps onto a truck going one way, then a double-decker bus going the other way, then dodges two outcropping signs before jumping through a window.
The story [perhaps due to criticism?] makes Ka-Kui more a part of a team, though the section around around the middle where he’s not centre-stage involving the surveillance team could have done with shortening. Eventually Ka-Kui and some of the others end up in a really darkly lit warehouse [there’s a real dark atmosphere here] and we get perhaps the film’s nicest surprise. They see a suspect lit up by a light in the distance. He turns out to be deaf and dumb, but certainly not harmless when he suddenly turns violent, quickly bests the two of them mainly with some lethal kicks, and escapes. Later on, in the final fight, Ka-Kui is clearly no match for him martial arts-wise, barely getting a blow in, so he resorts to virtually ‘cheating’ and throwing at him the same kind of small fire bombs that he had earlier tortured him with. Ka-Kui even almost kills a terminally ill man, even if he is Chu [the bit immediately before this is another sequence of Chan magic, where he makes breaking into a house via loads of climbing and jumping look so easy]. It’s a measure of the film’s success that the comedy, which even relies on a fart gag at one point, only sometimes jars with the serious elements. A highlight is May and Ka-Kui rowing and the argument passing through a men’s locker room and into a toilet where Ka-Kui’s boss Uncle Bill is sitting. The scenes between Bill and his by-the-book boss Superintendent Raymond Li, who are both critical of Ka-Kui’s actions but are ready to praise them when they need his talents, sparkle with chemistry, timing and wit. We get a real idea of their relationship.
Chan seems to develop a bit as a director in this film, which looks handsomer than its predecessor. The soft-focus and lushly coloured night-time scenes with Ka-Kui and May are lovely to look at and there’s a nice and subtle bit showing how time passes while the couple sits on some steps apart, not talking. There’s more steadicam work, and more use of slow motion such as a very well set up suspense moment with Ka-Kui, a young boy and a balloon in the entrance to a shopping mall which could blow up at any minute. Chan seems awkward in a silly bit where Ka-Kui, disguised with just a moustache, impersonates a buyer of explosions, but otherwise is at his best and certainly handles the emotional side of the film well. Cheung Yiu-Cho is credited with the score, and it’s both reasonably exciting [if much more typically 80’s in sound] and manages a few decent themes including a pretty one for Ka-Kui and May, but some cues from Police Story are inserted, and the difference in arrangement [the earlier tracks have a ‘harder’ sound] jars a little. As before, Chan sings the theme song, though it comes across as a lesser variant of his classic song for the earlier film. Generally Police Story 2 demolishes the myth that sequels are never as good as an original movie, though it’s a myth I’ve never believed in anyway. It’ss a fairly well balanced film all-round as well as being a great showcase for the World’s Greatest Action Star.
This was the first time I’d actually seen the two hour version of the film. There are some different outtakes at the end, though the many scene extensions tend to be very short indeed, often amounting to just a few seconds, and I didn’t notice many of them, though they did result in a somewhat slower paced movie. I think I prefer the 101 minute version, and I’m curious to know as to why Fortune Star decided to fully restore what was originally solely the Japanese Cut in favour of the Hong Kong cut which is what far more people have seen, especially when they went with the Hong Kong version for the first film. But then I’m curious about other things, such as why Fortune Star decided to let L’Immagine Ritrovata restore these films despite their bad reputation. As with Police Story, there’s luckily nothing really bad about the result, but they sure took a risk. Again, the image is a little darker, plus there’s a tad more grey and brown, though viewed on its own I doubt this will be noticeable to most. This is still the best the film will ever look. As before, I preferred the original Cantonese audio to the 5.1 track, it seemed to me to be better balanced. The 5.1 track tends to make some sound effects louder and minimise the score a bit. The English dub isn’t terrible.
This time around we have the commentary that was on the Hong Kong Legends DVD as an addition to The Original Hong Kong Version. Stuntman and critic Jude Poyer and critic Miles Wood provide a fairly relaxed but informative and observant talk track. They point out some major geographical errors for those who don’t know Hong Kong, make some good points such as these two films being the only self-directed ones in which Chan gets really serious and intense, and point out some awkward, heavy handed moments probably in the film due to Chan wearing his producer’s hat. Interesting about the Hong Kong authorities trying to crack down on unsafe film shoots but that so many films film there illegally because it’s so hard to get permission.
The Original UK Version is a really rather good tightening of the film, and I’m tempted to say that the shortening of a very long surveillance sequence and even the removal of the bug planting bit and a brief flashback to May on her bike before she has another mishap on it is make for a slightly better watch. A shame that no Hong Kong dub exists for it, but the English dub is really quite good and better than the one for the long version. Kudos to Eureka for obtaining these video versions of the two films, as these are the first versions some fans will have seen.
Next up is the Hong Kong Legends 15 minute interview with Benny Lai who played the unforgettable deaf mute in the film and fought and did stunts in other Chan movies. We see him practice some martial arts along with hearing him talk about his career and what it was like to play his Police Story 2 character. It’s good, but for me pales beside a special feature which I’m so glad Eureka have included. It almost gave me goosebumps to see it again after all these years. The Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show 1989 TV series episode on Chan was what introduced many people in the UK to the man. I’d already seen his American movies The Big Brawl and The Cannonball Run films, and I liked what I saw [I still consider The Big Brawl to be a bit underrated], but I wasn’t wowed. Ten minutes into seeing the Jonathan Ross programme and I was totally gobsmacked at what I was seeing. Copious clips are interspersed with Ross chatting to Chan on the set of Miracles and his manager Willie Chan who wishes that Chan would not do his own stunts but if he has to do them can he take some precautions! I blow hot and cold on Ross but he’s clearly awed by being able to talk to one of his heroes and Chan even lets him touch the hole in his head. This is a wonderful inclusion and a treat for fans even if they didn’t see it back in the day. And finally we have the outtakes shown without writing on the screen.
Most prefer the original, I think that all things considered I prefer this sequel, though in terms of quality it’s probably about equal to its predecessor. In any case, despite my minor issues with the restoration which probably won’t bother many, Eureka’s set of these two films which show their incredible and insane star at his best is a must buy and bodes very well for their future releases of Chan’s stuff. If you’re a fan, you should need no further recommendation to buy, and if you’re not, or have only seen Chan’s American output, then dive straight in as these two films are quintessential Chan. Highly Recommended.
SPECIAL EDITION DETAILS:
*Police Story 2 – 1080p presentation of the extended version of the film, sourced from the incredible new 4K restoration
*Original Cantonese Mono audio, along with restored Cantonese and English 5.1 options
*Newly translated English subtitles
*Police Story 2: The Original Hong Kong Version – The original cut of Police Story 2, presented with its original Cantonese mono audio track and optional English subtitles
*Optional Audio Commentary with Miles Wood and Jude Poyer (Hong Kong Version of the film)
*Police Story 2: Original UK Version – An alternate cut of the film created for the film’s UK VHS release, featuring a unique English dub track
*Archival Interview with Benny Lai
“Jackie Chan” – Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show
*Collectors Booklet featuring new writing on the film and a selection of rare archival material