There are plenty of reasons to get excited for the Blu-Ray release bundling both Police Story and its sequel in one collection. For a start, they are both highly entertaining movies and perhaps Jackie Chan’s greatest achievement in the industry. Secondly, they are stunning HD upgrades – particularly if, like me, you still only possess the Hong Kong Legends DVDs.
Ultimately, this limited edition box set is packed with multiple versions of each film, some of which have never before been released in the UK. For the first time ever, viewers in this country can see the HD Japanese cut of Police Story, with five minutes extra runtime, original Cantonese audio and newly translated English subs that actually make sense.
Or, perhaps you fancy watching the regular cut… but with an alternate English dub sourced from a rare Dutch VHS that has never officially been released prior to this? Or maybe you would prefer The Police Force Cut, with its electronic score?
They don’t skimp out on Police Story 2 none either, with an extended 121 minute cut, the 90 minute version released in the UK, as well as the original Hong Kong cut. Plus there’s outtakes, archival interviews, trailers, featurettes, collectors booklets and even optional audio commentary for both movies. Chan’s most iconic features are given the full treatment that they deserve, albeit sadly still not in 4K, despite the presentations themselves being sourced from a new 4K restoration.
Action heroes are ten-a-penny in Hollywood. They roll off the factory line vaguely resembling a Pine or a Hemsworth and immediately go straight to leading man status in generic blockbuster fodder. But it wasn’t always like that.
Whilst Alistair MacLean was ripping up the rulebook with Clint Eastwood towards the end of the sixties, a Cantonese megastar in waiting was preparing to cross the sea and unleash martial arts movies on the West. Bruce Lee was already a relatively familiar figure in the US for his work in television while his reputation back home grew and grew. In 1973, Enter the Dragon changed the face of action blockbusters whilst they were still virtually in their infancy; and so too did Lee pave the way for fellow martial arts movie stars back home to view all the heavenly glory that awaited them in the Land of the Free.
Perhaps no path shone more brightly than that of Jackie Chan, who famously pops up as a cameo in Lee’s seminal kung fu film (and gets a bump to the noggin for his troubles). Throughout the 70s, an influx of wuxia movies crossed the pond gathering a cult for its stars. By the time the likes of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Master with Cracked Fingers and of course Drunken Master were released, Jackie Chan had fully established himself as the genre’s beacon for its burgeoning Western fanbase.
He set the example that many others sought to emulate by creating (unsurprisingly) similar movies. Police Story was Chan’s most successful attempt to beak the mould again. Nobody had made stories about the modern Hong Kong police force before – not in the same way. Nobody had created the Super Cop that stood against implied corruption and collusion within the service. It’s easy to remember the hilarity of Chan juggling police telephone lines in some backwater station all whilst cooking some noodles, but it’s equally as easy to forget that there was a certain amount of danger in showing scenes of this nature. The police were depicted as understaffed, overworked and in some cases incompetent – in other cases, worse; bureaucrats, negligent and even criminals. Hence why Police Story opens with a disclaimer statement in praise of the HK police.
The reason people went mad for these films – and why we still get giddy at the prospect of seeing these classics in higher definition, or with different audio tracks, or cut and paced slightly differently, multiple times – is because they are fantastic fun. Both rely heavily on Chan’s comic timing, turning his hand to base jokes about farting in a lift, holding imaginary phone calls with his girlfriend to show off to his witness, and handbrake turn parking with aplomb.
His timing is never more valuable an asset than when performing his own stunts, such as flying around a warehouse launching high kicks with immaculate ease, or leaping from a shopping centre balcony to grab a pole some 10 yards in front of him. Even just the ease at which he hops over 12ft high fences leaves you aghast, never mind leaping between moving buses.
Chan’s ability to blend his love for silent comedians like Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton with his inhuman cat-like agility and eye for mind-bogglingly complex stunts makes both Police Story and Police Story 2 worthy of the accolades bestowed upon them. The sequel tones down the excessive action sequences some – nobody flies through a bus window and lands flat on the tarmac below, for instance – while attempting to drive up the plotting and individual one-on-one choreographed fight scenes, perhaps slightly to its detriment. Whichever you prefer, the Blu-Ray box set is an absolute must for any fan of Chan.