Friday, August 23, 2019

Police Story Saw Jackie Chan Establish Himself As The Buster Keaton of Action Movies

The 1980s were the era of action movie stars as the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and all the other people who nowadays headline direct-to-Redbox fare were titans of the silver screen as they beat up nefarious foes in an R-rated fashion and delivered corny one-liners. America wasn't the only country where an action movie star established his prowess in the 1980s, though, Hong Kong also saw Jackie Chan solidify himself as an action movie leading man with a whole array of iconic titles. One of those titles was Police Story, which saw Chan stepping behind the camera to direct the proceedings. In the process, he depicted so much creative flair that it was clear that Chan was clearly something special in the world of action movie stars.

Though he garnered fame in an era dominated by macho American action movie stars, Chan's dedication to executing intricately detailed feats of action mayhem in Police Story made Chan more of a new Buster Keaton rather than a new Chuck Norris. For this directorial debut, Chan plays Sergeant Chan Ka-Kui, who is tasked with protecting an important witness, former secretary Selina Fong (Brigitte Lin), so that she can testify at the trial of a major crime boss, Chau Tau (Chor Yuen). Fong doesn't want to play along with Ka-Kui's cocky directions while further complications arise once Chau Tau sends men to take care of Fong.

Things soon spiral so out of control that Ka-Kui ends up being framed as a criminal and has to go on the run from the police precinct he's dedicated so much of his life to. Much of the plot, though cohesive in terms of how one plot point connects to another, is clearly taking a backseat to what kind of big set pieces can be conjured up (comments from the writer of the project, Edward Tang, back this up). It's hard to say that such features of Police Story shouldn't get such top-shelf treatment given how thoroughly exciting they are, there isn't a location or prop that this movie can't turn into a source of exciting action and stuntwork that Jackie Chan and company can engage in

A sequence during the credits allowing one a glimpse into what it was like to film the various action scenes makes one further appreciate just how much craft has gone into the film, particularly in terms of all the impressive stuntwork used to pull off moments like evil henchman flying through the windshield of a multi-level bus. Police Story was made in a pre-CGI world and the lack of polished digital effects at their disposal have spurred the imagination of its creative participants in terms of how to execute a myriad of impressive hand-to-hand duels and chase sequences. Such execution typically goes for impressive simplicity like how they pulled off Jackie Chan sliding down a pole covered in electrical lights. The solution there? Actually have Jackie Chan slide down a pole covered in electrical lights.

Much like when Tom Cruise just hangs onto the outside of a soaring airplane, that moment is one of many in Police Story that convinces a viewer that Jackie Chan is both insane and also an impressively dedicated person when it comes to pulling off truly outstanding action movie feats. One can appreciate all of those feats thanks to the thoroughly controlled camerawork that typically opts for wider shots that allow one to appreciate the level of detail and scope going into this movies action sequences. Such a visual style has the added bonus of incorporating moments of subtle humor too, like how the wide framing of Ka-Kui's car chasing some bad guys through a village located on a downhill slope allows one to see how much wreckage both the protagonist and antagonists are causing as they run over this village all while looking more like out of control Hot Wheel cars than anything else!

The wide assortment of creative action sequences keeps Police Story light on its feet, a zippy tone reinforced by the movie's style of comedy that opts for pieces of stylized slapstick (like a scene of Ka-Kui trying to keep track of a large number of incoming calls at the same time) or witty banter that usually sees Ka-Kui making a fool himself. Even when Jackie Chan isn't putting his life on the line for our amusement like the action movie version of Johnny Knoxville, Police Story is a mighty fun treat. This is a movie that just throws itself fully into everything that comes its way, and that includes its silliest elements. This movie just revels in the slow-motion destruction of a barrage of glass shelves in the climax to enormously delightful effect. It's all such a committed piece of action cinema that Police Story works as a one-movie demonstration for why exactly Jackie Chan has remained such a revered cinematic icon for so many years.

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