Police Story (1985)

Police Story (1985) DVD cover

Police Story (1985) DVD cover

“He thinks he’s John Wayne.” First off, this highly ambitious Jackie Chan directed and starred 1985 Golden Harvest Studios classic is not only a great martial arts movie it is actually a great action movie period. You can argue that he hit his peak with this one because it is absolutely breathtaking, a gritty Hong Kong “Lethal Weapon” (1987) two years before “Lethal Weapon” ever existed. “Police Story” (1985) doesn’t disappoint, it was Jackie in his prime, an action-comedy drama which he held absolutely nothing back, which means it’s a must see. This was a contemporary Hong Kong cop film which was separated from the usual ancient China type Jackie period pieces that we were all used to seeing, e.g. the classic “Drunken Master” (1978). Hollywood action film makers today should watch this film again and again and learn a thing or two (too much CGI today). It made a huge $26,626,760 in the Hong Kong Box Office and is considered by the great Jackie Chan himself, to be his best action film. It looks expensive and you can see where some of the money went in the opening entertaining car chase shoot out scene in a shanty hill town. You got a huge sense of danger. It has the usual Jackie elements such as comedy and quality action. It was a film where the stunt men were pushed to the limit. Jackie (it is still amazing that he did his own stuff) and his stunt men were seriously injured on many occasions during the making of this film performing these outrageous daredevil action sequences (see the intense “Guerrilla-style” filmed bus scene). The film has arguably Jackie’s best action choreography with eye popping memorable stunt work and incredible modern martial arts (check the explosive mall scene).

CAST

This action-packed film features some well known Hong Kong actors including two beautiful leading ladies. In this film Jackie Chan stars as the tough determined honest cop, Sergeant “Jackie Chan Ka-Kui.” The Buster Keaton comedy influence is yet again prevalent (check the funny scene when Jackie’s in the police precinct answering 4 or 5 telephones at once). His dramatic acting is also very solid in many parts of this one, and his charisma carries it through. He also presents the hero as somewhat reckless and flawed (by the end of the film he seemed to be a borderline psychopath). The weasel like spectacled villain “Chu Tao” was played by Hong Kong director, script writer and actor, Yuen Chor, who also returned in the sequel, “Police Story 2” (1988). A 21 year old Maggie Cheung (why didn’t she later become a Hollywood star?) plays Jackie Chan’s long suffering but ever forgiving gorgeous girlfriend “May,” which was probably her notable breakout role which led to a hugely successful award winning career. She also reprised her role in “Police Story 2” and “Police Story 3: Supercop” (1992). Popular Hong Kong actress, Brigitte Lin, played “Selina Fong” the sly attractive secretary of the villain “Chu Tao” who Jackie Chan’s character, “Ka-Kui” takes into protective custody. There are some nice light hearted comic moments between them as he tries to get her to cooperate with the police. The scene when Jackie gets one of his co-workers called “Kim” who was played by veteran Kung Fu stuntman Mars (born Cheung Wing Fat) to stage a fake attack on “Selina” in her apartment was hilarious. The actor Mars other notable minor roles prior were as a thug in Bruce Lee classic “Enter the Dragon” (1973) and Jackie Chan vehicles “Young Master” (1980) and “Project A” (1983).

PLOT

The Hong Kong police have launched an intricate undercover operation in a shanty hill town to bring a vicious crime overlord and parasite drug dealer called “Chu Tao”, played accordingly by a sneering Yuen Chor, to justice. Brave Detective “Chan Ka-Kui” played amazingly by international superstar Jackie Chan was apart of the sting operation. After the criminals learn of the sting they fled which leads to an incredible car chase and shoot out through the shanty hill town with detective Ka-Kui in hot pursuit. After the exciting chase on a green double-decker bus where the criminals and Chu Tao are apprehended after the determined Ka-Kui managed to somehow stop the bus without killing himself. Chu Tao tries to bribe him, but Ka-Kui is unimpressed. Later on, Ka-Kui is rapped by his own senior officer, Superintendent Raymond Li (played fantastically by Lam Kwok-Hung) for endangering many lives and creating countless expensive damage in his pursuit of Chu Tao and his thugs. However Ka-Kui becomes an overnight celebrity for his heroism and is seen on television talking about the arrest. During the struggle he managed to apprehend the mob secretary of Chu Tao, named Selina Fong (played by Brigitte Lin) and wants to use her as a witness against her boss in court, so he is assigned to protect her. She doesn’t become fully cooperative with the police until Ka-Kui stages a fake knife attack on her by a fellow cop posing as one of Chu Tao’s assassins in her apartment. After winning Selina over, he convinces her to come to his apartment so she will be protected properly. His girlfriend “May”, played by the beautiful Maggie Cheung threw him a surprise birthday party upon his arrival at his apartment. Seeing Ka-Kui with Selina made her feel jealous as she had no clue who she was (Selina was wearing his jacket and sexy skimpy lingerie clothing at the time), so the detective had to explain that she was just a witness under his police protection. Later on, Selina realised that the knife wielding assassin was a scam to get her to cooperate with the cops which leads to the case against Chu Tao being thrown out of court and giving the villain release on bail. However Chu Tao was not finished yet, he finds his secretary and threatens her to keep her quiet. Kai-Kui arrives on the scene to take the law into his own hands but is attacked by Chu Tao’s goons including a fellow police officer called “Inspector Man” (played by Bob Wall) who was on the take. The villains kill the corrupt copper with Ka-Kui’s gun to frame him, which was their plan. Now a fugitive against his own, Ka-Kui must clear his name by taking down Chu Tao.

ACTION

The action in this film cements Jackie’s status as an action film legend. There were no gimmicks or wirework and it stands up terrifically. We come to expect risky crazy stunts and innovative jaw dropping martial arts moves from every Jackie Chan movie, it’s expected. But this set the benchmark for action movies period in terms of the action, it could be funny and it could be darn right serious. It was after 1985’s “Police Story” Hollywood action movies started to change dramatically, because more and more they became martial arts orientated. There were many great action and fight sequences in “Police Story” which were groundbreaking and brilliant. The stunts and choreography are over the top and extraordinary. The film is packed with thrills and high octane humour. The opening scene is definitely worth the DVD price, you will not be sold short, it blew people away in 1985 and it still does the same in 2013. You know it’s ahead of its time in the opener when Jackie Chan is undercover with other police officers in the shanty hill town action scene that could have easily have been in something like the James Bond flick, “Casino Royale” (2006). It really is that high of standard, which typifies Jackie’s excellence and determination to make it happen on the screen. Jackie throughout the movie (especially his tough guy scenes) might have reminded you sometimes of a determined “Hong Kong James Bond.” It really felt that Jackie Chan brought Hong Kong martial arts bang up to date with “Police Story.”

The sublime opening chaos in the shanty hill town and double-decker bus scenes are incredible even for today, the whole town was basically destroyed by the cars driving through it at full speed. The opening is as good as anything in Hollywood today if not better because of one big reason, real stunts. It was incredible to witness the stuntmen jumping and running away from the destruction around them. It keeps you on edge of your seat as you try to look carefully for people who could have been actually hurt during the filming (which they were). The spectacular cinematography was gritty and frenetic. This was closely followed by the criminals making a getaway on a green double-decker bus which Jackie pursued on foot before jumping on its side and dangerously hanging off it with a snatched girly umbrella. It was one of the most intense things you have seen Jackie do on film. He somehow stops the bus by aiming nothing but a single pistol at the bus driver (Mad Max style shot), which brought the bus to a sudden halt. The incredible stunt team went right through the windows painfully onto the concrete below (no mats). This notorious scene was obviously homage in the later Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell so so Hollywood action film “Tango and Cash” (1989). Another great notable scene is where Jackie Chan’s character “Ka-Kui” has to safely transport prosecution witness “Selina Fong” to his apartment. The fight goes off in the car park as the “Chu Tao” assassination team were sent to kill them both (or retain Selina), running at Jackie with silver baseball bats and trying to ram him with vehicles. Jackie’s acrobatic gymnast skills were on full view, using the car door and the inside of the car to overwhelm his assailants. The hand to hand combat skills used are fantastic and great to watch as usual, as the men attacked him from all angles at once. The fight choreography in the scene was simple but effective in contemporary times. Jackie’s brutal blocks and kicking were used to great effect. His knee to the chest was solid. The comedic part of that scene where Brigitte Lin grabs Jackie’s gun from his jacket pocket and aims it unintentionally at the thug’s penis with her eyes closed was funny because she looked like she never held a gun in her life but the thug was scared as hell (who wouldn’t be). The later fight scene where Jackie gets “framed” is great, when he finds Brigitte Lin kidnapped and tied up in Chu Tao’s custody. Jackie used many powerful kicks (he kicks a man out of a window, no edit cuts as he landed on the grass outside, terrific stunt) and a flurry of punches before being eventually captured by the henchmen before escaping again.

During filming, Jackie and his stunt team were persistently injured, bruised and broke bones. Even Jackie relied on himself as his own stunt man in pretty much every bone crunching scene he was in. The dark climax in the huge shopping mall fighting scenes show the evidence of this more than any other scene, it was shockingly violent, with shards of glass showcases flying everywhere while Jackie fought off a endless supply line of goons. He was kicking people down steel escalators while at the same time trying to protect the star witness “Selina Fong”, played by actress Brigitte Lin, who was Chu Tao’s secretary. During the excellent “Brawl at the Mall” more glass was probably smashed in this film than any other. They used movie “Sugar glass” but it was more dangerous for the actors involved because it was actually twice as thick as the normal stunt glass. However it worked for the greater realism of the film (check the scene where Jackie’s head goes through a window). In the infamous shopping mall climax Jackie Chan became this vengeful one man army, “Mad Max” (1979) type vigilante cop character. Many people were painfully thrown through glass by Jackie in the climax, where he seemingly single-handedly takes on Chu Tao’s entire mob. There was lots of bruising close range fighting at times because the men flooded towards him. Jackie, as in many other films before, used any prop item he could defend himself with inside the mall, a mirror, a metal clothing rack, even a motorcycle. Legendary Hong Kong automotive stuntman Blackie Ko (Ke Shou Liang) doubled for Jackie in that scene. Jackie was also trying to snatch the brown leather brief case with the downloaded incriminating computer data that would put Chu Tao and his outfit away. Brigitte Lin (who played “Selina”) was also put through the races, even performing her own stunts (she was fantastic). It was amazing when she was brutally thrown through wooden tables and into a glass window. She had never done anything like this in her life, it looked so gritty and real and she really received cuts and bruises for performing that stunt. The final absolute daring Jackie Chan stunt is one of the greatest in film history that needs to be seen to believe, it is a landmark in action movies, a great stunt pulled off from one of the greatest stuntmen ever, Jackie Chan. As his character chases after the villains, he slides down a pole several stories high with light bulbs on it which exploded as he went down then he crashes into the glass house below. In performing the outrageous stunt he dislocated his pelvis (never thought that was possible) and suffered a bad back injury and second degree burns.

SUMMARY

“Police Story” is still one of Jackie Chan’s best films. You could say he hit his apex in stardom. He starred, directed and co-wrote this gritty masterpiece. It nearly has everything you would want a film of that genre to have. Jackie and his stunt men were amazing (watch the double-decker bus and shopping mall scenes). He put his own body on line to produce this great all time classic action-comedy cop drama. He was hospitalised plenty of times which included a stunt that went wrong where he was found not breathing. He was nearly paralyzed doing that outrageous pole slide scene at the end, nearly breaking his vertebrates in his spine. He also collected burns on his hands from the Christmas tree lights around the pole. The insane visceral stunt work is among the best ever shot in any action film to date. Imagine a prime 1985 version of this Jackie Chan in “Rush Hour” (1998). His character Detective “Ka-Kui” is a very darker take to the Jackie Chan flicks we are all used to seeing lately. Yes he still had Jackie’s trademark comedic touch at times, but he was still pretty dark by the finale. By the end of the movie his character seemed disturbed, full of mental rage. He was sort of an anti-hero. Jackie showed good dramatic acting in various parts of the film, the stand out being the police precinct scene trying to claim his innocence after being framed. However there are not as many out and out martial arts scenes in the film like previous Jackie films (however the ones in the film are brutal). Think of the intricate skills used in “Drunken Master” (1978) or “Young Master” (1980). Who can forget the technical Woo Ping timing, blocking, kicking and punching and various skill sets that were all visible to the eye in those earlier films? However “Police Story” is set in contemporary times. 1985. He was a cop, a bloody good fighter who carried a gun. So it was correct that the fighting skill set would not be the same as the Chinese period pieces that those earlier Chan films were. It is what it is; a modern martial arts action film where Jackie Chan makes his 80’s Hollywood counterparts Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger look like newbie’s. The reason why? It is because you couldn’t see those “tough” guys performing the stunts Jackie and his stunt team pulled off in this film. The action is incredible and excellently choreographed by the stunt team along with the furiously paced brutal fight scenes which made you wince at times. If you are a Hong Kong film fan this is a must see.

TRIVIA

  • Jackie Chan sang the theme for the film.
  • The stunt crew started calling the film “Glass Story” because of the amount of “sugar glass” smashed in the film.
  • It won the Best Film award at the 1986 Hong Kong Film Awards.
  • The scene where the villains go through the green double-decker bus window and crash land onto the concrete was actually an accident. They were supposed to fall onto the car. They kept the take in the film.

FILM RATING: 9/10

Raj, a wing chun student, enjoys spending time studying various aspects of the martial arts, from theory to practically applied skills. He enjoys interviewing prominent and dedicated martial artists from all over the world, who have something inspiring and stimulating to share. He also manages projects in terms of filming, reviews of movies/books and other quality features.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Brad Curran November 3, 2013 at 4:59 am

    I will NEVER forget what it was like seeing the end fight in the mall for the first time! And I have no doubt that Hong Kong audiences in the 80’s saw it as the “Ong Bak” of the era! It’s truly testimony to Jackie’s ingenuity that he’s been able to consistently stage and film action in new and different ways throughout nearly all of his career!

Leave a reply

Kung-fu Kingdom