Friday, December 05, 2008

Jackie Chan Hates Glass

Pawing through the $5 DVDs at Wal-Mart, I found a special collector's edition of "Police Story" starring Jackie Chan. I had seen it many times in its dubbed version as "Jackie Chan's Police Force," but the Chinese version on the new DVD is complete with scenes cut from the American release, as well as some behind the scenes features. If you're not familiar with it, you should hunt it down and watch it. This was one of the films that rejuvenated his career after his unfortunate first foray into American filmmaking, and one whose influence profoundly affected Chinese and American action movies in general.

The basic story is pretty simple. Jackie is a cop named Chan who captures a big drug boss during a raid gone wrong. He tries to convince the boss's secretary to testify against him, but when she learns he has deceived her, she leaves him with nothing but a taped testimony that ends up getting him laughed out of court. The kingpin goes free, but lures Chan into a trap and frames him for the murder of a fellow cop. Meanwhile, the secretary decides to turn on her boss for real, and Chan must save her life when the thugs try to keep her from escaping with evidence that can put their boss away for life.

By American standards, the writing and pacing are somewhat weak. But Jackie Chan himself is an amazing performer, and this movie is full to bursting with incredible stunts and action sequences, from the destruction of the shanty town to Jackie hanging from a double-decker bus by an umbrella to a brutal climactic fight in a huge department store.

If you've seen "Tango and Cash," you've seen one of this movie's signature stunts--the semi stopping short and flinging two thugs through its windshield (in "Police Story," it's a bus and it's three guys coming through the windshields). If you've seen "Rapid Fire" starring Brandon Lee, you've seen several of this movie's stunts "homaged." Likewise, a major sequence in "Bad Boys II" is lifted from this film.

One thing that stands out to me every time I watch this picture is how much glass gets broken in it. Jackie Chan must have had a rich uncle die or something and leave him a fortune in stunt glass, because if there's glass in this movie, someone's head is going through it. In the opening sequence, guys fly through winshields. When Jackie is attacked while driving the secretary to his apartment, both the car he's in and the car that attacks have windshields and windows broken. In a fight in an apartment, one guy is thrown through a window, another smashed through a glass table. In the final department store fight, people are constantly being thrown into showcases. At one point, a bad guy ducks two punches from Jackie that very precisely target two framed pictures on the wall, breaking their glass. In the final moments of the film, Jackie punches a henchman in the eyeglasses, breaking the lenses, knocks another guy through some glass shelves then throws the big boss through a display case. It should be titled "Jackie Chan Hates Glass," seriously.

Final trivial notes: even if you haven't seen this film, you may have seen its sequels without knowing it. "Police Story 3," co-starring Michelle Yeoh, was released in the U.S. as "Supercop," and Police Story 4 was released here as "Jackie Chan's First Strike."

Seriously, if you have five bucks to spare, go to Wal-Mart and grab this.

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