Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Police Story (Hong Kong 2004)

Symbolizing the long-awaited (by most) return to Hong Kong cinema for Jackie Chan, New Police Story (新警察故事) is almost exactly what you'd expect from everyone's favorite death-defying entertainer. It's got high-flying leaps, well-choreographed fights, and a lot of shattering glass, which is customary in Benny Chan territory. Not the best JC movie on the market, but an excellent return to form nonetheless.

Detective Kwok-Wing Chan (Jackie Chan) is merely a shell of his former self. What remains of the happy-go-lucky policeman of yesteryear is a sad, drunken, mess of a man, who honestly has every right to be that way. It's only been a year since the team under his command was brutally murdered on what appeared to be a fairly routine operation. However, Wing severly underestimated the sadistic nature of Joe (Daniel Wu) and his cop-killing cohorts (say that three times fast). The gang get their kicks by robbing banks and killing as many police officers as they can to earn "points" for their sick game. Wing and his men, including his soon to be brother-in-law (Deep Ng), were led into a warehouse rigged with numerous traps that led to them being picked off one-by-one. Clearly distraught by having his men mowed down, Wing is unable to fight Joe and his croneys off by himself, leaving him with unbearable amount of shame and guilt. Fast-forward to today and Joe and his gang still haven't been caught as they continue to rob banks and kill cops all for the thrill. The newest cop on the force, Frank (Nicholas Tse), has been assigned as Wing's new partner to take on the case. Frank knows that Wing has a score to settle and wants nothing more than to help return Wing to his former glory. Not only does this entail getting him back to the detective he used to be, but by also restoring his relationship with his girlfriend Ho-Yee (Charlie Young), as the two haven't been the same since her brother's death. Needless to say, Frank gives Wing the push he needs in order to get back in the saddle and take down these baddies once and for all.

We eventually see what makes Joe tick, as his father is a chief police inspector who constantly beats Joe at home for being a lazy, good-for-nothing brat. This in turn makes Joe hate authority figures, police included. Growing up I could definitely understand the desire to be angry with authority figures, and while I've never been treated as poorly as ol' Joe in New Police Story, the urge to murder every single cop I possible could never seemed like the right avenue for me. What I'm saying is, the motivation driving Joe and his gang of thugs seems a bit much, but it's an action movie, so no one is really going to care. They just want to see Jackie Chan do what he does best, and in New Police Story he delivers in spades...for the most part. Jackie isn't getting any younger, so naturally the presence of more wire-work is more obvious, but you can still overlook it for the sheer fact that you still know it's Jackie putting his butt on the line for your entertainment. Not many Hollywood-types can claim to go so far. Also of note is Jackie's performance in the film. We're all used to see the wacky, slapstick-humor Jackie in just about every one of his movies, but in New Police Story we see a different side to his acting. He's carrying a lot of emotional baggage and is generally just an unpleasant person to be around. Life has hit the man hard, and his portrayal of such a distraught soul is admirable, if not a bit over-the-top at times. Nicholas Tse is great at taking over the comic-relief role, and even Daniel Wu (Golden Horse Winner for Best Supporting Actor) conveys the troubled-youth angle in a believable fashion. Andy One (on the the gang members) does an excellent job holding his own in the fight scenes with Jackie. All I'll say is I love Legos! Charlene Choi of TWINS makes an appearance as the police departments IT personality, and is really only notable because I know there are a lot of TWINS fans out there.

I really welcomed New Police Story with open arms. Jackie had been reduced to side-kick only roles (for the most part) here in the states, and when he was the leading man, it was a sad sight to see (The Medallion, The Tuxedo, etc.). I really couldn't have expected more out a man well into his fifties, that continues to impress and entertain with his acrobatic ability. It has the feel of a well-polished popcorn movie, but for Jackie Chan fans, it's a ray of hope in what appeared to be a career on the downward spiral. A return to the motherland, is a return to form. Viva la Hong Kong! (Lee)

Grade: A


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