Friday Fisticuffs: Police Story (1985)

Like a lot of people my age, I was introduced to Jackie Chan in the 90s when he was just breaking through in the States with flicks like Rumble In The Bronx. Some people knew him before that from imported action flicks, though I was not worldly enough to be one of them. I have since gone back and tried to watch as many of his earlier films as possible. Drunken Master really wowed me, but I’ve also become a fan of the first two Police Story films which did a really great job of mixing comedy and action, something Chan was and still is famous for.

In this flick, Jackie plays a cop named Jackie (at least in the English dub, which is how I watched the movie). He’s part of a team sent out to take down a mob boss and his goons, but as you might expect, things don’t go in his favor. The initial mission gets botched, people get away, witness need protecting, a trial happens and everything ends with a big crazy action sequence in a mall at the very end.

While the film is firmly in the action/comedy genre, I’d say it leans more towards action. Jackie gets pushed to the edge (after having some funnier moments with the lady witness he’s supposed to be protecting) and he really goes a little crazy, going so far as to kidnap the police chief and punch a man with glasses! Unlike some of his more recent films, though, you really get the sense that this Jackie could do something really dangerous or stupid and get himself in some serious trouble.

Which is interesting because the real Jackie Chan got into some real trouble during this film and almost died. That big mall scene I mentioned has a part where he slides down a big metal pole with Christmas lights around it. They had a higher wattage going through them than they should and his hands got burned on the way down. As if that wasn’t enough he stopped breathing after a stunt where he flipped through glass. Obviously, he wound up being okay, but that’s an element of these movies that I really do like: they look and feel dangerous. I don’t want to see real people get hurt, but if real people get hurt on purpose while getting paid to make a movie and it looks cool, I guess that’s not so bad. Talk about a moral loophole.

The best part about the movie, though, is that it doesn’t feel like action porn, like you’re just killing time until the next action setpiece. Chan is super charming and funny and fun to watch, he’s got good co-stars to work with and, oh yeah, the action scenes are bad ass. The opening scene was swiped pretty heavily in Bad Boys II and features a huge gun battle followed very closely by several cars literally driving though a shanty town on the side of the hill. It’s insane and awesome. That’s followed by several different fight scenes, but my personal favorite is the most obvious: the end one in the mall. Malls are such weird places anyway, you put any kind of genre movie in that setting and I’m sold.

So, if you think that Jackie Chan only makes goofy kid movies or co-stars with Chris Tucker, do yourself a favor and check out Police Story, Police Story 2 (which I’ll be watching next week) and Drunken Master (which I really need to review on here). They are fantastic and really show how great an action comedy can be without sacrificing elements of either genre.

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