For a few years now, Jackie Chan fans have had to face up to the fact that their hero is no longer at the top of his game. Having turned 50 in 2004, the action star just can't throw himself into the same kind of physically demanding or dangerous stunts that made him famous. He's tried to keep up his box office appeal by playing more toward the comedy end of his trademark action-comedy formula, usually to mixed results. Even when the newer movies aren't outright terrible (and let's face it, some of them truly are), they simply don't have the same spark as the best pictures from the peak of his career. Apparently realizing this and attempting to once again make a "real" Jackie Chan movie that his die-hard fans would appreciate, the actor returned to Hong Kong after a string of awful American movies to make New Police Story. Though the title obviously harkens back to them, technically the movie is not a true sequel or even directly related at all to his very successful Police Story series of films from the '80s and early '90s, as Chan plays a completely different character here. Frankly, it's best described as a cash-in.
Jackie now plays Inspector Kwok Wing (or possibly Chan Kwok-wing, depending on the translation), a cocky supercop who believes himself invincible. After being set-up and ambushed by a gang of cunning bank robbers, the entire squad under his command, including his own brother-in-law, are executed before his eyes. Barely escaping, Wing spends the next year in a drunken depression, unable to live with the guilt of his incompetence, until being goaded back into action by an overzealous rookie convinced that he and Wing can crack the case and get some vindication. After quite a bit of initial reluctance, eventually Wing does some soul searching and rejoins the police force. Together, the washed-up hero and his too-eager protégé hunt down the murderous bastards, who turn out to be a band of snotty rich teenagers corrupted by the pervasive evils of violent videogames, extreme sports, and a lack of loving attention from mommy and daddy.
Chan is clearly attempting something a little more ambitious than usual here. He wants the movie to be darker than we typically see from the light-hearted star. He even tries to act a little, rather than just mug for the camera. Unfortunately, the film's serious ambitions are undercut by the silliness of the plot, in which the villainous little punks create a series of ridiculously elaborate videogame-inspired traps for our hero to puzzle through. Chan's drunken act through the first third of the film is too comical and doesn't mesh with the darker aspects of the story, and the big message about how violence in the media affects young minds is both patronizing and naïve. Despite its pretensions, this picture has about as much psychological complexity as a typical Playstation shoot-'em-up.
Whereas Jackie isn't able to do the same kind of outrageously dangerous stuntwork he used to, he tries to overcome this by providing the Hong Kong equivalent of big-budget Hollywood thrills. The film is a slick, polished production directed by Benny Chan (Heroic Duo), and contains a number of glossily stylized action shootouts and massive explosions with plenty of CGI crap flying all over the screen. There's an amusing stunt involving a double-decker bus that clearly references back to the original Police Story, and the climactic convention center bank heist delivers some legitimate thrills. Though he may not fall off buildings and land on his head anymore, Jackie's still got some moves and can hold his own in a fight scene or two. The big standoff inside a Lego store is riotously entertaining. The filmmakers may argue that it was meant as a commentary on the immaturity of the movie's villains, but really it's just an excuse to pit an old man against some darn kids inside a colorful setting with lots of stuff to break into a million pieces and let them beat the crap out of one another, and it's a blast.
The DVD from Joy Sales Films is encoded in the NTSC video format without region coding and will function in any American DVD player. It can be purchased at many Hong Kong retailers for around $15. For the dedicated fan, the studio has also released a deluxe edition in fancier packaging that includes a toy revolver. That one sells for around $25.
The DVD video transfer starts off so fantastically that I was almost tempted to call it reference quality. The 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced image is razor sharp and extremely detailed, with only the most minor appearance of edge enhancement artifacts. Opening scenes have great colors and inky blacks, and create a nearly three dimensional appearance.
I wouldn't say the video quality falters, exactly, but over the course of the movie it stopped wowing me. The further we get into the story, the flatter the photography looks. Detail is still fine but stops being exceptional after a certain point. Digital compression quality is OK, but many of the outdoor shots with wide open skies exhibit noisy grain patterns. The picture goes from terrific to just pretty good, and overall rates as "very good".
The original Cantonese language soundtrack is available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS-ES (matrixed) options. Both tracks are very loud. This is an aggressive action movie soundtrack with lots of rocking bass and directional surround effects. During the shootouts, bullets whiz in every direction throughout the soundstage. The DTS (encoded at the half bit-rate 754 kb/s) has an edge in smoothness and fidelity, but both are perfectly good. The mix isn't particularly innovative nor as immersive as the very best soundtracks, but for an action movie it delivers what is expected of it.
A Mandarin dub is also included in Dolby Digital 5.1. Optional English and Chinese subtitles have been provided. The English translation is mostly fine, though annoyingly it alternates between referring to Jackie's character as Inspector Wing and Inspector Chan. A Cantonese speaker tells me that the character's spoken name is Chan Kwok-wing, which might explain this discrepancy, though at no time do the subtitles ever spell out his name this way. The translator also apparently didn't stick around through the end credits, either, because Jackie's trademark flub reel is not subtitled.
Disc 1 has no supplements on it, just the movie. The menus do not offer an English option, which makes navigation an annoyance but certainly not insurmountable. Disc 2, where all of the supplements are contained, does fortunately provide a choice of English menus and text.
All of the bonus features we're given are taken straight from the movie's Electronic Press Kit. To start, there are a few text items: The Story, a written plot synopsis; Character Bios; and Cast & Credits, which also includes a brief page of production notes. All are written in a simplistic manner with about as much depth as the movie's script.
For video features, we get a 15-minute Making Of featurette that unfortunately has no English subtitles. It's just EPK fluff anyway and I don't feel we're missing anything. Following this is approximately an hour of raw Behind the Scenes Footage, broken up into 12 unidentified chapters. No subtitles here either, but we can see some interesting shots of the stunts being set up and executed.
A Photo Gallery is broken down into several sections: posters, photos from the movie's premiere, print ads, photos & stills, lobby stills, and behind the scenes shots. The galleries can be viewed individually or in a slide show option with music from the soundtrack.
Wrapping things up are three Trailers, all in anamorphic widescreen and including English subtitles, and a lame Music Video starring Jackie Chan. No subtitles on that last one, but the song is so bad perhaps that's a small mercy.
No ROM supplements have been included.
Although New Police Story may not be the return to form Jackie Chan fans were hoping for, it's a reasonably diverting action thriller and doesn't embarrass the star too much. It makes for a good rental or cheap purchase.