Decay of the body is inevitable. A film star who wishes for career longevity is probably a little more aware of this because as their bodies and faces change, so do the roles. Some mature, some reinvent themselves, some fade away, and some, like Katherine Hepburn so famously stated, cannot bear to watch themselves grow old on the screen. Movie careerwise, not wanting to watch yourself age is one thing, but not accepting your age is another. For example, Sean Connery's return to James Bond after a decade long absence in Never Say Never Again found the magnetic, libidinous, ultimate 60's macho hero replaced by a leather skinned, badly toupeed, often stunt doubled, old man running around trying to act half his age.
Jackie Chan has an entirely different monster to face in aging. His career is largely based on two things- comedic charisma and physical skill. Time isn't very kind with the latter. For Jackie, that means it has been at least a decade since he has made a truly great film (Drunken Master 2). He has compensated with more special fx laden vehicles like The Tuxedo and The Medallion and buddy flicks like Rush Hour and Shaghai Noon. The buddy flicks work far better because they at least cater to his comedic charm, whereas the fantasy action films just enhance how much his body has aged and how he relies on trickery to compensate. There is a third side of Jackie's evolution, the older Jackie who wants to be a serious dramatic actor, which is not one of the performing skills that endeared him to audiences. And, so, we come to New Police Story (2004), or as I like to call it, Jackie wept.
The first Police Story (1985) was the film that cemented Jackie as an innovator and star. It opened with a dizzying action sequence involving a chase scene where cars crashed through a shanty town situated on a mountainside and culminated in Jackie hanging off the side of a double decker bus as it careened through busy streets and thugs kicked and punched our precariously placed hero. While not an official sequel (Jackie is playing a different character), New Police Story begins with Jackie doing bad drunk acting, throwing up in an alley, and then collapsing into a gutter. What a difference twenty years makes.
A group of brazen, young, tech savvy bank robbers (led by Daniel Wu- One Night in Mongkok, Purple Storm) have been toying with the police. Call them Gen-X Thugs, the group purposefully taunt the police into shootouts and post an online game recreating their robberies. They lure Inspector Wing Chan (Jackie Chan) and his crew into a booby trapped warehouse where they capture the police unit. Bargaining for his men's life, Inspector Chan is forced to play sadistic games to save his men, but, in the end, he is the only one to make it out alive. That's when the drinking starts. His boozin' and wallowing is interrupted by a positive affirmation spouting rookie, Fung (Nicholas Tse), who tries to get the defeated cop back on his feet.
Helmed by Gen-X Cops 1&2 director Benny Chan, who previously worked with Jackie on Who Am I?, so it is no coincidence that the majority of New Police Story's stunts involve high rise building's just like the two already did in the Who Am I? finale. If New Police Story resembles any previous Jackie effort, it would be Crime Story. Both share a grab bag elements of Jackie trying to be serious, with a couple of fx stunt sequences, a mere a handful of old Jackie's humorous gags, and only one real Jackie-as-we-all-prefer-him extended fight sequence. Said sequence has Jackie fighting in a LEGO Land store and, while it has some decent flailing fists and kicking feet, it isn't as inspired as minor throwaway fight bits from older Jackie films. The idea was for a slick, hip crime flick, to surround Jackie with a fresh young cast, and give him some dramatic scenes along with the usual Jackie stuff. The results are depressing. Not enough action. Lame drama. Tension free suspense. A pathetic finale. And Jackie just looked too old.
Look, I love Jackie Chan. I respect the guy as an innovator and a performer who has punished his body in order to entertain, which (even if they could) 99% of respected actors out there wouldn't dare attempt. And, yeah, I'm one of those people that was aware of him back in his HK heyday, so I've been a fan long before his US breakthrough. So, it pains me to say, I wish Jackie would quit- maybe that is too harsh- at least, quit trying to reshape his career. I know he won't because he still commands a decent paycheck and his ego won't allow him to cease. But, it hurts me to see him struggle with age and churn out such lesser work, try to be a dramatic guy, and not just accept that his time in the limelight is over. Even if he could magically regain his physical attributes, the market has changed. If I were his career advisor, I'd suggest he do the occasional comedy, find some new martial talent to nurture/produce/direct, and stop churning out lackluster flicks like New Police Story.
The DVD: Joy Sales (HK distributor, All Region)
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Excellent image transfer. The print is dead on, prefect, and spotless. Color details are very good, nice fleshtones, with the bulk of the films set design favoring a cool modernism (grays, blues, and whites). Contrast levels show good shadow detail and deep blacks. There was some minor compression in the final chapters, however it was the only slight in this otherwise great transfer.
Sound: Cantonese or Mandarin 5.1 Surround or Cantonese DTS, with optional Chinese or English subtitles. Being an action film, I expected a very aggressive mix, and the disc delivered. Gunfire, explosions, and general action fx get a lot of workout in the surround channels. The score is almost too loud , though that was probably just because I wasn't buying the dramatics. The subtitles are fair, though there were some discrepancies. For instance, the line (spoken in English) "We are the shit!" is subtitled, "We are the bomb!"
Extras: A second disc contains— The Story (text)— The Characters (text)— "Making of" Featurette (1:00). No English subtitles.— Trailers— Music Video— Cast & Crew Bios— Photo Gallery.
Conclusion: Well, one of HK's greatest stars continues to shine a little less brightly. That is all I will say about the film. The disc is pretty good. The main feature on the extras disc isn't English friendly. However, for the main film, you get an excellent transfer.