The title is generic, but the action is not. "Crime Story" marks a serious departure for Jackie Chan, best known for more lighthearted action roles. Not this time: this one's a gritty true-life thriller with a harsh, realistic approach. Of course, Chan's knockout stuntwork remains on display (including a car chase that arguably ranks among his most impressive stunt sequences), and the action scenes keep things from becoming too realistic, but the overall tone is darker, angrier, more somber than the usual Chan fare.
A police procedural pumped up by Hong Kong action, "Crime Story" is loosely based on the case of a businessman who was kidnapped during a public ambush. The film is open about the changes made to the story, although such an admission is made with a flair for the sensational - the film ends with a title card apologizing to the audience for the variations from the truth, but, you see, most facts of the case remains too confidential to reveal here.
Chan stars as Inspector Eddie Chan, left emotionally shaken after a brutal shoot-out with a gang of terrorists. The police psychiatrist recommends a leave of absence; he refuses, instead taking an assignment to protect a noted businessman who fears he will be kidnapped soon. And he is indeed, right there on the highway, resulting in a mammoth chase sequence packed with spectacular car stunts (a wild drive down the side of a hill is a keeper, as is a smash-up involving a motorcycle cop).
Inspector Chan's failure to rescue the businessman fuels his obsession, and he becomes determined to crack the case. Unfortunately, he's partnered with a detective (Kent Cheng) who's well-respected but all too corrupt. From here on in, the plot gets a bit redundant in spots, and the crime syndicate goings-on become rather muddled in spots, but for the most part, it's a cracking police drama, what with forces from both sides closing in on our hero.
Some fans have complained about the notable lack of action in "Crime Story," and to those coming to a Jackie Chan picture specifically for the stunt scenes will indeed be disappointed. But it's just not that kind of picture. There are very few action sequences to be found here - in addition to the aforementioned car chase, there are a small handful of actual fight scenes (one ends with a gratuitous back flip) and a tense finale set within a burning building - and the thrills here are far more story-driven. In fact, those fight scenes seem secondary, added in seemingly out of habit; remove them, and you'd have a standard American action-thriller from the 1990s, the sort with Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford.
Such a change is a nice change of pace for the superstar, as it allows him to work on his acting chops. His performance as Eddie Chan is quite sharp, especially in earlier sequences when we see him quite wrecked mentally. Even his approach to the physical is altered. One of Chan's best known gimmicks is to actually show a reaction to the pain he's enduring. In his action-comedies, he reacts very broadly, best befitting the "human cartoon" he's pretty much portraying. In "Crime Story," however, Chan makes the pain feel achingly real. His winces and screams are not to be taken lightly this time around.
All of this leaves "Crime Story" to be one of the least Jackie Chan-esque Jackie Chan movies made at the peak of his talents. As such, Chan purists may balk at the film, while those more interested in lower-key American-style thrills may find this to be the perfect introduction to the star.
Previously released on DVD in a horrid edition from Dimension, "Crime Story" finally arrives in watchable condition in the U.S. as part of the Weinstein Company's "Dragon Dynasty" line. With a running time of 107 minutes (and not, thankfully, the 103 minutes as incorrectly stated on the DVD cover), this edition appears to be the complete, unedited version of the film, restoring scenes cut for the crummy Dimension release.
Video & Audio
There's plenty of grain to go around here. It's nothing too troublesome (I, for one, am used to seeing Asian imports look like this, and besides, the grain helps the film's "gritty" look), although it obviously hasn't been cleaned up as much as most fans would have preferred. At least it's finally available in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1). Colors seem muted at first, but a rare scene or two showcasing bright colors that pop off the screen suggest that the movie itself is intentionally a less flashy affair, and the transfer is merely matching this.
The original Cantonese soundtrack is offered in a decent yet unmemorable Dolby mono (for the purists) and a snazzy 5.1 remix. The new mix works very well all over, as does the newly recorded English dub, also presented in Dolby 5.1. (The new dub fixes many of the older release's problems; for starters, Chan's character is actually called by his name, instead of "Jackie.") Optional subtitles are provided in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, and Spanish.
You can't have a Dragon Dynasty release without a commentary from Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. Logan's guest here is director Kirk Wong, and the two provide the sort of enthusiastic entertaining, fact-filled track Dragon Dynasty does best.
Wong returns for "A Journey to the Underworld: An Exclusive Interview with Kirk Wong" (29:20). Wong is very open about the troubles that went down behind the scenes (long story short: Wong and Chan clashed over the vision of the film; Chan won, eventually cutting several scenes and adding others), but remains surprisingly very amiable in regards to the project.
"From the Page to the Silver Screen: An Interview with Writer Teddy Chen" (12:14) offers the screenwriter's reminisces on the project, explaining how the real-life case was tweaked to fit the movie (the entire ending was altered), how a writer deals with being one of many (in this case, seven) authors to work on a script, what it's like to write for Jackie Chan, etc.
Three deleted scenes (6:22 total) offer an interesting but ultimately unnecessary portrait of Eddie Chan's life outside his police work, all involving more screen time for Singapore actress Pan Ling Ling, who stars as the police psychiatrist. Here, her role is expanded to fill a "love interest" angle, although such an angle never quite works. (The IMDB lists these extra scenes as having been shown as part of the film's Singapore release. Neither Bey nor Wong mention this, however.) These deleted scenes look and sound a little worn (and appear slightly windowboxed), but it's nothing problematic.
The "Trailer Gallery" includes both the original Chinese trailer (3:38), which plays up the "real-life" angle of the story by opening with video footage of those involved with the actual case, and Dragon Dynasty's flashy trailer (2:14) hyping the U.S. DVD release.
Finally, the disc opens with a set of previews for other Dragon Dynasty titles; you can skip past them if you choose.
All bonus features are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Both the deleted scenes and the original trailer offer optional English subtitles.
"Crime Story" is a slick, engaging police thriller and a curious but highly welcome change of pace for Jackie Chan. The film still holds up years later, Dragon Dynasty delivers another solid release, and the Weinstein Company's handling of the title effectively apologizes for earlier mistakes in bringing the film Stateside. Highly Recommended to Chan fans and newbies alike.