It's hard to imagine that some movie lovers only know Jackie Chan through films like Rush Hour or the Karate Kid remake, but here's hoping they see the light soon. The highly prolific actor and director has appeared in films for more than fifty years, performed an untold number of death-defying stunts and choreographed some of the most insane fight scenes you'll ever see. Eagle-eyed fans picked him out in Bruce Lee vehicles like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon, but most everyone else was introduced to Chan through Hong Kong action/comedy productions like Project A, Armour of God and, of course, the popular Police Story franchise. The first two installments were also directed by Chan, and Shout Factory has seen fit to pair up these two entertaining action spectacles as a single-disc Blu-Ray release.
Police Story (1985) introduces us to rogue police inspector Chan Ka-Kui (literally "Jackie Chan" in the English dub), who's participating in a sting operation to bring down local kingpin Chu Tao (Yuen Chor). Things go downhill fast: their cover is blown, a shanty town is destroyed and Chan carjacks a civilian to stop the bus that Chu escapes in. He's eventually forced to watch over Chu's secretary, Selina Fong (Brigitte Lin) until she's due to testify against him in court. Naturally, trouble follows the tw...you know what? It doesn't really matter, because Police Story is all about insane physical stunts mixed with enough slapstick to make Buster Keaton jealous. This action/comedy hybrid forces you to keep your eyes glued to the screen, lest you miss Chan deftly scaling a ten-foot security gate or using background props to pummel a gang of henchmen. Bottom line: the original Police Story is a supremely accessible, fun and entertaining film, and it's easy to see why it spawned four sporadically less impressive sequels.
Police Story 2 (1988) offers a little too much baggage in the story department. It picks up right where the original left off, as rogue police inspector Chan is demoted to "traffic cop" after causing so much personal injury and property damage. Chu Tao, having just been released from a short time in prison, decides to make life miserable for Chan his his girlfriend, May (Maggie Cheung, also returning from the original film). Police Story 2, by and large, represents everything good and bad about your average sequel: it's bigger, louder, and it recycles the bulk of its core material from the first outing. There are, of course, plenty of inspired moments (mostly the action sequences, which once again revolve around the skill of Chan and his talented co-stars), but Police Story 2 drags its heels along the way. Proportionately, there's a push towards more character development and subplots...but in a free-wheeling franchise like Police Story, such accessories aren't always needed. I'll admit, however, that the last 12 minutes are probably my favorite between the first two films, even beating PS 1's "mall scene" by a small margin.
The third, fourth and fifth installments in the franchise (Supercop, First Strike and New Police Story) are all available on DVD, so give 'em a shot if you haven't already. For now, this 1080p double feature is meant to replace the Dragon Dynasty DVDs released in 2006. Though Shout Factory didn't exactly pull out all the stops to make this a memorable Blu-Ray debut, it's still not a bad deal for less than $20.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Many fans have long equated "1980s Hong Kong action flick" with "crappy picture quality" and releases like this only enforce the stereotype. Paired on one disc, the masters of Police Story 1 & 2 were provided by Fortune Star and, to Shout Factory's credit, appear to be dead on arrival. Police Story 1 suffers the most with inconsistent color timing, edge enhancement, a lack of clarity, poor shadow detail and about half a dozen other strikes against it. Police Story 2 looks a little better...but only within the confines of a direct comparison, because it's nothing to write home about otherwise. While their visual problems won't severely hamper your enjoyment of these gritty action spectacles, a little bit of elbow grease would've been much appreciated. Both Police Story 1 & 2 have never looked all that great on DVD, but anyone expecting a night-and-day improvement from older DVD releases will be rightfully disappointed.
DISCLAIMER: These promotional images are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
The audio department fares a lot better, as we're presented with separate 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio in both English and Cantonese. Though even the latter language option is partially dubbed, it's definitely the go-to track for purists...but at the end of the day, dialogue and plot aren't the strong points of either film. Surround channels are smartly used on several occasions, while most other portions of Police Story 1 & 2 are decidedly front-loaded. In all cases, dialogue is generally clear and most of the exaggerated sound effects pack quite a punch. Optional English subtitles are included for both films.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The menu interface for Police Story 1 & 2
follows Shout Factory's standard template of "function over appearance"; it's simple to navigate, loads quickly and is well organized. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase; no inserts or slipcover are included, but at least the two-sided cover artwork (interior pictured above) looks pretty sweet. The disc itself is locked for Region "A" playback only.
Not much, but that's expected. Each film is paired with a brief collection of Outtakes / Deleted Scenes
(1080i/1080p) and the respective U.S. and International Trailer
(1080i/1080p). The original Police Story
also includes an Extended Opening Sequence
and an Alternate Ending
(1080p). It's a brief but thoughtful mix of extras, though the A/V quality leaves something to be desired. Many of these also appeared on the Dragon Dynasty DVDs
released six years ago, but several featurettes haven't been carried over.
This one-two punch of Jackie Chan's Police Story 1 & 2 is a mixed bag, but the price is right. Those expecting spiffy new A/V presentations or even a host of new extras will be disappointed...and in certain respects, this Blu-Ray release almost isn't worth the "upgrade". Still, this is likely the best these films will look in Region "A" for quite some time...but just barely, the reviewer says while damning with faint praise. Overall, it's a budget priced release for two films that deserve better, but I'll give Shout Factory the benefit of the doubt: its considerable action-per-dollar ratio makes this a Recommended purchase.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.