The weakest of the bunch is the one yet unmentioned: 1988's "Police Story 2" (or, if you prefer the quirky literal translation of the Cantonese title: "Police Story Sequel"). Unlike the later entries in the series, which veered wildly away from the original's storyline yet maintained its lighthearted daredevil approach, "Police Story 2" feels like a tired retread, rehashing too-similar ideas, bringing back the same old bad guys. It is a bigger film, in scope, ambition, and execution (more 'splosions! bigger fights!), yet a lack of freshness leaves it not quite packing the same punch as its predecessor. Plus, too much downtime in between the memorable moments leaves the film draggy in too many spots; when it's on, boy, is it ever on, but when it's off, yawn, is it ever off.
The movie (directed by Chan and written by Chan and regular collaborator Edward Tang) starts off with a frantic montage of the original film's wildest stunts, a recap of why we're bothering with a sequel. Then comes the movie proper and a terrific joke: after causing so much devastation in the first movie, Officer Chan Ka-Kui (just plain "Jackie" in the English dub) gets busted down to traffic cop. At the same time, arch criminal Mr. Chu (Yuen Chor) is out of prison, and his first order of business is harassing Ka-Kui and his girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung) on a daily basis. And at the same time again, a string of bombings hit throughout Hong Kong; can Ka-Kui come back to save the day again?
The main reason for watching any Jackie Chan flick is, of course, the action, and in this regard, "Police Story 2" delivers. Highlights include fight sequences in a restaurant and a playground (both of which are excellent examples of Chan's stunt style, which would find fight moves choreographed on-set as Chan would examine his surroundings, deciding which props to use, and how), a one-on-one fight with a scrawny deaf-mute (unlike many stars, Chan would find it fun to let himself get one-upped now and then), another set piece involving a bus (repeating, in a surprisingly sharp way, the most memorable moment from the first movie), and massive pyrotechnics in a time when Hong Kong cinema was just getting into that sort of thing.
Chan's knack for physical comedy is also in full force here. And while some jokes are simply too broad to keep eyes from rolling (an entire sequence revolves around a crowded elevator and a certain, ahem, smell), many of the gags click. Chan uses his mastery of physical action to once more build a series of top notch slapstick yuks - his clumsiness in several bits would be right at home in a Peter Sellers "Pink Panther" comedy.
The in between bits, however, slow things down a bit too much, ultimately making this a lesser Jackie Chan effort. The drama between Ka-Kui and May is admirable - Chan is genuinely trying to let his characters grow - but its sluggishness is deadly to the proceedings, bringing everything to a brutal halt all too often. Other sequences, notably one in which Ka-Kui and May get kidnapped by the baddies, run on all too long. The full 121-minute running time leaves the film rambling too often; perhaps a solid trim (not, however, the kind presented by eager Stateside distributors who sliced the thing down to a sloppy 92 minutes for previous video releases) would have helped smooth things out.
The Weinstein Company finally brings "Police Story 2" to Region 1 DVD in its original form (and full running time) under its Dragon Dynasty banner.
Video and Audio
Fans who have put up with lousy pan-and-scan videos of Chan's titles will cherish the full anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) offering here, which comes from a restored print. The whole thing's crisp and clean, with only a few scenes displaying a pinch of grain.
The original Cantonese soundtrack and an unimpressive (but serviceable) English dub are both given the Dolby 5.1 remix treatment; these beefy tracks give weight to the action sequences, although at times dialogue gets lost along the way, buried under music and effects. Purists will prefer the Cantonese stereo track, which comes through just fine. Optional English subtitles are provided.
Tired of über-hack Brett Ratner? Too bad: after an appearance on the recent "Police Story" DVD, he's back on this disc. The director of the "Rush Hour" series (and, as he threateningly brags throughout the extras, potential director of "Police Story 6") first pops up in a commentary track he shares with Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan. Logan's input into the commentary is informative and enjoyable. Unfortunately, he's constantly interrupted by Ratner, who likes to butt in with comments ranging from pointless to obnoxious. Granted, Ratner, a longtime fan of Asian cinema, knows his stuff, but that doesn't make him any less irritating.
"Celebrating the Sequel" (8:24) is described as "a conversation with" Ratner and Logan, although it's only a "conversation" in the sense that both were interviewed separately, and then those interviews were intercut with clips from the film. Again, Logan is great, Ratner is frustrating.
"Stunts Unlimited: A Tribute to the Legendary Police Story 2 Stunt Team" (33:31) is an excellent discussion on the making of the movie's many, many stunt sequences, featuring the stunt crew that made it all happen. As half the interviews are in Cantonese, optional English subtitles are provided.
"Rare Outtakes" (3:14) is merely an alternate version of the closing credits, featuring different bloopers than the ones that ended the movie. Presented in a non-anamorphic letterbox, the video is washed out and muddy, suggesting an old video source.
"Police Story 2 Location Guide" (12:17) finds Logan giving us a tour of the Hong Kong locations used throughout the film, peppered with Logan's usual array of movie trivia.
The original Hong Kong theatrical trailer (4:01), which features more behind-the-scenes footage than actual film clips, and the bland Dragon Dynasty DVD preview (1:45) are included in a "trailer gallery." The Hong Kong trailer contains no voice-over or effects (just music) and a black screen where an end slate would normally be, suggesting this is not the complete trailer. Still, it's a nice inclusion.
Finally, several Dragon Dynasty previews play as the disc loads; you can skip them.
All extras are presented in anamorphic widescreen, except where noted.
Even though "Police Story 2" is the weakest of the franchise, it's still great entertainment. There's nothing in the world quite like a Jackie Chan stuntfest, and this sequel delivers all a fan would want. The packed disc and notable uncut presentation make up for any down spots in the feature itself. Recommended to Chan fans, plus anyone who's grown up in the age of "Rush Hour 2" and "The Medallion" and wonders what, exactly, the big deal is.
* Observant reader Mitchell Ting reminds me via email that "New Police Story" is not a direct sequel. He writes: "The similarity is by name only; sort of like a marketing gimmick." Indeed, while Jackie Chan is in the film, his character is not the same supercop from the previous entries. It's up to you, the fans, then, to decide whether or not to include the film in the franchise. Thanks to Mitchell for the clarification.