Police Story: Lockdown
Well Go USA // Unrated // $29.98 // August 11, 2015
Review by Tyler Foster | posted August 12, 2015
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Police Story: Lockdown, like 2004's New Police Story, is an "in-name-only" entry into the series that made Jackie Chan a star. In the intervening eleven years, Chan has naturally moved away from bigger action movies with spectacular stunt sequences due to his advancing age, and toward movies that require more acting chops than kung fu chops. Lockdown certainly endeavors to be one of those films, a grimly dramatic entry that begins and ends with Chan putting a pistol to his temple and pulling the trigger. Unfortunately, it feels like a film on autopilot, hampered by a convoluted and ultimately boring plot, and, worse, a flat performance from Chan, who is certainly capable of doing strong dramatic work, but just looks defeated here.

Chan plays Commander Zhong, who is dropping into the trendy Wu Bar to talk to his daughter, Miao (Jing Tian), for the first time in several months. Their conversation is awkward and tense, with Zhong obviously concerned about Miao's new lifestyle. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when she introduces her new boyfriend, the club's owner, Wu Jiang (Liu Ye). Their irritation builds to a fight, one which is only interrupted by Wu Jiang revealing himself as a person from Zhong's past, after which he holds the entire club hostage, and forces Zhong into a series of almost Saw-like mind games to try and remember who he is and why he would have a vendetta against him. His clues include the other patrons, all of whom were there on the night in question, but Zhong's temperament means he has a long list of suspects to sort through to find the answer.

First and foremost, the problem with Police Story: Lockdown is not the action. A surprising amount of the negative press for the film cited the movie's relative lack of action, but it'd be nonsense to hold it against Chan, even if his film does invoke the series' name, to try and top or match some of the crazy things he did even in New Police Story, much less the original Police Story (a high watermark in Chan's long career, maybe even second only to his masterpiece Drunken Master II). On top of that, such a complaint misses the small handful of sequences that Lockdown does throw out, which are far from the Bourne-ing of the James Bond series, but still have a certain rough-and-tumble edge that some of Jackie's other movies lack. This is a fairly brutal film that puts his physical skills to the test, the kind in which a stunt could just as easily be a fistfight in an abandoned industrial lot as it could the agonizing sight of Zhong trying to wring his wrists from metal wires tying him to the arms of a chair.

Unfortunately, the material that falls between these stunt sequences is a thunderous bore, a maudlin and unnecessarily extended cat-and-mouse game in which neither the cat or the mouse is up to anything particularly interesting. Again, like the Saw series, the villain is building to a moral point, but at least those movies were gratuitous exploitation films that had the decency to goose the viewer with goofy Rube Goldberg contraptions that promise over-the-top violence. Here, we're forced to watch a stone-faced Chan try and outsmart a smarmy villain dripping with superiority, and the charade gets old fast, especially as director Ding Sheng draws the film out to a nearly unbearable two-hour length. These sequences are broken up by the occasional flashback to Zhong's earlier, edgier days on the force, but they often feel tonally discordant from the rest of the movie, especially an early scene that plays like a randomly inserted Lethal Weapon homage. The film also offers up an outdated role for Miao to play, with Zhong's conflict with her stemming from "traditional" ideas of how young women should dress and act, before becoming a damsel in distress.

In Police Story: Lockdown's defense, perhaps the kind of melodrama that the film is trucking in just doesn't play as well for an American viewer as it does in Chan's native China. Evidence suggests that this is a style of thriller that is in vogue in the film's domestic market -- their title for the film is Police Story 2013, which, like New Police Story, explicitly suggests a movie designed with current trends in mind. Yet, even if Jackie has no choice but to accept his advancing age and star in films that are more psychological or dramatic thrillers than they are action movies, one wishes he'd choose material better than this, which is both dour and dull in equal measure. Although he may not be able to perform the same kinds of physical feats that he once could, the real charm of a Jackie Chan stunt sequence was imagination -- something which Chan can and should still endeavor to incorporate into his newer work.

The Blu-ray

The Video and Audio
From my perspective, Well Go USA has a history of mediocre transfers, with heavy banding being their number one problem. Police Story: Lockdown's 2.39:1 1080p AVC presentation is a little bit better than their average effort, featuring less of those compression artifacts, but there are still some minor quibbles with its overall quality. Color and clarity are both strong, with fine textural details and other small nuances easily visible, but contrast remains underwhelming, with the film offering plenty of shadows but little of the richness one wants from them. Instead, dark areas have a gray or even slightly green tint, which is a bummer.

Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that sounds pretty good, although like many direct-to-video American mixes, there's something slightly underwhelming about the quality of the effects used to bring Lockdown to life. When the film roars into full-on action mode, the soundtrack does provide a nice, convincing surround experience, but many of the effects used come off just a touch anemic compared to mixes that really blow the doors off. Dialogue sounds fine, and background ambiance can be on the flat side, but all things considered, it sounds decent. As is Well Go's usual oddball policy, both the Cantonese and English mixes are presented in both uncompressed 5.1 and lossy 2.0 stereo tracks, and English subtitles are provided.

The Extras
Brief interviews with director Ding Sheng (4:20), Jackie Chan (3:51), Liu Ye (6:11), and Jing Tian (6:14) are included. Sheng talks about his vision for the movie and how it's different from the other Police Story films, Chan talks about the film's fighting style and how he developed it with MMA and Ultimate Fighting athletes, and the other two actors talk about their characters and working with Jackie Chan. This is followed by a behind-the-scenes B-roll reel (5:15) which steamrolls through a bunch of footage captured on set while making the movie, set to a propulsive rock soundtrack. These extras are all in SD.

Trailers for Z Storm, Kung Fu Killer, and Special ID play before the main menu. An original theatrical trailer for Police Story: Lockdown is also included.

There are moments of compelling drama in Police Story: Lockdown, and a taste of Jackie Chan's martial arts skills, but on the whole, this is a dull film that just isn't particularly engaging or interesting. Jackie Chan nuts will probably find something to enjoy, but for anyone else this is a pass. Skip it.

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