After the domestic success of Rumble in the Bronx, New Line attempted to strike gold twice with a wide release of Jackie Chan's First Strike in 1997, originally released in Hong Kong a few months earlier as Police Story 4. Unfortunately, the studio continued its war against subtitles by presenting Jackie Chan's First Strike in dubbed English rather than its original Cantonese...and though Chan himself did his own voice-overs and some of the English speech remains intact, the goofy nature of select performers unintentionally makes First Strike funnier than it ought to be. It's also at least 20 minutes shorter than the original Police Story 4, which has yet to be released on R1 DVD or Blu-ray.
This is part of the reason why First Strike doesn't flow as smoothly as Rumble in the Bronx. It's immediately clear that First Strike is meant to be taken as a more serious adventure, though not one without its fair share of lighthearted moments and charismatic Chan comedy. Jackie stars as "Jackie" in a semi-spoof of 007: he's a skilled CIA agent on an apparently simple mission that goes drastically wrong when the woman he's tailing on a nuclear smuggling case (Nonna Grishayeva) disappears. It turns out she's working with Jackson Tsui (Jackson Liu), who may or may not have his own ties with the CIA...but one thing's for sure: he's got horrible taste in wigs. Thus, poor Jackie is thrust back into the middle of a dangerous mission that hops between the US, Ukraine, Russia, and Australia within the first 40 minutes, finally settling down for the remainder of its occasionally brisk 83-minute running time.
Still, what First Strike lacks in fluidity---and it most certainly does---is compensated for by the scenery changes that allow Jackie to switch up his trademark brand of physical awesomeness. Some of his most memorable stunts and fights are found here: a thrilling snowboard chase and helicopter jump (and the subsequent plunge into icy water), the ladder fight, a luxury apartment showdown with the mammoth Nathan Jones (in his film debut), fighting on stilts, and possibly the finest underwater brawl ever committed to celluloid. These are just some of the highlights in a film that refuses to be pinned down (for better or for worse)...but as a whole, First Strike can't help but feel like a highlight reel with a generous portion of boring dialogue thrown in. Still, it's impossible to accurately judge a film that, in addition to being almost fully re-dubbed in English, was also trimmed by a good 20 minutes from his original Hong Kong version (which I haven't seen yet, but may still be available on import DVD if you know where to look).
So while it's a shame we still haven't gotten Police Story 4 around these parts (or both cuts, ideally), those who saw and enjoyed First Strike in theaters or R1 DVD will enjoy New Line's Blu-ray edition; it's essentially a barebones disc that preserves the dubbed version with excellent A/V quality (including the original aspect ratio and lossless 5.1 audio) that far outshines previous home video releases. Those who fondly remember their early American introductions to Jackie Chan will appreciate this flawed but fun production in all its butchered domestic glory.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Jackie Chan's First Strike was shot in several countries, so it's good to know that this 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer makes the most of its varying backdrops. Textures and color saturation are much improved over New Line's respectable but dated 2000 DVD, revealing a stable image that allows the action to be seen in much greater detail than before. Black levels and skin tones are also strong from start to finish and, with the exception of a few dimly-lit sequences, this is a consistent presentation with very few instances of dirt, debris, and digital imperfections. This appears to be a single-layered disc...but it barely cracks the 90-minute mark for content (including the bonus features), so no worries.
DISCLAIMER: This images featured in this review are promotional in nature and do not represent the Blu-ray's 1080p source image.
Yes, the post-production English dubbing is a mess...but this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix represents First Strike's theatrical audio and sounds terrific on Blu-ray. Channel separation is very strong at times with a handful of punchy but natural background effects, and the sporadic Bond-like music cues also blend in nicely. Overall, this is a great sounding track that fans should be enormously pleased to hear. Lossless German, Spanish, and Thai dubs also included during the main feature, as well as English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Korean, Mandarin, and Thai subtitles.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Though predictably low on style points, Warner Bros.' standard menu interface is clean, easy to navigate and loads quickly. Sub-menus have been included for bonus features (only the film's U.S. Theatrical Trailer
(1:30), sadly enough) and audio/subtitle setup, but not chapter selection. This dual-layered, region-free Blu-ray is packaged in a standard keepcase with attractive cover artwork. No inserts or slipcovers are included.
It's not quite as fun as Rumble in the Bronx (also new to Blu-ray this month) thanks to an overcooked plot, but Jackie Chan's First Strike is still an entertaining affair thanks to the on-screen antics of its charismatic, impossibly daring star. The fact that it's dubbed in English and trimmed by at least 20 minutes from its original version (Hong Kong's Police Story 4) makes this equally tough to judge accurately, but the sheer perfection of Chan's stunt work make it at least worth a rental. Thankfully, New Line's Blu-ray serves up a top-notch A/V presentation and keeps the price low, making this a no-brainer for Chan disciples. Recommended...but if you're limited to one, go with Bronx first.
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.