Sunday, June 05, 2011

Listening to a Police Story

This summer marks release of the final installment in the Harry Potter Franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, which means my long running series of reviews on the Harry Potter films will come to a melancholy close. I have thought about turning my sights onto another film franchise, and even if it is near impossible to discover a series of movies with the same scope and ambition of the Harry Potter franchise, I think I have discovered a fitting replacement. As an antidote to all of the navel gazing and angst of the Harry Potter movies, I have decided to reward myself with Jackie Chan's long running Police Story series. Starting in 1985 Police Story is arguably Chan's signature series of films. The original not only spawned three direct sequels but also one spin off and, more recently, a reboot.

First, a little background on my own history with Jackie Chan. Like most of America, I was first introduced to Jackie Chan in the 1990s after several of his Hong Kong films, after a poor job of dubbing, were released in American movie theaters. At the time I was beginning to discover "serious" filmmakers like Kubrick and Scorsese and had little time for goofy Hong Kong movies that, while they contained some deliriously dangerous stunts, also had their fair share of incongruous slapstick amongst the usual action mayhem. It wasn't until several years later when Jackie Chan started making American films that were, with few exceptions, far inferior to the movies he made in Hong Kong that I started to appreciate his work. The stunts were truncated and the humor was just as corny as anything in Chan's Hong Kong output, only a kind of corny that could only come out of a Hollywood studio system, making it far less interesting. This made me reappraise my thoughts on Chan's earlier films. What was it about his earlier work that made it so much more interesting than his Hollywood fair? It also didn't hurt that I began to see that Chan was just as influenced by Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin as he was by martial arts greats like Bruce Lee and Sammo Hung. And yet, despite this change of heart, I have only revisited a few of Chan's earlier films during that time, and I have only seen the final Police Story movie, Police Story 4: First Strike without realizing it was part of a much larger series.

The single constant to Jackie Chan's work is his tremendous stunt work, which seems to easily transcend time and culture. I'm curious to see whether or not all those moments in-between the bad-assery will hold up as well several decades and half a world removed. I cannot promise that I will watch every film connected to the Police Story series (Netflix apparently does not have the Michelle Yeoh starring spin off, Police Story 3, Part 2: Supercop, aka Once a Cop, aka Project S, aka Supercop 2). But I will make my way through all four of the main trunk of the Police Story franchise. In the next week expect the first review in my Police Story journey.

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