The Criterion Collection just announced their titles for April, and right at the top of the list is Jackie Chan’s Police Story and Police Story 2. While this isn’t the Collection’s first foray into Hong Kong action cinema — they’ve previously released editions of John Woo’s Hard Boiled and The Killer — it’s still a delightful surprise.
Chan’s status had been well-established before these two films, thanks to earlier ones like 1978’s Drunken Master, 1983’s Project A, and 1984’s Wheels on Meals. But the first two Police Story movies, released in 1985 and 1988, saw Chan’s signature blend of comedy, action, and death-defying stunts reach a whole new level of execution.
The first Police Story movie, in particular, is an absolute action classic, from its opening shanty town chaos to its ending mall fight (which culminates in one of Chan’s most dangerous and mind-blowing stunts). Or, as the Criterion Collection puts it:
The jaw-dropping set pieces fly fast and furious in Jackie Chan’s breathtakingly inventive martial-arts comedy, a smash hit that made him a worldwide icon of daredevil action spectacle. The director/star/one-man stunt machine plays Ka-Kui, a Hong Kong police inspector who goes rogue to bring down a drug kingpin and protect the case’s star witness (Chinese cinema legend Brigitte Lin) from retribution. Packed wall-to-wall with charmingly goofball slapstick and astoundingly acrobatic fight choreography — including an epic shopping-mall mêlée of flying fists and shattered glass — Police Story set a new standard for rock-’em-sock-’em mayhem that would influence a generation of filmmakers from Hong Kong to Hollywood.
And as for Police Story 2:
Jackie Chan followed up the massive success of Police Story with an even bigger box-office hit. Having been demoted to a lowly traffic cop for his, ahem, unorthodox policing methods, Chan’s go-it-alone officer Ka-Kui quits the force in protest. But it isn’t long before he’s back in action, racing the clock to stop a band of serial bombers and win back his much-put-upon girlfriend May (the phenomenal Maggie Cheung, reprising her star-making role). Boasting epic explosions, an awesomely 1980s electro soundtrack, and a showstopping finale — which turns an abandoned warehouse into a life-size pinball machine of cascading oil drums, collapsing scaffolds, and shooting fireworks — Police Story 2 confirmed Chan’s status as a performer of unparalleled grace and daring.
Criterion is releasing both films in a single collector’s set that’ll also include the following:
- New 4K digital restorations of Police Story and Police Story 2
- Alternate 5.1 surround and English-dubbed soundtracks for both films
- Hong Kong-release version of Police Story 2, presented in a high-definition digital transfer for the first time
- New programs on Chan’s screen persona and action-filmmaking techniques featuring author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix
- Archival interviews with Chan and actor and stuntman Benny Lai
- Television program from 1964 detailing the rigors of Peking-opera training, akin to the education that Chan received as a child
- Chan stunt reel
- New English subtitle translations
- An essay by critic Nick Pinkerton
Criterion’s Police Story/Police Story 2 set will be released on April 30 (click here to preorder).
For an in-depth analysis of Chan’s inimitable blend of action and comedy, I highly recommend watching Tony Zhou’s excellent breakdown, which features several scenes from the Police Story movies.
On a more serious note, The New Republic has reviewed Chan’s recently released memoir, and reflects on the pain and suffering that Chan experienced and had to internalize in order to become the action icon that he is today. (Sample excerpt: “He is rich beyond his wildest dreams, but is unable to shed the poor young man he once was, a person desperate for work and afraid of the abyss that could open up at his feet at any moment. His poverty is a wound that never quite heals.”)
If nothing else, it’s a sobering reminder that a flawed human being exists behind the stunts and filmmaking that have thrilled countless millions around the world.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.