There’s a particular conundrum that I have when passing my own personal judgement on martial arts films that seems to go double for the energetic output of Jackie Chan -what the hell am I supposed to do when the film contains fight scenes that blow my damn mind but also features a story I simply don’t connect with. It’s happened quite a few times in my life, with movies like First Strike (technically Police Story 4) and Who Am I? featuring blazing brawls that are legitimately world class but are also lodged firmly within deeply mediocre movies that have me openly questioning my faith as a movie reviewer. What am I supposed to do, here; actually bad mouth Jackie Chan after he took the time to painfully choreograph fighting people off with a fucking ladder? Simply shrug my shoulders and go “Meh” after witnessing him dueling with two guys on the roof of a skyscraper? How exactly am I supposed to do that?
However, possibly the toughest of them all is trying to be objective about the first sequel to Jackie’s barnstorming groundbreaker, Police Story; a film I personally find that’s irresponsible to hate yet find impossible to love…
After thoughtfully handing out vast amounts of beat downs at the end of the first movie, bull-headed but lovable officer Chan Ka-kui finds himself temporarily demoted after using his limbs to lay waste to an entire mall. Frustrated with being punished for essentially doing the right thing in the “wrong” way, he quietly rankles but is consoled by his devoted but long-suffering girlfriend May who tries to cheer him up by bringing him lunch while on duty. However, it turns out that the criminals Chan managed to put away have be released due to the big boss being diagnosed with only having three months to live and they’ve made it their business to torment our hero as much as they can. Chan, obviously replies with his fists and his temper in no particular order; but after epic rumbles in a restaurant and a park, Chan finds his relationships with both May and his superiors straining like his muscles as he boots a thug through a plate glass window. However, after reacting well during a bombing in the middle of the city, Chan finds himself reinstated with a new team and gets firmly on the trail of a gang who’s get rich quick plan involves holding the city to ransom by threatening to detonate sizable chunks of it. However, this new threat only serves to drive a further wedge between Chan and May and after the endless indignities dumped on her for two whole movies, thinks that maybe they should split for good – and then is instantly proved right when she’s kidnapped in order to blackmail Chan into doning an explosive vest and doing their dirty work for them. Never one to let a small inconvenience like being strapped to a fucking bomb slow him down, Chan vows to save May and bring the gang down for good – but how can he save his girlfriend if he’s set to go boom?
I mentioned earlier on about feeling guilty about crapping on Jackie Chan movies because they only contain a couple of great scenes, but in the case of Police Story 2 it turns out to be a slightly more complicated matter than simply great fights vs. bad movie. You see, in a vastly ironic twist, I’ve personally always found Police Story 2 to have way too much… well, police story – which means the movie is loaded with plot that overwhelms the balance between a gripping plot and Jackie whizzing around kicking people in the face. It’s a bizarre gripe; and it’s one that leaves me feeling horrible and dirty, but where the first movie was an exercise in perfect balance that would have made Thanos cream his pants, the second suffers because of the odd problem that Chan has become a better director. It’s strange to fault a man for wanting to temper his talent for action in favour of more in-depth story lines and characters, but when that same director is responsible for one of the greatest martial arts climaxes of the 80’s, you kinda just want him to step it up a bit. However the yawning chasms of time that stretch out between all of Jackie’s signature scraps is just too long and your yearning to see him roundhouse a guy over a climbing frame makes you too impatient to properly appreciate what Chan is trying to do. Maybe I would have more love for it if the ending managed to stack up favourably, but despite the scarily fast efforts of Benny Lai as an infantile deaf mute, the trio of villains running around a warehouse simply can’t hope to compare with the glass shattering, ass battering that concluded the previous installment and despite the athletic achievements of all involved (some of those high falls look really nasty…) the big finish simply falls short.
Now, before we get off on the wrong topic of me selfishly bashing the immortal Jackie Chan simply because he wants to be a better storyteller, Police Story 2 does admittedly contain some world class shit that ranks super high on the list of Chan’s most impressive smack downs. An early brouhaha in a restaurant contains enough breaking furniture and contorting stuntmen to delight fans but it’s a mid-film skirmish in a playground proves to be the movie’s crown jewel that contains all the desperate, flailing action that should have been loaded into the finale.
Watching Chan single handedly hold off about a dozen guys as he frantically plays defence by scampering over the various frames and swings is literally breathtaking and shows the megastar at the peak of his physicality. Boggle as Chan belts a guy with a metal bar four times before he can even react and then rewind it and watch it again just to make sure your filthy, traitorous eyes didn’t deceive you the first time. It’s this, particular type of relentless physicality that’s missing from the end – Chan ends up simply unable to out fight Lai’s dungareed character and finally resorts to gaining the upper hand via cheating by setting fire to the bastard. It’s a very un-Jackie Chan like moment considering he’s always at his best when playing the eventually victorious underdog (have you seen his fight with Benny Urdquidez in Wheels On Meals?) and even though there are stunts and huge explosions galore, Chan’s victory, despite leaving him scorched and beaten, simply isn’t gruelling or protracted enough to feel earned…
Admittedly containing the sort of action that eclipses 75% of all other martial arts movies, Police Story 2 unfortunately gets bogged down in too many subplots that only manages to block the effectiveness of the jaw dropping fights we’ve all turned up to see.
There’s gold in them thar hills, but compared to it’s magnificent predecessor, it ends up being not nearly enough cop to enforce the quality desired.