Police Story Dulogy (Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review)
2016 (April 30, 2019)
The Criterion Collection
Film/Program Grade: A-/B+
Video Grade: A
Audio Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Before Tom Cruise was breaking his ankle doing his own stunt, and other A-list actors were given high-fives for doing “some of their own” as well, international martial arts star Jackie Chan was pulling off body-shattering, slack-jawing stunts nobody will touch today, back in the 80s. Thrown off buildings, through glass, escaping exploding buildings — he pushed his limits as far as humanly possible with well choreographed fight scenes — albeit with the notion of, “let’s hope this works” practical thinking (often the stunt didn’t, which you can always see in his outtakes during the end-credits). Chan is unmatched when it comes to death-defying stunts.
Unhappy with how his first movie The Protector turned out for American audiences, Chan made a movie on his own terms, Police Story (and again with Police Story 2 and back with Police Story 3: Super Cop. There are more in the Police Story series, but these are the only three that are good). Police Story 1 and 2 are Jackie Chan’s masterpieces and work as one, long story broken into two films. At the tender age of 31, Chan co-wrote, co-directed, fight choreographed, and stars in both films, and even sings the films’ theme song at the end. The man can fight, act, write, direct, and sing (!!!),. That’s some real talent.
As mentioned, Police Story 1 and 2 work together as one big explosive story (which is perhaps why Criterion made this release a duology). Chan stars as Chan Ka Kui, super cop that will stop at nothing to catch the bad guys. This story has been done many times, but what most of these derivative films lack is fun, and that’s what Chan brings to the table with these two movies. (and lots and lots of punches and kicks, as well as laughs, too).
Now available, Criterion Collection has released Police Story 1 and 2 as a duology set. The cover art is gorgeous and worth getting a theatrical 27x40 size to frame and put on a wall. It’s slick and simple with two colors (which run throughout the two films), an illustrated drawing of Chan who looks like he just punched gave a glass window a real beatin', which is essential because glass plays a crucial role in Police Story. I’m confident every window, mirror, light bulb, TV, and whatever else you can think of that involves glass gets shattered in the Police Story duology. (Jackie’s batshit crazy last stunt in Police Story involves more glass shattering in this one scene than probably the entirety of Hollywood cinema. I'm hyperbolic, but hopefully, you get my point.)
Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray version of both films shattered my expectations, coming in incredibly bright and colorful 4K restoration scans that makes the films looks like they were released yesterday, and give some 4K Ultra HD releases a run for their money. There have been many iterations of this dulogy, and the most popular is Shout! Factory’s and Eureka!’s, which are both out of print. (Shout’s release is 1080p and Eureka!’s are 4K restorations, but I have not seen either version). The audio comes plays in an uncompressed monaural (which I’ve learned I’m not a fan of), and there’s an alternative 5.1 surround that’s available (which I am a big fan of).
Alternate 5.1 surround soundtracks
Alternate English-dubbed soundtracks
Alternate version of Police Story 2, presented in a 2K digital transfer for the first time from a subtitled 35 mm Hong Kong–release print
New interview with filmmaker Edgar Wright and a 2017 podcast conversation between Wright and actor-director Jackie Chan
New programs on Chan’s screen persona and action-filmmaking techniques featuring author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix
Episode of Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show from 1989 featuring interviews with Chan and actor Maggie Cheung
Archival interviews with Chan and actor and stuntman Benny Lai
Excerpts from Jackie Chan: My Stunts, a 1999 documentary codirected by and starring Chan
Excerpt from a 2017 television program reuniting Chan with the original members of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team
Television program from 1964 detailing the rigors of Beijing-opera training, akin to the education that Chan received as a child
Chan stunt reel
New English subtitle translations
PLUS: An essay by critic Nick Pinkerton
Cover illustration by Jeremy Enecio
What makes watching Jackie Chan’s fight scenes so arresting (especially in these two films) is they’re well orchestrated. Whatever area or room fights takes place in, every object and everything in the vicinity will be used — even if it’s a shoe or two small steps or a sock, whatever. Chan will find a way to use it creatively during the fight. This is a fighter who is incredible and fast at punches and kicks, but his comedic timing is impeccable, too. He makes it clear in his work that he watched a lot of Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Buster Keaton, and many slapstick comedy greats growing up. Comedy is a big part of his characters as well, which makes them endearing when he’s not throwing punches.
The extra features are delicious for martial arts aficionados. There’s a lot to chew on and watch Chan talk about how he does his (many) crafts. For diehard fans, an extra feature includes an second version of Police Story, presented in a 2K digital transfer for the first time from a subtitled 35 mm Hong Kong–release print. For collectors, Criterion’s Police Story eulogy is an obvious must own.
[Editor’s Note: This review was first published on The Digital Bits.