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Police Story III: Supercop (1992)

PoliceStoryIIISuperCop_1Police Story III: Supercop [警察故事III超級警察] (1992)
AKA Supercop

Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Kenneth Tsang, Yuen Wah, Bill Tung, Josephine Koo Mei-Wah, Kelvin Wong Siu, Lo Lieh, William Duen Wai-Lun, Phillip Chan Yan-Kin, Mars, Sam Wong Ming-Sing

Directed by Stanley Tong

Expectations: Superhigh.

Dimension’s US release of Supercop was the second Jackie Chan film I saw. I was 14 and it blew me away. Rumble in the Bronx made me an instant fan, but Supercop spiked me into overdrive. Not only does it feature Jackie Chan doing amazing Jackie Chan things like hanging from a helicopter’s rope ladder while it flies around a Malaysian city, it also introduced me to Michelle Yeoh. She easily holds her own against Jackie, and in many ways upstages him in his own movie! Re-watching the film amidst the context of my chronological review series provides a different context and understanding, allowing me to appreciate the film in new ways, but also allowing for some disappointment to creep in.

Police Story III: Supercop cuts right to the chase; the first scene can easily be summed up as, “We need a supercop!” This time it’s Interpol coming to the HK police in search for someone who fits the bill to catch an international drug lord named Chaibat. They don’t name names, but they would have to know Chan Ka-Kui’s record, no? In any case, it’s interesting that this kind of traditionally simple action movie writing also serves as an evolution of the Supercop character.

In Police Story, Jackie is reluctantly thrust into his Supercop role through his determination and raw talent. His actions are incredible and eventually get the job done, but they’re rough; he’s a Supercop-in-progress, if you will. In Police Story Part II, his superiors attempt to reign him in, but quickly realize that they need to harness his unique skills and allow him to do what he does best, no matter the cost. Now, in Police Story III, outside organizations have presumably heard of him and are asking to use him, and despite some reservations from his superiors, they unleash him into foreign lands to get the bad guys at all costs.

As his first mission outside Hong Kong, he’s immediately thrust into the position of proving his worth to the Mainland cops he’s working with, including Michelle Yeoh’s character, Capt. Yang Chien Hua. Being saddled with the Supercop label doesn’t help this at all, either. They are told of his greatness, but when Ka-Kui’s not in mortal danger he’s laid-back and unprofessional. He needs the pressure of the moment to excel; it is his ability to think quickly and react even quicker that has earned him the title. The Mainland cops force him into a one-on-one fight where he quickly proves himself, exhibiting how Jackie’s laid-back, Jeet Kune Do-style approach to kung fu ultimately defeats the rigidly traditional Mainlander (Sam Wong Ming-Sing). I don’t know enough to decipher where this applies in the actual combat, but it’s all there when the two fighters ready themselves.

The switch from Jackie to Stanley Tong at the helm of Police Story III creates a notable shift in style from the previous two films. Jackie’s scripts are generally more dense than the straightforward style seen in Police Story III, though this film still plays with identity in a similar way and Jackie once again finds himself in a situation of attempting to hide from another character. Tong, a stuntman himself, also led the action choreography team, so the action isn’t exactly the typical Jackie fare. There are flourishes of his overall style, for sure, but for the most part Police Story III is focused more on the broader picture than just this one man.

This first shows in the extensive utilization of Michelle Yeoh, doing stunts that Jackie would’ve traditionally done in other films. In the previous Police Story films, the women were passive and in need of rescue. Yeoh is brilliant in the film, showing that women can be just as formidable and impressive as Jackie and his character. That’s not exactly Jackie’s m.o., so I’m going to guess that it’s the influence of Stanley Tong (who would go on to make a side-sequel to this film, Project S, with Yeoh).

The other noticeable instance of Tong’s influence comes in the finale’s huge stunt where Jackie hangs from the helicopter in flight. In other films, the big stunt happens in a few seconds, but here it is an entire sequence where the stunt itself dictates that the shots should be wide and broad and that Jackie is merely a tiny, yet very important part of. He is the focus of our awe because he’s actually doing it, but without the broad contextual shots to place him into the larger world, it would be all but meaningless. Tong’s style turns the well-honed Jackie formula into something more recognizable and palatable to a Western audience, too, further reinforcing the decision to attempt Jackie’s second crossover to the US with the one-two punch of a pair of Tong’s films.

Police Story III: Supercop might start a little slow, but it builds to one of the most fun and jaw-dropping action finales ever filmed. Personally, I’d have liked more simple hand-to-hand moments, but since this film is intentionally going a different direction, I can’t be too sad. Besides, with all the amazing battles that Jackie delivered in the ’80s, why not branch out and do something different? Art is nothing without risk, and in Police Story III everyone puts it all on the line to deliver a stunning, fun-filled film.

If you haven’t seen this film, definitely rectify this! I highly recommend watching the original HK version. The US release loses about eight minutes of footage, changes the score, features a dub of questionable quality, and in certain cases the original 2.35:1 image is cropped down to 1.85:1 (such as the version currently on Netflix Instant and the Echo Bridge Blu-ray).

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is Kirk Wong’s Crime Story! See ya then!

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