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Police Story 2013 (2013)

Police Story 2013 [警察故事2013] (2013)
AKA Police Story: Lockdown, Police Story – Back for Law, Police Story Legend, Police Story 2014

Starring Jackie Chan, Liu Ye, Jing Tian, Yu Rong-Guang, Yin Tao, Na Wei, Liu Yi-Wei, Liu Hai-Long, Liu Pei-Qi, Coulee Nazha, Zhou Xiao-Ou, Zha Ka, Zhang Lei

Directed by Ding Sheng

Expectations: I don’t expect much, honestly.

The convention of making a spiritual successor to a film series and attaching the year of production to the title is a common occurrence in the Hong Kong industry. Usually nothing carries over except the general idea of the series, and in the case of Police Story that’s a policeman overcoming insurmountable odds. I guess you could call it a reboot, but from the examples I’ve seen, the new films aren’t necessarily trying to recapture the same energy or style of the originals. Take the difference between Police Story 2013 and New Police Story as an example. New Police Story is a more serious version of the original films — it’s a new Police Story — and still includes many death-defying stunts and fights. Police Story 2013 is an entirely different style for a different time, losing much of the action and going for the tense tone of a thriller.

My point with this long-winded ramble is that while the film’s title makes sense within the context of the Hong Kong industry, I feel like the English-speaking audience would have watched it more open-minded without a connection to Jackie’s well-loved, action-packed series. Nearly every review I glanced at was negative, and many of them referenced how much better previous Police Story movies were, so my logical conclusion is that the title connection clouded the viewing experience somewhat. I find myself trying to decipher the largely negative reaction to Police Story 2013 because I loved the film, specifically because it was a different take on the idea.

It’s not Police Story without breaking some glass!

Police Story 2013 is an odd beast of a movie, though, I must admit. This time around Jackie Chan plays Zhong Wen, a mainland police officer who seems to specialize in hostage negotiations. He ambles around a crowded street of nightclubs and bars, looking for the Wu Bar. He looks confused and alienated from the busy surroundings, and that about sums up my feelings at that point in the film, too. Once he finds where he’s going, he meets with his estranged daughter, Miao Miao (Jing Tian). She’s dating the bar’s suave owner, Wu Jiang (Liu Ye), and seemingly doing anything she can to rebel and disgust her rigid, policeman father. The story slowly develops and blossoms into a hostage negotiation from here, with the characters trapped inside the bar for much of the movie. If this doesn’t sound like much of a Police Story movie, you’re right, and that’s why I think titling it something different for its US release might have helped its perception.

To be blunt: I’m not much of fan of hostage negotiation movies. If I had known Police Story 2013 was one, I would’ve been even more reluctant to watch it than I already was from the negative reactions. There are definitely great films within this sub-genre, but they all seem to follow a similar progression so I generally stay away from them if I can. At some level Police Story 2013 is no different, but the slow, mysterious approach it takes to revealing its characters and underlying story felt unique and thoroughly engaging to me. Director Ding Sheng does a great job at pacing the film and its reveals, keeping the tension taut and ready to release whenever necessary. The addition of Jackie Chan to the mix further spices everything up, even if Jackie never goes full-on action mode in this one.

I had heard there was only minor action in Police Story 2013, so I wasn’t expecting there to be much of anything. To my surprise, there is a fair amount of varied action throughout the film. Little of it is what you’d call traditional Jackie action, but it is exciting action nonetheless. The editing is the weak link, though, as Ding Sheng appears to be from the “more cuts = better editing” school. Usually this kind of thing is a deal-breaker for me, but because I knew this was more of a thriller than an action movie, I brushed it off as a minor annoyance. To my surprise, I actually forgot about it by the time Jackie gets into a cage match late in the film. By that point, I was fully invested in the film’s story, which is pretty much a best case scenario for a filmmaker with over-editing tendencies. 😛

I feel like I wrote a whole review without actually saying much, but sometimes I guess that’s just how it goes. I think Police Story 2013 is a movie best seen without much of any knowledge about it, so perhaps I was unconsciously trying to write around things. One of the things I admire most about the movie’s approach to the hostage genre is how it focuses on the consequences that action (or inaction) can have on one’s life. How the film applies this to both the hostage situation within the film, and the lives of the characters leading up to that moment, made me think about my own life. I loved Police Story 2013, and I think it’s among Jackie’s best work within the last decade.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is Mabel Cheung’s A Tale of Three Cities! Jackie isn’t in it, but it is a dramatized version of his parents’ story that Cheung documented in Traces of a Dragon! See ya then!

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