Police Story

Police Story ★★★★

The epitome of the Hong Kong action movie and action movies in general, Police Story is a veritable tour de force of not only incredible martial arts, fight choreography and daring stunt work, but also of physical comedy worthy of Buster Keaton himself.

Writer, director and star Jackie Chan is in total command here, taking notes from the standard Hollywood genre model he crafts his own tale of gang bosses, corrupt law enforcement and rogue heroes, expanding his martial arts background into the modern crime thriller, where even guns aren't a match for flying fists and swinging limbs. It's a film quite literally built around the action; Chan devised the set-pieces first then scripted the story around them, so if you're looking for verisimilitude or any sort of logic you'll just have to shut your brain off and enjoy what is a shameless platform for Chan's manic ingratiation and desire to prove himself.

There's slapstick aplenty - this star isn't shy of the old pie in the face routine, though just as brilliant as the physical comedy are the less energetic sequences, particularly a bizarre scene of Chan in the office alone answering numerous telephones, which is in itself a complex ballet of movement, manoeuvring cords and juggling receivers. The final showdown at the mall is, and I doubt many would disagree, one of the greatest action set-pieces ever devised and put to film, a jaw-dropping display of shattered glass.

There are prolonged sequences such as at the courthouse, without action that are devoted to plot and required for things to make sense, though it never asks us to take anything seriously and maintains a lighthearted tone throughout, something it balances so well with the gritty police procedural aspects.

With a few exceptions like the John Wick series, modern Hollywood action movies are so poorly edited, often to hide sub-par choreography and are laced with CGI so as to be indistinguishable from real stunt-work, something that makes old school films like this all the more endearing. Chan shoots his action without needless cutting so that we can actually appreciate it, safe in the knowledge that everything we see is genuine, the result of talented professionals risking life and limb to entertain; there's something inestimably precious about that.

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