Police Story

Police Story ★★★★★

Police Story earns its reputation primarily from the strength of two set pieces. Anyone who has seen this movie knows exactly what scenes I'm referring to. There is really nothing else out there quite like these two scenes, which are so ambitious and so ornately crafted that they still stand among the greatest action scenes ever filmed. What sets these scenes apart from other action films is not only the scale of the choreography, but the production design of the sets. These are incredibly rich, reactive sets that perhaps best compare to the destructible environments of a modern video game. The world of Police Story buckles and shatters under the impact of broken bones. The unquestionable realness of this human and environmental carnage is perhaps the best case ever made for the value of traditional set design and effects work.

The movie that exists between these scenes can sometimes seem like classic Chan, but it can also be really surprising. It definitely feels like Jackie's most effortful dramatic performance. The rawness of his portrayal of a cop pushed over the edge might be a by-product of the working conditions Jackie subjected himself to, filming this concurrently with Heart of Dragon. The result is thematically a lot darker than anything Chan had previously had primary creative control over, and it takes some surprising twists. The stakes of the action are constantly pushed in uncomfortable directions. Look, it's not Hitchcock, but it's pretty shocking how tense this is for a Jackie Chan movie. This intensity carries into the set pieces with a greater focus on the brutality of the action, primarily directed towards Jackie's body.

With the number of films Chan has produced it's easy to assume that there is a great wealth of films like this: huge unrestrained set pieces, incredibly ambitious stunt work, and a physically prime Jackie Chan to tie it all together. Within the entire context of his career the riches do seem endless, but there was maybe never another film quite like this where Jackie had the resources and the ambition to fully realize his singular vision. Soon after Police Story Chan would suffer his worst injury, a traumatic brain injury while filming Armour of God. A few years after that the production company took the keys away from him and he would lose his mandate as the primary creative director of his films. And Jackie aged. What a gift then that we have this one true testament to the vision of one of the greatest entertainers in the history of film. A masterpiece.

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