New Police Story

(Benny Chan, Hong Kong, 2004)


Jackie Chan does a lot of crying in New Police Story. He (as Kwok-wing) sobs after his miserable fall from glory as a cop, and he weeps over his friends killed in the line of duty. He even cries (and this is rarer for Chan’s star persona) as he professes his love to a girlfriend, Ho-yee (Charlie Yeung) – particularly since, at that moment, she is strapped to a bomb about to explode.


This film marks a return to the Police Story series that, kicking off in 1985, added a lucrative formula to Chan’s already stellar career. Although there are the expected laughs, goofy outtakes under the final credits and dazzling martial arts displays, the Police Story films lean more towards busy plotlines, action scenes centred on guns and bombs, and many opportunities for Chan to emote dramatically.


But today, any film in this vein must compete with the impressive standard set by director Johnnie To in films including Running Out of Time (1999) and Breaking News (2004). So New Police Story is an ambitious urban panorama, featuring a team of villains that treat reality like one enormous video game – the goal of which is to eliminate as many cops as possible.


The criminal mastermind Joe Kwan (Daniel Wu), like his cohorts, is a rather infantile character – a rich kid still wrestling with unresolved parent issues. As a more positive comparison, Kwok-wing is given his own son-figure to manage, in the form of rookie cop Cheng Siu-fung (Nicholas Tse). The parallelism between these good and bad family units is handled smartly by director Benny Chan (who co-helmed Who Am I? [1998] with Jackie, and died at age 58 in 2020).


Jackie Chan has never been able to resist Chaplin-style pathos, and so he begins New Police Story at Kwok-wing’s lowest point, drowning in booze and suffering nightmarish flashbacks, then slowly piecing himself together (with one delightful nod to the 1978 martial arts classic Drunken Master). The slow-motion sequences that are meant to tug at our heartstrings, set to a booming Carl Orff-style score by Tommy Wai, become rather tedious.


But in its second hour, the film really takes off. The action set-pieces make inventive use of vast locations (a building top used by skaters, a toy store, a bus route) and, in the best Chan style, become progressively more hair-raising.


By the time it winds down, New Police Story has become a rousing entertainment – certainly among the best that Chan has made in the 21st century.


MORE Jackie Chan: Jackie Chan's First Strike, Shanghai Noon, Shanghai Knights, The Medallion, Around the World in 80 Days, Rush Hour, Rumble in the Bronx

© Adrian Martin November 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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