Crime Story is one of the very few films from Jackie Chan’s back catalogue that’s bereft of comedy, along with Thunderbolt and (to some degree, anyway) New Police Story. Apparently, more dramatic acting is the direction Jackie wants to take his career, now that he’s getting older. All well and good, and I think he’s capable of doing a decent job, but the removal of the comedy really focuses your attention on the characters and the story… which I think is where Crime Story probably lets us down a little.
Directed by Kirk Wong in 1993, this film is a police drama based on a real kidnapping case. Wealthy businessman Wong (Law Kar Ying) is being eyed by kidnappers at the same time as he’s embroiled in wage disputes with his workers. Tough, man-of-the-people cop Eddie Chan (Jackie Chan) is assigned to protect him, following Wong about as he goes through his day-to-day work. One day, however, Wong is kidnapped while driving home on the Victoria Peak road — Jackie rushes to the scene, but is unable to prevent the kidnapping. Several policemen are injured on the scene as well, in a gruelling-looking police chase. Jackie gets them to a hospital and emotes frantically, wild-eyed in his devotion to the force and his fellow officers. Ahem. It’s a little like some of the melodramatic histrionics of some of his older movies, but without the comedy to balance it.
Jackie’s job, then, is to recover Wong alive and bring the kidnappers to justice. Also on the scene is Wong’s wife (Au Yeung Pooi San), who simply wants her husband back and is happy to pay tens of millions of US dollars to achieve it. The police know, however, that as soon as the money is passed over the kidnappers will simply disappear, with no guarantee of Wong’s return. Also skulking around the case is Detective Hung (Kent Cheng Jak Si), a well-respected detective who’s solved many important cases in the past, including a high-profile kidnapping. It becomes clear rather quickly that Hung isn’t completely on the level — in fact, he’s masterminding the kidnapping, using his position within the police to cover his tracks and ensure it’s a success.
Jackie’s portrayal of Eddie Chan is tough and uncompromising: he’s an honest, hardworking cop, unafraid of taking risks. Detective Hung, on the other hand, is almost a caricature of the corrupt policeman, almost to the point where you wonder at his ability to get away with so much, so transparently. Much of the screen time is taken up with police procedure, interspersed with a number of excellent action sequences, in particular the car chase at the beginning and a jaw-dropping fall of Jackie’s later in the film, while he’s searching for Wong. There are a few fight sequences, and these mostly display the standard modern-Jackie choreography: everything is a prop, and the environment is used as much as possible. I felt that these sorts of fights were more suited to the more lighthearted situations of the Police Story series or Rumble in the Bronx — they almost feel out of place in such a dark, gritty film.
Crime Story is worth a watch for fans of Jackie’s work: it’s not (by quite a margin) his best film, but it’s definitely enjoyable and impressive in places.