See Jackie laugh! See Jackie cry! See Jackie get drunk and throw up in the gutter!
New Police Story opens in a very unconventional way: the camera pans slowly, in loving and almost surgical close-up, over the stubbly, tear-stained face of the waking Inspector Wong. We know straight away that this is not going to be a humorous waking. There’ll be no knuckles in the mouth, horrified memories of the night before: “Did I really strip down to my underwear and dance on the table?!?” No, Wong’s waking is far more serious, and the next 30 minutes give us the back story in full and gory detail.
This back story is fairly standard for a Jackie film: heavy on the drama, or indeed melodrama, plenty of action, and simple concepts painted in primary colours. Brave Inspector Wong. Ruthless criminals. Tragic loss of whole team at a stroke. Retreat into drunken oblivion. It’s not a plot that would have kept the scriptwriters awake at nights, desperately searching for that special twist.
And it’s clear that Jackie’s getting on a bit. That famously goofy face is more weathered, that Chaplinesque walk, a byproduct of too many broken bones, is more pronounced. He looks so worn, in fact, that for once it’s hard to credit him as the fiance of the lovely heroine, in this case Charlie Yeung. He just looks old. And he’s compounded this by casting as his sidekick co-star the devilishly handsome Nic Tse. No-one, but no-one, could do better than second best compared to Nic. Even Daniel Wu and Terence Yin, both quite tasty, look shabby next to Nic.
But once the fighting starts, you forget all that. You forget the cliches, you forget the inconsistencies, and you forget that Jackie’s not young. Because the fight scenes are the same glorious free-form free-for-alls that we love. Jackie uses every prop as a fighting aid. Whether it’s a rucksack full of money used to tie up an assailant, a bar stool used as a swivelling base to propel him through a fight, or a store full of Lego, Jackie and sidekick Nic use ‘em all.
It’s not a great film. Daniel Wu won a Golden Durian this year for overacting, but then given that the poor lad had to essay a seriously one-dimensional role, that’s not surprising. The film breaks no new ground in social commentary, either: ‘spoilt rich brats’ and ‘my parents made me a criminal’ aren’t exactly hot news. The cliches might make you break out in a rash. But whatever its faults, New Police Story gives us Jackie doing what Jackie does best, namely defending himself with furniture, running down buildings, and saving the day. And we love him for it.