Review: Police Story 2 (1988)

For a film industry that thrives on sequels, Jackie Chan made relatively few in his Hong Kong heyday. Police Story 2 is the first sequel in his longest running — at least in name — series, currently six films long as of Police Story: Lockdown and one spin-off strong with the Michelle Yeoh-starring Project S / Supercop 2.

It took the Marvel superhero franchise years to address the issue of collateral damage caused by its heroes’ actions, but Police Story 2 tackles the problem straight away. Following a montage of highlights the destruction wrought by Chan Ka-kui (Jackie Chan) in Police Story, the sequel begins with a dressing down and demotion to a job where he presumably is less likely to cause havoc. This quickly proves to be a vain hope. As the superintendent (Lam Kwok-Hung) once again busts his chops while Bill “pretty-sure-“Uncle”-is-not-an-official-rank” (Bill Tung) runs interference, Ka-kui surrenders his badge and heads off on a relaxing holiday with long-suffering girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung).

But wait! While the acknowledgement of consequences is an appreciated wrinkle in an action series, this is smoothed over as Ka-kui is coaxed back into the police force to help track down a group of bombers holding a rich company to ransom. Presumably the collateral damage Ka-kui’s unorthodox methods are likely to cause will be less than the collateral damage caused by people who are already blowing up buildings.

The police need to do some actual investigating now, which makes for a change, although it drags the film’s pace a bit. A mostly nameless police surveillance team — including a bunch of female officers, virtually unseen in the first film — tracks some dudes around the city for a while, basically. At least this section serves up a bunch of hi-tech-cum-retro gadgetry to wonder at and a cameo for Lau Ching Wan completionists.

Since our baddies can’t be fought until they are known, the first film’s gang stop by periodically to harass Ka-kui and May, filling the first half action quotient. These fights are as good as ever and neatly transition the action from the original into the sequel. If Police Story had an action theme it was glass, with enough of the stuff broken to account for a city-wide hail storm. Police Story 2 also features a lot of shattering shards, mostly in the first half scraps with Ka-kui’s old foes, before the fire motif of the blackmail bombers takes over. I often think of this film in the series as “the explosions one”.

Fresh reworkings of Police Story elements crop up in a few other ways. The classic Police Story theme song is missing in action until the climactic fight, when it reappears in a less over the top, yet still cheesy form. Ka-kui carries on behaving recklessly around road traffic, without rehashing the iconic bus chase from the original.  (Jackie gets a sprinting shot elsewhere without a bus to spoil the purity of the moment, proving that — although he may not indulge in it as often as Tom Cruise — Jackie running is hard to beat.) The third act again has Ka-kui pushed outside the law in desperation, although the circumstances are more personally dangerous this time and the final showdown takes place in a multi-storey building, only it’s a near-empty warehouse instead of a crowded shopping mall.

The warehouse is a stock action location, but this one is well introduced, with an establishing long shot and views of the building exterior and interior as Ka-kui enters giving previews of elements featured in the upcoming battle. It’s a one vs. a few throwdown rather than a one vs. many, which is another little shake-up of the formula. Finally, as Police Story delivered a stunning stunt to sum up the all the flying glass, Police Story 2 has an oxygen-stealing capper on all the fiery mayhem.

The film has some tense scenes with all the bombs around and some dark moments too. Ka-kui and May undergo some cruel physical and emotional torture. The law doesn’t receive a glowing showing either, visiting some milder torture of their own upon a suspect. Ka-kui also gets his own back in a rather sadistic moment late in the film. Comedy is still catered for, such as with Uncle Bill’s running toilet humour joke and the leader of the old gang pestering Ka-kui receiving multiple amusing comeuppances.

It may not reach the electrifying heights of its predecessor, but Police Story 2 is a worthy continuation of the name, delivering more of the same with a couple of fresh twists and tweaks.

7.5 leaps into moving traffic out of 10.
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