Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Police Story 4: First Strike

Title: Police Story 4: First Strike
Director: Stanley Tong
Released: 1996
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jackson Lou, Annie Wu, Bill Tung, Yuriy Petrov, Nonna Grishayeve, Terry Woo, Ailen Sit, Nathan Jones

Plot: Recuited by the CIA, Insp. Chan (Chan) to follow leads connected to a nuclear smuggling case, only to soon find himself on the trail of a missing nuclear warhead.

Review: Despite being the forth entry in Jackie Chan’s legendry “Police Story” franchise you really don’t need to have seen the previous three to enjoy this film and hence why it was sold to western audiences as just “First Strike” giving it the illusion of being a stand alone film especially to cash in on the success of “Rumble In The Bronx” which had introduced Chan finally to audiences not familiar with the Hong Kong cinema.

While this film takes perhaps alittle longer than his other films to get going with Chan engaging in some espionage antics before giving us the first of the films big set pieces on the snowy mountains of the Ukraine with Chan wearing little more than a humorous seal hat for warmth chases after a suspect and it what really sets the tone for the film as here we get to see Chan really working at the height of his powers as certainly highlighted by the now legendary ladder fight sequence whose painful screw ups really only demonstrate just how good Chan and his stunt team are. Its during the traditional mistake reel in the credits and you also see that Chan really wasn’t wearing anything remotely warm during the mountain sequences when snowboarding or being thrown into icy water that you may find yourself questioning the general sanity of Chan to put himself through such things.

Perhaps to the benefit of Chan for doing all those snow sequences the majority of the film takes place in Australia were he soon finds himself caught up with the sister of the suspect he’s been pursuing Annie here played by Annie Wu in her film debut. Of course the general plot is pretty thin and this is especially the case with her character whose only real purpose is to play the damsel in distress while the fact she works at the aquarium really is just to setup the finale. This isn’t a major issue thanks to the general charm of Chan’s performance aswell as the fact that most viewers will be here for the stunts and fights than the plot.

This is a great film for newcomers thanks to the light-hearted plot let alone how frequently ludicrious it is to have a film which features an aquarium of man eating sharks and a final showdown which takes place underwater. This of course is largely thanks to Chan’s performance as he’s essentially the every man rather than the bad ass, its just he also happens to be a martial arts master. At the same time he taps into the same slapstick action energy of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd especially with the fight scenes being focused on using the environment around him and making one movement flow into the next. There is no better example of this than in this film when he is attempting to escape from a pair of Russian thugs, one being played by man mountain Nathan Jones.

As I mentioned already the action is really the star of the show here and while it might not top what we’ve seen in the previous three films in the saga it is still inventive and unquestionably better than his current output were its clear as he’s getting older he’s less willing to maim himself for his art especially when those bones don’t heal as quick as they used to, but hey this is the guy whose had so many injuries that he can no longer get insurance so you can hardly fault him for wanting to take it easier in these later years of his career. As such its fun to see a film like this when he was wanting to take those risks. Here Chan is clearly trying to give the audience something they haven't seen before which might explain the underwater fight finale, while the snowboard chase and the apartment escape which sees Chan repeatedly running into closed windows all make for fun highlights.

Frustratingly all the releases of this film bar the Japanese DVD are missing 21 mins from the film, while also dubbed which is less of an issue considering the style of film, but you would think that by now we would be able to get the original version of this film which sadly is still not an option.

A fun entry in the “Police Story” saga though while perhaps not the best film of this period it is still miles better from his current output, while providing the perfect start point for the newcomers to his extensive body of work.

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