His fight choreography was show stopping; always upping the ante, fighting improvisational style with anything and everything around him, and still coming across as a genuine everyman. These movies to me are the centerpieces of an unprecedented career in action. The first was the fact that he never really became big in America. I first heard about him in a documentary on martial arts films. Police Story 2 was longer and gave us more of an actual story, and introduced some more ladies into the mix in Hong Kong, the women in action were as fearless as the men.
He wrote and directed both Police Story and Police Story 2; both indelible staples of the action movie for me, with Police Story being my all-time favorite action flick. For me, all of this success was well-earned, but seemed to water down what Jackie really was, even though he continued doing amazing stuntwork well into his 50s. Many stars in that special were amazing, but Jackie immediately stood out for his mix of action, comedy, and courage. Of course, they dubbed it and Americanized it with music and such, and cut it down a bit, but it became 1 at the box office. Colors are once again bright and vivid and detail levels strong, with the prints looking clean throughout.
It was a blessing and a curse, as studios began to roll out other cut down, dubbed and Americanized versions of his films. His original Hong Kong movies showcase a superstar in a way you have to see to believe. I would begin seeking him out everywhere I could, but there was little to be found here in the States, other than his awful American film The Protector and throwaway roles in the Cannonball Run movies interestingly enough, when those films premiered in Asia, Jackie was given top billing over Burt Reynolds and Farrah Fawcett! His Half a Loaf of Kung Fu was pure spoof from the credits forward. Jackie Chan tried most of his career to break through in America, and ironically, his breakthrough came when he was actually no longer trying. He began to get teamed up for Hollywood films alongside Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson. Police Story feels like a movie going for broke in every frame, and the combination of spectacular action set pieces and humor not much of a plot is rapturously engaging.
His next move was to bring martial arts out of the tales of old and into modern times. Nice Guy always had all audio dubbed afterwards, including dialogue, but the effect is not distracting here. It includes a climactic fight where Jackie was actually set on fire more than once. He like all Hong Kong action stars of the time did all of his own stunts in an action movie Hong Kong stars never understood American action stars, who step out and let a double take over when it gets dangerous. Before Jackie, they were always period pieces about fighters in search of a new mystic form of kung fu and the like.
For years I felt like a keeper of a secret. Maybe now justice will be served for Jackie, as Criterion is releasing the action classics that truly put him on the map for good. . Jackie began introducing humor into these films, to the horror of many elitists but to the delight of audiences. This beautifully restored Blu-ray set from Criterion is a must-own.
These films, starting in 1985, helped Jackie bring his new approach to martial arts films full-circle. It was about 1992 when I first got to experience him for real, when a local theatre spent a summer running one foreign film at one time slot each Sunday. Jackie Chan was a phenomenal screen presence; fearless, fast and funny. I would plead for friends to watch some of his true classics with me, such as the Project A and Police Story movies Police Story eventually reached video here in yet another truncated Americanized form, but I had the originals. . .
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