Whether it’s a car chase literally driving through a shanty town or a glassshattering melee in a shopping mall, Jackie Chan’s Police Story is filled with some of the most memorable action sequences of the ‘80s. Chan’s commitment to these dangerous stunts, most of which he performshimself, makes even the most over-the-top moments so believable. Take the scene where the actor is hanging off of a moving bus: A typical Hollywood movie would just show its hero chasing after the vehicle and then cut to him or her on the back bumper. Yet, the capabilities of Chan, who also directs, allows for a vastly different viewing experience as we get to witness his entire process. Following a detective who becomes a target for a big time drug lord after he’s assigned to protect a key witness, the 1985 Hong Kong film is all about the need to break the rules sometimes in order to get things done.
While this isn’t a concept new to storytelling, it’s interesting to watch Chan’s Ka-Kui spiral downward into insanity as he comes to this realization. Despite a couple of silly, Chaplin-inspired non-sequitur scenes in place solely to inject comedy (a phone call deluge in a police station ending with Chan accidentally eating pencil erasers), the film, written by Chan and Edward Tang, features a dynamic plot with elaborately-constructed payoffs and dialogue that doesn’t mince words in order to contrive conflict. Here, Chan’s back is very much against the wall, both literally and figuratively, but his determination is what makes him a hero. Very much a personal struggle as much as it is a tale about retribution, Police Story isn’t just about how skilled our hero is and how hard he hits, but his resiliency to overcome seemingly-impossible obstacles and get back up even when his opponents won’t.