Though there’s always at least a bit of excitement at the release of any new Jackie Chan film, the announcement of “Police Story 2013” came as a particularly big piece of news, being the sixth instalment in the classic stunt filled series. With Chan having obviously aged since his early days of hanging off buses and it having been some 10 years since “New Police Story”, the film unsurprisingly takes a different direction, director Ding Cheng (“The Underdog Knight”) aiming to mix in more drama and emotion with the action. With support from Liu Ye (“The Last Supper”) and Jing Tian (“Special ID”), the film was a Hong Kong-China production, and like most of Chan’s recent outings has more of a Mainland influence and appeal than his early works.
Chan plays Police officer Zhong Wen, who’s in town to meet up with his estranged rebellious daughter Miao (Jiang Tian) in the bar owned by her fancy new boyfriend Wu Jiang (Liu Ye). A strained family meeting takes a turn for the worse when a gang of criminals led by Wu himself suddenly strike and take the bar patrons hostage. Managing to get loose, Zhong Wen is torn between working with the police outside and saving his daughter, while trying to figure out the motivation behind Wu’s scheme, which seems to be connected to an incident in his own past.
Probably the most important thing to be aware of with “Police Story 2013” is that it’s not the “Police Story” franchise fans will be expecting – anyone looking for wild stunts and death-defying acrobatic feats will likely be disappointed. The reality here is that Jackie Chan is now 60 years old, and so while it’s entirely understandable that audiences might want more of what made the series and its star so famous in the first place, it’s by now unlikely to happen.
What we have instead is a more character and plot based crime drama, Ding Cheng attempting to build suspense in order to make up for the relative lack of action. For the most part, this actually works quite well, and it’s obvious that a fair amount of effort went into what’s a reasonably complicated, if flashback heavy script, dealing with themes of revenge and sacrifice. Chan turns in an acceptable performance in the lead, showing a suitable mix of weariness and turmoil, and though the villainous Wu’s plan isn’t terribly sensible, the film makes for engaging and occasionally tense viewing. As with most of Chan’s recent outings there’s a bit of moralising and emotional sappiness, though this thankfully doesn’t detract from the film as a solid, gritty crime drama with an occasionally tough edge, and it’s certainly more downbeat and grounded than any of the other “Police Story” films.
Of course, you can’t really have a Jackie Chan or “Police Story” film without any action, and Ding Cheng does work in a few set pieces, some of which do try to give Chan the chance to show off the fact that he’s still remarkably limber for his age. However, though he does at times swing and scamper his way around the set, for the most part the fights and battles have a more brutal feel than usual, with Chan taking a fair amount of punishment and focusing on endurance rather than light footed monkey business. The choreography is decent, and most of the action sequences are well handled, some imaginative touches helping to distract from the fact that the film mostly takes place in the one basic location.
All of this means that, while “Police Story 2013” arguably would have been better off having not been linked to the series, it’s one of the better action films from the mainland of late, and should just about satisfy most Jackie Chan fans, if not fulfil their dreams of seeing him returning to his glory days. This is really all that can be expected from the star, both in terms of his age and his having moved fully into China-friendly productions, and as such, it’s both better than it could or should have been, and a decent piece of genre cinema in its own right.
Sheng Ding (director) / Sheng Ding (screenplay)
CAST: Jackie Chan … Zhong Wen
Ye Liu … Wu Jiang
Tian Jing … Miao
Wei Na … Na Na
Rongguang Yu … Captain Wu