15 Jan

Jackie Chan, meet John Woo. Supercop.

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday January 15, 2009 | Reviews

supercopBack around 1995 is when I really caught the Hong Kong bug. The Weinsteins were busy importing Jackie Chan flicks and recutting them for a family friendly PG rating. In the meantime, I was running wild on comic shops and shows buying up every bootleg I could and stocking my collection with as much Hong Kong action that I could get my hands on. Yet in spite of some seriously exotic titles my favorites were the ones being recut for American audiences. I loved the John Woo/Chow yun Fat movies as just about anything starring Jackie Chan. My tastes haven’t changed much, either. I love Jackie Chan. For my money, he’s one of the best entertainers in the world.

I always wondered what it would be like if Jackie were to ever team up with my other Hong Kong favorite, John Woo and combine their styles into one feature. It turns out that they had in 1974 on a feature called The Young Dragons.  It was Woo’s first shot at directing a feature with Jackie doing stunts and fight choreography.  Not exactly what I had in mind but I know there’s some snarky asshole out there who would call me on it if I didn’t mention it. I’m thinking of the best of both worlds. Bullets flying, shit exploding everywhere, dudes in suits leaping all over the place with a gun in each hand and Jackie Chan flying in every direction, kicking ass. They never teamed up quite like that but I can dream. In the meantime, the closest thing to my dreamteam flick is Police Story 3, released here as Supercop.

Ka-Kui is one of Hong Kong’s baddest cops. He’s called on by his supervisor to help Interpol infiltrate a triad gang in order to bust the leader, Chaibat.  To do this, he has to go undercover in a mainland labor camp and bust Chaibat’s lieutenant, Panther, out of jail in order gain Chaibat’s trust. Along the way, they’ll betray a Thai drug lord in the Golden Triangle and bust Chaibat’s wife out of a Malaysian prison convoy.

It’s not the clearest of plots but Jackie’s movies have never really been about the story, have they? They’re most accurately described as stunt porn. A series of story interruptions between fight and stunt setpieces, and that’s okay. Jackie’s ability to play the clown is flawless so that even though Supercop is the weakest of the Police Story flicks in terms of story, it’s one of the most entertaining.  Entire plot points are left hanging by the time the signature stunt reel rolls before the credits and the ending is sudden and a silly dismissal of everything you’ve just watched. But hey! Michelle Yeoh lands a motorcycle on a moving train, so all is forgiven, right?

Supercop lands squarely at the center of the Hong Kong golden years. Shaw Brothers style foot and fist dramas had fallen off dramatically as the 80′s ground on and Hong Kong’s signature action epics took a backseat to a rising tide of silly comedies. John Woo’s experiment with crime movies in the form of A Better Tomorrow turned the Hong Kong film industry on its ear and propelled the entire filmmaking community of that corner of the world into an all new direction. The 80′s isn’t a total bust as there is plenty of good stuff to be seen and a lot of great Jackie Chan flilcks like Project A came out of that time but it seemed like industry was looking for itself and high flying gun movies were just what the doctor ordered. At the same time, Jackie was making his own movies and running his own stunt team around this time and his movie became that much more intense. He was doing what he wanted and the llate 80′s into the mid-90′s was a really prolific period in his Hong Kong career. That is to say before he was co-opted by Hollywood and had his wings cut playing second fiddle to Owen Wilson and Chris Tucker. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m a Hong Kong snob. Wait, no, the point I’m trying to make is that Supercop blended popular action themes in Hong Kong at the time with Jackie’s trademark kung fu and willingness to break his ass for a great stunt. It was a rarity. Jackie would try more cops and robbers movies following Supercop but none would be quite this successful. Even Police Story 4, released in the states as First Strike was a bit limp and let’s not even get started on City Hunter or Crime Story. It’s just a good thing that he managed to make Drunken Master 2, easily his masterpiece.

But I’m way off base at this point and I’ve completely neglected to mention the addition of Michelle Yeoh as co-star. Prior to Police Story, Yeoh had done some ads but this was her breakout. Women in Hong Kong typically get the shaft, particularly in Jackie Chan movies, usually relegated to the love interest or a helpless piece of bait that Jackie is constantly rescuing but Michelle Yeoh is often stealing the show right out from under Jackie performing some of Supercop’s best stunt moments, like the aforementioned motorcyle/moving train stunt. There’s also a killer stunt involving her hanging from a speeding van as it weaves through Malaysian traffic. She plays the spoiler to Jackie’s sometime bungling Ka-Kui but gets some funny moments during the attack on the drug camp in Thailand. Jackie and Michelle’s chemistry is present throughout. It’s a shame that they would never make another movie together.

Dragon Dynasty often seems to be cherrypicking Hong Kong action films from the past almost arbitrarily, reissuing a pair of Cynthia Rothrock/Yuen Biao pictures and then a John Woo classic before releasing some minor Jet Li movie and a fantastic Jet Li movie. Hopefully the release of Police Story 3 is a step in the right direction and coming soon is a release of the finest Jackie Chan movie of all time, Drunken Master 2. Are you listening Weinsteins? Drunken. Master. 2. This release, though, is your typical Dragon Dynasty release. It’s ‘A’ plus all the way with a nice looking transfer of the movie, the usual Bey Logan commentary which is packed with trivia for fans of Jackie Chan. Seriously, Logan is a boon to the Dragon Dynasty name. He knows his shit. There’s also a supplemental disc padded out with some interviews with Jackie and so on if that sort of thing is your bag.

Supercop has been available on Region 1 DVD in the past but cut for American theaters. This Dragon Dynasty release is uncut and features much of the bloody violence that didn’t make it in the first time around. It’s a good looking disc packed with great comedy scenes, great fights and even better stunts. Dragon Dynasty does it again.

6 Comments 

  1. January 15, 2009 10:57 pm

    Jeremy Couturier

    Very much like your own experience, I became enamored with Hong Kong filmaking back in the early to mid 90s. The shear volume of films released was staggering and surprisingly the quality of a good portion of the films were right up there.
    I am also a huge Jackie Chan fan, his everyman persona and comic sensibilty are something on the level of Chaplin and Keaton (not Mikey but Buster:)). Also this guy has HUGE cajones to even attempt the stunts in his films, not to mention the serious life threatening injuries he has piled up throughout the years. Chan was wise enough to distance himself from the hard edged persona of Bruce Lee and establish himself as really THE martial arts icon of the last 20 plus years. As he presses on into his 50s and seems to be winding down its great that Dragon Dynasty is releasing films like Supercop in the manner which its deserves. Also as you pointed out so well Michelle Yeoh held her own with Chan and I think any real martial arts fan should check out her work as well, this is one tough pretty woman! Go rent Tai Chi Master with Jet Li or Wing Chun to see Yeoh in her prime (even Oliver Stone was stalking her for a while!) Drunken Master 2, which I still have my bootleg of, is a great choice for this series.
    If there was a Mount Rushmore of kung fu flix I picture Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Sonny Chiba on full display. It was fitting that Chan had a cameo in Tony Jaa’s The Defender, bumping into each other at the airport. I hope Tony lives up to his potential! Sorry for the rambling but Bey Logan has a great book out entitled Hong Kong Action Cinema although its from 1995 so its somewhat limited.

  2. January 16, 2009 12:53 pm

    Thomas

    Is it uncut? I’ve read that it’s the same cut version from the old Dimension release.

  3. January 16, 2009 2:00 pm

    Bryan White

    Ah shit. I need to go back and revise that. Thomas is right. A little more research on the title reveals that the running time is 91 minutes, the same as the Dimension release. Sorry, gang.

  4. January 16, 2009 6:33 pm

    Jeremy Couturier

    I wonder if that means we’ll get the edited version of Drunken Master 2 without the scenes of a brain damaged Jackie Chan at the end of the movie?

  5. January 19, 2009 6:24 pm

    thebonebreaker

    Nice write-up Bryan!

    While I too love Drunken Master 2, my personal Chan favorite is Who Am I?

  6. January 19, 2009 6:31 pm

    Bryan White

    I would have liked Who Am I? more if it didn’t have practically the exact same premise as Once Upon A Time In China And America.


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