Review: POLICE STORY 2013 Is Low-Rent, Lacklustre & Dull

James Marsh, Asian Editor
A sequel in name only to Jackie Chan's hugely popular action series, this latest offering moves proceedings to mainland China for a small scale, straight-faced and relatively thrill-free drama with a tendency to pontificate about civil responsibility.

Jackie Chan's Police Story films remain some of the actor's most entertaining and successful work, notorious for their frenetic pacing and jaw-dropping stunt work to this day. While 2004's New Police Story saw things take a turn towards more straight-up drama, this fifth entry in the series hardly seems to belong at all.

For starters Chan plays a totally new character, Police Captain Zhong Wen, a sullen downtrodden law enforcer reeling from the recent death of his wife. Summoned to a nightclub by his estranged daughter, Miao Miao (Jing Tian - recently seen opposite Donnie Yen in Special ID) Zhong unwittingly becomes embroiled in a hostage crisis when the club's owner, Wu Jiang (Liu Ye) locks the doors and takes his guests captive.

Complicating matters, Wu is also Miao Miao's new boyfriend, a coupling Zhong disapproves of wholeheartedly, but that soon becomes a moot point as Wu's plan unfolds. After demanding the release of a convicted murderer, Wu's hostages soon realise they all know each other and that their captor's real motives point to a single tragic event in their collective past.

The set-up is decent, but noticeably low-key compared to earlier films in the series. Approaching the material as "Die Hard in a nightclub", the film has the potential for weighty, high-tension stand-offs, but few opportunities for large scale stunts. As a result, there are a number of tenuously-related flashbacks featuring car chases, punch-ups and shootouts to keep audiences engaged, but even they feel like director Ding Sheng is compensating for his primary narrative, while also firing at a smaller calibre than anticipated.

Along the way, Zhong is called upon by the other hostages to restore law and order, but to do so in a manner that is just and righteous. When Wu's ulterior motives are eventually exposed, almost every character on screen is held accountable for some form of corruption, immorality or otherwise irresponsible behaviour that must be addressed, confessed to and appropriately atoned for before the night is out.

Jackie Chan has been very vocal in recent years about his desire to dial down his action roles and assert himself as more of a purely dramatic performer, as well as further ingratiate himself with mainland audiences and investors - sometimes to the disdain of his Hong Kong fans. While his last film, CZ12: Chinese Zodiac was relentlessly insufferable it proved a monster hit at the Chinese box office and did include moments of innovative stunt work, despite his earlier proclamations.

No such luck in Police Story 2013. Chan leaves almost all of the fighting (what little there is) to other characters, and actually loses his only real scuffle. There is very little bona fide martial arts anywhere in the film - save for a rather baffling flashback in an underground Muay Thai club. Nor do we see much classic Chan stunt work, other than a brief rooftop altercation that never threatens to raise the pulse. Nope, Chan really wants to be taken seriously here. Zhong is a depressed, mournful individual, a confessed bad father, who quite possibly should not be on active duty. Most of the time, Chan just looks like a sad puppy.

Elsewhere, the only characters given any kind of breathing space are Liu Ye's crusading villain and Jing Tian's stroppy daughter, and there's little effort to let either of them grow into anything more profound or substantial. Wu's plan never really makes sense, and is almost inconceivable to execute, while Miao Miao flips implausibly from adolescent rebel to saccharine sweet daddy's girl the moment shit gets real.

Ding Sheng previously collaborated with Chan on Little Big Soldier, a genuine highlight of the actor's recent output, and here is credited as writer, editor and director. Perhaps in an effort to inject some energy into the film, Ding employs plenty of shaky-cam and rapid-fire editing, even during simple dialogue scenes (of which there are many), which are more likely to induce nausea than excitement in his audience.

Police Story 2013 has proved another monster hit on the mainland, where it was released in 3D and IMAX versions and scored Chan his biggest opening day ever. Hong Kong gets only a standard 2D Cantonese-dubbed release, which goes some way to highlighting how little confidence local distributor Emperor Motion Pictures has in the film, while the content and themes illustrate that Chan knows his audience - and it's not us.

As a result, audiences approaching the film as the latest instalment in the Police Story franchise stand to be sorely disappointed. However, for those keen to watch a dour-faced Chan mope around an empty nightclub while Liu Ye lectures people on their civil responsibilities, Jackie will be more than happy to take your cash.  
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  • JP

    I think if the film wasn't called Police Story I may have liked it more.

    The film has scenes that make you think something is going to happen, such as a cool fight or stunt scene (like all previous Police Story's) but disappoints you with nothing happening.

    If you watch this film expecting something like Police Story, then like me you'll be disappointed. If you go into this film thinking more of a up to date Crime Story, then you may like it.

    Also one mistake in the review, as this is the sixth Police Story.

  • cuttermaran

    Saw it and it's good. Forget the "Police Story" title. The movie lives on it's own.
    Short and quick, but good hard boiled action and very good performances by Jackie Chan and Liu Ye. A surprise! And I'm eagerly awaiting another Ding Shen directorial effort.

  • RoboticPlague

    So I saw this yesterday and OMG It was worse than I could have ever imagined. Terrible movie. There is one scene where Jackie is imagining what would happen if swat were to breach the building. It looked like it was shot with a 400 dollar camera. I have seen tv shows with better productions. Please Jackie just stop already. nobody wants to see you in "serious" roles. Stop acting and move on to directing the younger guys. I will never be anxious to see another one of his movies for him alone.

  • tman418

    It really did look like, in the trailers that I saw to this movie, that Jackie Chan was getting his ass kicked.

    I like to see Jackie Chan kicking ass, not the other way around.

    CZ12: Chinese Zodiac was relentlessly insufferable

    Plot-wise, maybe. But I was quite impressed by the action and stunt work, and special effects. In fact, I think much of it was his best in many, many years. Probably comparable to Rumble in the Bronx

    Little Big Soldier, a genuine highlight of the actor's recent output

    Really? I found that movie to be quite long & boring, and really lacking in any action.

    I guess, perhaps, because I don't watch foreign-language films unless there is significant action, I don't really appreciate foreign-language dramas (there are exceptions of course, in my book).

  • Qinlong

    CZ12, Badges of Fury, Tom Yum Goong 2, Special ID and now this... Well I've still to see the latter two for myself, but it seems the past year has been an depressingly off year for the big martial arts actors. Iceman 3D and Last of The Best have a lot of hope to restore.

  • TeamSonnenMan

    they should have brought back tse's character best thing about new police story

  • Qinlong

    Not to mention Michelle Yeoh in Police Story 3... Still hoping they'll make a new film together.

  • marshy00

    I hope to be posting a review of ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHANGHAI today, which offers some hope on that front.

  • RoboticPlague

    soo lucky. I really wish I could see all of these movies in theaters. Perhaps someday.........

  • Stephen Weng

    Ditto on that. This was supposed to be the comeback year for martial arts films. Let's hope The Raid 2 restores that luster in 2014.

  • Qinlong

    Not to mention Wolf War and S.P.L. 2...

  • Man, I'd love Wolf War to be good. Wu Jing aint so young any more and if he doesn't break through soon he's just not going to. A bunch of wasted years for him following SPL ...

  • Qinlong

    Indeed, though I'd salvage a few films (Fatal Contact, Shaolin come to mind) and even isolated performances (he was quite stylish and good in the otherwise unstylish and ungood City Under Siege).

  • Yup, I like Fatal Contact a lot, too.

  • RoboticPlague

    If the Raid 2 fails to impress I will sew my eyelids shut.

  • Well, that's disappointing.

  • marshy00

    Those trailers show pretty much every frame of action in the film - some of which are flashbacks, others actually fantasy sequences of imagined confrontations!

  • cuttermaran

    Don't worry roboticplague, Mr. Marsh is only disappointed, doesn't mean the movie is bad at all. It can't be worse then Special ID ;)

  • marshy00

    I have to say the action in SPECIAL ID is much better.

  • RoboticPlague

    damn lol. I thought the action in Special ID sucked. Donnie Yen is hit and miss when he does the choreography. Sometimes it is awesome then there are others it is ridiculously bad. Didn't help that Clarence Fok is a shitty director.

  • RoboticPlague

    Uhhhg son of a bitch. I had high hopes for this and now I completely give up on Chan. Will I watch it? Yes. Will I enjoy it? Doubtful.

  • Ken Spaziani

    I loved it; I thought it was a great combination of say.... Shinjuku Incident, Crime Story - put into a hostage situation. With unique flashback retakes.

  • RoboticPlague

    Worse than Chinese Zodiac and The Medallion combined.

  • Ronald Swanson

    Bullshit.

  • RoboticPlague

    Nope.

  • Ronald Swanson

    My apologies, I'm just trying to comprehend something that's actually worse than The Medallion.

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