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‘Police Story 3: Supercop’ 4K UHD (review)

88 Films

Police Story 3: Supercop is a Hong Kong action-comedy starring Jackie Chan (Drunken Master, Rush Hour), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and directed by Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx) the film was originally released in 1992 but was re-released in edited form for the American market in 1996. The original unedited version of the film has recently received both a Blu Ray and UHD 4K release from 88 Films.

Jackie once again plays Inspector Ka-Kui Chan of the Hong Kong Police and after the events of the first two films (available in a fine Criterion Collection), he’s jokingly referred to by his superiors as the “Supercop.” He’s pulled for a joint undercover detail to infiltrate and bust a drug gang with operatives spread between the British colony and the People’s Republic of China. The great Michelle Yeoh plays Yang, his partner from the mainland, and Maggie Cheung reprises her role from the first two films as La-Kui’s long-suffering girlfriend.

If Drunken Master 2 represents Chan’s fighting at its absolute peak, and Armor of God 2: Operation Condor contains the best blend of action and comedy in Jackie’s career, Supercop rounds out the trinity of Jackie’s greatest films for one simple reason: this is the greatest stunt work in an action film of all time.

While there are films with a more impressive single stunt (The Roger Moore Bond films spring to mind here), there has never been an action film with the non-stop procession of unbelievable stunts that this film boasts. The film’s Kuala Lumpur finale, in particular, features Michelle Yeoh and Jackie jumping a motorcycle onto a moving train and hanging from a helicopter being smashed through billboards in competing sequences that push the boundaries of what’s possible for an action star to do on film.

There’s literally nothing else like it in film.

Those stunts would be a footnote or a crazy clip on YouTube if they weren’t connected to a fine film and this is one of Jackie’s very best. The first two Police Story films were amazing for the early 80’s, but Supercop takes everything up to the next level by not only expanding the setting of the action outside the Hong Kong city limits but also by giving Jackie a co-star in Yeoh who can match him stunt for stunt, kick for kick, and joke for joke. The opening act gets a lot of comedic mileage out of Jackie’s plucky underdog contrasted by the military seriousness of the CCP’s police, and the uncut version on display here has some surprising social commentary on the problems both Hong Kong and the Mainland seem unable to resolve.

This re-release is the first opportunity for fans in North America to see the uncut version of the film, the previous theatrical and physical releases featured Dimension Films’ cut of the film and the new footage is excellent. Not only does it contain some prescient social commentary but all the action sequences feel longer and flow better. American editors were pretty ruthless to Jackie’s films as they were localized in the wake of Rumble in the Bronx and the recent slew of top shelf Blu-ray releases from Eureka and 88 Films have given fans their first opportunity to see the films not only in the best picture and sound quality but also as their directors originally intended.  Uber-fans will be excited to learn that this release also includes the shorter International Cut in addition to the original Hong Kong Cut.

Modern action fans coming to this film for the first time will appreciate the incredible physical daring it took to make these stunt sequences a reality. As a collective audience we’ve become very numb to computer generated worlds and fancy wirework, but no computer could possibly provide the sense of incredible danger that Supercop creates with its action sequences. From watching actors outrun explosions in Thailand, hang off a mountain in China, or the afore-mentioned stunt extravaganza in the final act, modern audiences will find that the gritty DIY quality of the stunts and the intricate polished choreography still retains the power to shock and thrill that it had upon initial release.

The 88 Films slipcase release is packed with excellent bonus material including a fold-out poster, replica lobby cards, a wonderful 80-page perfect-bound book packed with writing about the film, an interview and assorted archive materials.  The set also includes interviews, audio commentary, outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, trailers, TV spots, a video promo and a vintage 1984 commercial with Chan and Yeoh.

With all that said, the heart and soul of this film is the characters: Jackie’s cocky everyman persona is refined to its fullest here and watching both cops and crooks be initially perplexed by how this sawed off jokester can be a legend, and then alternately shocked when he actually starts fighting is always fun for the audience. The magic of Jackie is his seemingly instinctually knowledge of how to blend his underdog action and physical comedy so that the two are always in harmony and never undercutting the other. We like him so much because he doesn’t go looking for trouble, he’s always at a disadvantage when it starts, and he finds a way to come out ahead. What puts this film in the very highest echelon of his films is that he’s able to play off Michelle Yeoh’s natural likeability and bust through her character’s stoicism and initial disdain and lighten her up, as well. There’s all this unspoken rivalry on both sides of the camera that gives the buddy cop formula a real danger and energy in this film that almost no other instance of the trope has outside of Lethal Weapon.

One of the greatest action films of all time. Highest recommendation.

4 out of 5 stars.

 

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