Saturday, December 6, 2008

Police Story 4: First Strike

The Action Mutant…
says you can’t have any fuckin’ jellybeans!

Police Story 4: First Strike (aka Jackie Chan’s First Strike)

review by Joe Burrows

I’d like to thank unratedjoe (not me, though it’s an alias I wish I lifted) for this gem that I watched on YouTube (complete with new widescreen setting!). It’s nice seeing a Jackie Chan movie in it’s entirety for a change before Bob Weinstein or some screw gets a hold of it. (Note: The film reviewed here is the 107 minute Hong Kong release of Police Story 4: First Strike, not the 88 minute American release known as Jackie Chan’s First Strike).

The Plot, as it was:
Chan is back as Inspector Chan Ka Kui, a Hong Kong cop recruited to take part in a sting in Ukraine by “the new KGB”. The Russians are trying to bring in Jackson Tsui (Jackson Lau), a spy with a nuclear warhead in his possession that he wants to sell to the highest bidder. When Jackson escapes a sale gone badly, Chan remains on his trail & follows him to Australia. While trying to obtain answers from Tsui’s sister Annie (Annie Wu), Chan finds out he has been doubled crossed by KGB head Gregor (Yuri Petrov), who is really a mobster that’s out for the warhead himself. Jackie Chan v. an imminent threat of nuclear warfare? I know who I’m betting on!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
I’ll admit that the plots to Jackie Chan movies are like a big basin of weak soup. There are some good bits amongst a whole bunch of stock…stock characters, stock situations, stock dialogue, you name it. The funny thing is in the grand scheme of things, one thing is apparent: no one cares. Chan could star in a shot for shot remake of Die Hard with Keanu Reeves as Hans Gruber and no one would bat an eye because Jackie would provide the whole shebang. Not that there aren’t other good elements in First Strike because it at least resembles a cohesive work instead of a highlight reel (four words: Rumble in the Bronx). The location shooting & scenery are stellar and give the production a touch of class sometimes lacking in Action films (yes, folks…Jackie’s really freezing in the Russian tundra!). And it’s always nice to see Bill Tung pop up in a Chan flick, even if he doesn’t have much more to do than sit at a desk & talk on the phone. Um…Annie Wu is pretty hot. And I got to hear the classic Police Story theme, which was worth seeing the HK version for that alone. Ok, so the “cohesive work” is really a warmed over James Bond script & you’ve seen it 100x before. But, it’s Jackie being Jackie and that works, dammit! As usual, his engaging personality shows through & he isn’t afraid to show ass (a figurative term for being the butt of the joke…and literally too, during an admittedly amusing scene). The comedy is broad as ever, ranging from gags involving koalas & poisonous sea creatures to Jackie trying to navigate on stilts. Every conceivable Action piece is thrown into the soup & that’s the meat of it, with everything from a crazy snowmobile chase to Jackie battling a group of guys with a ladder as his main weapon. You don’t watch for the story; you watch to see Chan make the impossible possible and to walk on water (and both of those happen, too!).

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Former pro wrestler Nathan Jones plays the bald hitman that chases Jackie through the apartment.
- Oliver Muirhead is listed as Australian Group #10. You may remember Muirhead as Mr. Blithers, the boss at the MVA on that one episode of Married…with Children where Al Bundy has to get his license renewed & has a disgruntled Bud as his instructor. I’ve watched too much TV over my lifetime. Muirhead has been in plenty of other films & TV shows, usually playing snooty butlers.

Body Count/Violence: 34. This is a fair clip for a Jackie Chan film, though the majority is gunned down during the opening mountainside shootout (and ensuing chase) & the Uncle 7 funeral scene. The rest are either stabbed or become fodder for hungry sharks (Annie works at an aquarium. Sharks are there. Jaws-like music will be played & baddies will be eaten). There’s more stuntwork here than there is fighting but the warehouse fight where Jackie uses the ladder is a showstopper for sure.

Sexuality/Nudity: Wu is in a skimpy bikini or two but Jackie doesn’t even have the time to be a playful cad in this one.

Language/Dialogue: One “bastard” and a few other slight obscenities.

How bad was it?:
There’s not much to go by for the HK version but the critical response in America was mixed. Many scribes pointed out the “James Bond” similarities but usually just went with the flow & watched Jackie do what he does best. This was still during (though near the tail end of) his Rumble in the Bronx grace period in the States where the man could do absolutely no wrong.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Police Story 4: First Strike debuted in Hong Kong on 2/10/96 and became the highest grossing Chan film in HK cinema history. The Golden Harvest produced vehicle stayed in HK theaters for almost 2 months & raked in $57.5 million HK. New Line Cinema distributed it in the States in an 88 minute version (different opening credits, cut scenes, dubbed dialogue, etc.) on 1/10/97. It finished 6th in its opening weekend & didn’t exhibit the same staying power that RitB did, finally grossing $15.3 million. No budget figures were made public.

Film: ***/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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