Posted in: Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on January 17th, 2013
Shout Factory this week releases a Jackie Chan double feature that I can actually stand behind and say, “Yes, buy this.” Chan has been churning out movies since the early 60’s, and with a rumored retirement looming, soon we’ll only have his vast catalog of films to gush and cringe over. Though I think it is safe to say his body could use a break; after all, how many broken bones has this man sacrificed all in the name of cinema?
Crime Story The first on this double bill is the Hong Kong action flick Crime Story. It opens up with a gang of thugs going through a test run for a kidnapping they plan to do. The plan is to take their hostage while on the streets, in the open where anything and everything can go wrong. The test run alone, which ends in a collision, shows the risk the gang is willing to take. The target happens to be a billionaire, Wong (Law Hang Kang) who already suspects there are men out to kill him, thus introducing Inspector Eddie Chan (Jackie Chan).
Chan is sent out to protect Wong and in the process discovers there are more than a few people who may be out to get him. When protestors come to a construction site Wong owns, Chan begins to suspect Wong may simply using the police to protect him while in the process cutting the former workers out of owed pay.
When Wong is actually kidnapped by the gang we watched earlier, from start to finish this sequence never holds back on the action. Seeing the lengths Chan is willing to go to try to save the man he was ordered to protect, then to see him selflessly rescue an officer injured in the process; the tension simply refuses to let up. Already we know Chan is a tortured cop riddled with guilt after an earlier shoot-out; now with the lives of fellow officers on his hands, we see how it is eating away at him.
As the investigation to the kidnapping intensifies it becomes clear Chan may not be able to trust anyone, which includes his partner Detective Hung (Kent Cheng), when their investigation takes them to Taiwan. And it’s in Taiwan where we are given a beautiful display of martial arts and stunt choreography as Chan fights members of a gang in the rafters of a building. It’s this scene where we not only see Chan shine but it’s a perfect example of how he has become an icon to martial arts cinema.
Not only do I feel this is one of Chan’s finest works, this is one of my favorite action films from the 90’s thanks to the direction of Kirk Wong (The Big Hit). Sure, you can say he took some style points from John Woo, but make no mistake, this film could not have worked if not for the direction of Wong. The money transfer scene alone is enough to make you clamor for more, as he juggles between the kidnappers, the wife hopping bank to bank, to the investigators keeping pursuit. There really are so many great sequences throughout the film it is difficult to even name a favorite, so instead I’ll simply embrace this film and all its glory.
The Protector As much as I did enjoy The Protector, I can’t say that it can held up beside Crime Story with the same excitement. The film does manage to entertain and is a fun entry to the 80’s buddy cop genre. What this film suffers from most, though, is the fact that it is the stereotypical 80’s buddy cop film and oftentimes is funny for all the wrong reasons.
It’s been ten years since Billy Wong (Chan) came to America, and following his shift patrolling the streets of New York, he and his partner have celebratory drinks. Unfortunately the bar is the target of a robbery that goes horribly wrong resulting in Wong’s partner being shot down. Wong takes pursuit in a foot chase along the harbor to a high speed boat chase that concludes with a fiery explosion.
Wong manages to get chewed out by his boss for pulling his “hot dog stunt”, though he earns the respect of his fellow officers for doing all he could to avenge his partner’s death. This affection is shown as an officer begins to applaud as Wong exits the station house and before long all the surrounding officers are applauding enthusiastically. Wong’s punishment leads him to working security at a high-end fashion show. It’s here we meet Danny (Danny Aiello), another rough-around-the-edges cop who plays by his own set of rules. So of course when Laura Shapiro (Saun Ellis) is kidnapped during her own fashion show, the chief of police sends Billy and Danny to Hong Kong to find her.
Though the plot is a rehash of so many other action films, thankfully there are some fun moments of action to keep you interested. The massage parlor scene is silly and fun, as is a chase scene where Billy pursues a gang leader using a motorcycle, giant bamboo poles, and taking giant leaps from one boat to another. It’s this kind of stunt work that keeps the film exciting and fresh.
Apparently throughout the making of the film Chan and the film’s director, James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator), butt heads to the point Chan had an alternative cut for the Hong Kong audiences. But that’s not all. Chan went further in distancing himself from the project and produced another film that same year, Police Story.
Unfortunately this film offers up no surprises, and you can see where this film is heading long before the third act even begins. If anything this film seems like a very early incarnation of a Rush Hour film, and in some ways it’s even better than the Rush Hour sequels, though I’m sure a few people would disagree with me there. The bright side is there are many other Jackie Chan films out there that showcase his talent and will go on to entertain people for years to come.
Crime Story is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 28 mbps. For a film with such a glossy look to it very little color pops with very little ever standing out. The blacks are deep and without much separation. The skin tones look natural, but the overall look simply seemed just a hair better than what you would get on DVD.
The Protector is also presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 20 mbps. The Protector couldn’t look any more different from Crime Story, and it is a reflection not only of style but quality as well. The colors are muddy, and there is plenty of grain throughout. Even when in Hong Kong when on the streets the neon signs lack flare. It’s a very drab film; sure, this could be an artistic choice, but one would figure there should be a different color palette to differentiate the setting changes at least.
Crime Story:, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is a little below par with the excellent video. Now for those of you who can’t stand dubbing, you will have go to the audio options to change the language track over since the default audio setting is English. The audio mix with the music is subtle and the punches, kicks, and gunfire seem to explode from the key speakers. I noticed a little trouble with the consistency with the audio, but it’s nothing too distracting.
The Protector: the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track helps elevate the action scenes, but really that’s about it. I thought I heard a little static or buzz off and on throughout the film, but considering the age and history this film has had, it’s no wonder not much love and attention was put into cleaning up this track.
Interview with Director Kirk Wong: (10:30) A standard interview with the director discussing the making of Crime Story.
Deleted Scenes: (6:23) A handful of deleted scenes cut together.
From New York to Hong Kong: (9:32) Here we have an interview with Glickenhaus where he discusses how The Protector came together, and he discusses his version of events concerning the alternate cuts of the film and the disputes with Chan.
Locations Then and Now: (4:19) A quick look at the locations in New York where the film was shot in 1985 to how the locations look in 2012.
Behind the Scenes: (4:59) A quick BTS look at some of the making of the film and footage of Chan performing stunts for the film. This was a promotion spot for the Asian market, but any fan of Chan and his work will appreciate this.
Jackie Chan’s personal cut of The Protector: This is the cut of The Protector that includes scenes reshot and added for Asian audiences. This cut of the film has extended fight scenes and has a more comedic feel much like the other Jackie Chan films fans have grown to love.
For fans of Jackie Chan who are looking to expand their collection, this Blu-ray is a fun double feature to have. Personally it’s worth getting just for Crime Story, and The Protector is just an added bonus. Sure, this release could have had more time spent on it to make it something really special, but for now this will do.