Supercop is really just the American title for the third entry in Jackie Chan’s very popular Police Story series in Hong Kong. For the first time in the franchise, Chan decided to go with an outside director, and he made a wise choice with newcomer Stanley Tong. Tong might have been a green director, but he had a natural feel for the abilities and strengths of his mega-star. The two would go on to collaborate on several more films after this rather remarkable first time pairing. It didn’t hurt that Tong not only had Jackie Chan to draw upon for the film, but he also had Chan’s Hong Kong film female equivalent with the talented Michelle Yeoh. Both stars are accomplished martial artists and perform nearly all of their stunts without the use of doubles. Tong’s task here was to allow his stars to “do their thing”, yet bring something new and fresh to the formula of Police Story, and to a certain degree all of the Jackie Chan films. He succeeded on all accounts, and Supercop is easily the best of the Chan Police Story films. The two would also team up for one of Chan’s most popular films, Rumble In The Bronx. While I’ve not seen anywhere near all of Chan’s Hong Kong outings, this is high and away the best that I’ve seen from that market.
Jackie Chan once again stars as police inspector Chan. When he overhears his superiors talking about a dangerous mission in need of a “supercop”, Chan volunteers for the task. Of course, he has to convince his girl that the month long job is going to be easy and safe, all the while giving her his life insurance policy and bank book records. Chan’s job is to pretend to break the infamous Panther (Wah) out of State custody and infiltrate the organization. He is briefed and trained by INTERPOL Inspector Jessica Yang (Yeoh). Once he’s ready the breakout commences, but the military guarding the prisoner aren’t in on the gag. After dodging bullets and missiles, Chan gets Panther safely away. Now the gang wants to meet with their contact in a local town that just so happens to be Chan’s cover story hometown. This is where his family is supposed to be. The only trouble is that Chan’s never been there before. INTERPOL sets up a fake group of family and friends, and it’s amusing to watch Chan try and fake his way about knowing these people when he’s not even sure who they are each even playing. Chan has a particular problem when he’s introduced to his “sister” played by Yang. The two follow the gang through various government operations to recapture him. Finally they’re in it for the meet and payoff, but Chan’s cover gets blown by a chance meeting with his girl, May (Cheung). Now it’s as much a matter of survival as of bringing down the bad guys.
This is one of those films that plays to the strengths of its stars. Chan is allowed to show his entire range here. There are plenty of light moments and hijinx where Chan gets to buffoon around a bit. There are also some pulse raising stunts, giving Chan the chance to stretch his abilities. The best is a helicopter gag where Chan is flown about hanging on a rope ladder swinging from the wildly flying chopper. The story isn’t really overcomplicated, and Tong wisely lets the characters and action tell the story for him. I haven’t seen as much of Michelle Yeoh in the past, but she’s just as capable as Chan in this one and performs some rather hair raising stunts in her own right. The two together form one of Chan’s best pairings. The action almost never lets up. There are plenty of gun fights, martial arts throwdowns, and chases to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The Malaysian locations add a more exotic location than some of Chan’s more urban looking films. Now we get some jungle warfare and a rather beautiful city to wrap the action around. The film may be 17 years old, but it plays out as well as any recent action thriller of its kind. Of course there are edits and particular musical changes made for the American audiences, but it’s a thrill ride you’ll want to take more than once.
Supercop is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is a pretty sharp picture for a standard definition DVD. I’m getting a little worried about being jaded by watching more and more high definition on Blu-ray, and I fear being disappointed by even the best DVD presentations that come along. Watching a transfer like this one helps to put those fears to rest. Colors are brilliant when they need to be. The jungle settings come alive with shades of green. Of course, I did find myself wishing for HD detail, particularly while Chan was hanging from the chopper. These are the kind of scenes that allow you to appreciate the fact that it really is Chan if you’re watching it in HD. Still, this film left me feeling about as satisfied as I can be by the DVD capabilities. The print was pristine. There wasn’t any distracting level of compression artifact. Black levels were reasonably solid. You won’t find anything to complain about in this image as long as you continue to maintain perspective and compare like with like. It’s a task I find to be the most difficult now that I’m seeing both formats on a regular basis.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds about as dynamic as it could be, until you check out the DTS version. Both are solid and offer clear dialog, crisp music, and lively surrounds. The DTS adds an extremely noticeable punch in the subs. When those mortars are going off in the jungle my sub shook the walls. It wasn’t just loud, it was filled with depth. The firefights offer the best example of the aggressive surround mix. Bullets and debris appear to be zinging all about you. Heck, I even think I caught myself ready to duck. There were a couple of looping flaws, but with a foreign film you really need to expect that from time to time. This is a solid presentation. I dare you to tell Jackie that it wasn’t!
There is an Audio Commentary by Hong Kong cinema expert, Bey Logan. If you are interested in the differences between the American and original versions Logan this track is extremely helpful. In addition to providing a ton of insight into the film and Jackie Chan, he gives a superior in-depth analysis of the changes made in the film to appeal to the Western audiences.
Disc 1 contains the film and commentary. Disc 2 contains the extra features. All of the features are really a collection of interviews with principles:
Flying High – An Exclusive Interview With Star Jackie Chan: Chan is extremely relaxed and candid in this sit down. It looks like he’s in his own living room. Chan offers a lot of insight into his filmmaking philosophy. He talks about teaming up with Stanley Tong and Michelle Yeoh. He elaborates on the stunts, spending a lot of time talking about the helicopter stunt. Finally he talks about the differences in making a Hong Kong film versus one in America. It appears that in Hong Kong, when the director calls for quiet on the set, he’s as likely to be ignored as not. It’s a fast 19 minutes.
Dancing With Death – An Interview With Leading Lady Michelle Yeoh: At 23 minutes you get more time with Yeoh than you do with Chan. She talks about her dance background and how she first got into films. She breaks down footage of a stunt from the film that went awry. She also proudly talks about the stunts that went well and how she was expanding upon her abilities.
The Stunt Master General – An Exclusive Interview With Director Stanley Tong: Tong breaks down the key moments in the film during this 20 minute talk. He recaps his history with Chan for us as well. It’s a good solid piece, but by now some of these same film clips are getting old. Tong talks about the technology that was available in 1992. Apparently even wire removal was in its infancy.
The Fall Guy – An Exclusive Interview With Jackie Chan Bodyguard, Training Partner, And Co Star Ken Lu: This was my least favorite feature. Lu speaks in Chinese with English subtitles. He talks about his long time relationship with Chan dating back to 1986.
When you read this review it might be hard to guess that I’m not actually a fan of martial arts cinema. I never could watch those Saturday matinee films of the 70’s with the terrible lip synch. Jackie Chan is different, however. I don’t think you have to be into that scene to enjoy what he does. He’s almost like the “everyman” martial artist. There’s something about him that just draws you in and he uses that to full advantage so that he can take you on a perilous ride and drop you off safely back in your favorite seat when it’s all over. All the while he gives you this mischievous wink as he leaves you. Supercop is one of those films. I recommend you pick a copy up today. Be careful when you drive that film home. Don’t go over any bad bumps, because there’s something you need to know about that DVD case, “It’s filled with dynamite”.