Remakes are almost always unwise. Bigger budgets, different locations, poorer directors and worse actors generally ensure a bad result. Ideas are turned stale, original raison detres translated into poorer reasons for being. Italian Jobs are moved to Los Angeles. Wicker Men are entered by Nicholas Cage. Etc.
Police Story is a film with none of the above worries, for the simple reason that it was pretty rubbish to begin with. It had terrible characters, terrible dialogue and terrible acting in spades: in fact it was a success simply for the amusing awfulness of all three combined with stunt man turned superstar Jackie Chans amazing action scenes.
Since the 1985 original, Chan has sequelled and remade the thing no less than four times, and any originality the first may have had (which wasnt much) has long since been abandoned. The most recent, New Police Story, preserves only one connection to the original – Chan plays a policeman.
A good policeman at that. Chan plays (to avoid any confusion) Inspector Chan who, after years on the job, is the most decorated officer in the Hong Kong police force. Hes solved every case hes ever had. When a group of disaffected rich teenagers start to run riot around the city, robbing banks and shooting up cops for fun, Chan and his men are the obvious choices to track them down.
But, following a tipoff to their hideout, they fall into a trap – a gruesome game created to torture policemen. Each one of his men is taken hostage, and the desperate Chan must play the thieves at games of skill for their lives. He loses.
Scarred by his experience, he turns to drink and despair, losing his job, his wife and his sense of purpose, until a mysterious stranger, calling himself PC 138, throws him a lifeline. But with the killers still at large and the police force still at their mercy – can Chan finally forgive himself, and rediscover the old policeman inside of him?
Unsurprisingly, he can. What is a surprise is that its so good watching him do it.
There are scenes, totally unexpected in a Chan movie, of actual grittiness, where you can almost believe the emotion involved. There are scenes, much more expected, of terrible acting and hilarious mistranslations. There are scenes of genuine tension, there are bad guys you dont end up rooting for, and good guys you might sympathise with. Chan even looks like a half decent actor sometimes. Im not joking.
It seems ungenerous to call it fortunate, but its hard to believe that this equilibrium of laughableness and seriousness was arrived at on purpose. But thats beside the point. With all the usual provisos about martial arts movies stuck on (if you like X youll like Y etc.), New Police Story is genuinely watchable, genuinely enjoyable, and genuinely not nearly as crap as it could have been: I’m looking forward to the next remake already.