In each successive film, Jackie Chan is more and more a pleasure to watch. Hong Kong's stunt and kung-fu legend is not only an amazing athlete and action star, but a gifted comedic actor as well. To wit: Supercop.
As precocious as the name is (it's the American title -- Supercop is actually the third installment in the Police Story series), Supercop shows off both sides of Chan's ability quite well -- much better than the mysteriously more popular Rumble in the Bronx. Some of this is probably due to the presence of Michelle Yeoh -- but more about that later.
That wacky Chan...
anything for a laugh.
For those of you who saw the original Police Story or Police Story 2, the premise is much the same: Chan plays Kevin, Hong Kong's resident "supercop" (hence the American name) and action junkie. As the film opens, Kevin is eavesdropping on a conversation between his "Uncle" Bill, captain of the police force, and a higher-up. The higher-up wants Kevin to work on a dangerous assignment, but Bill refuses to assign Kevin to the case -- he thinks Kevin will get killed. While he admits that Kevin is the best cop on the force, he still thinks the assignment is too dangerous. Once the higher-up leaves, Kevin pleads with Uncle Bill to let him work on the case. Bill finally acquiesces, and Kevin smiles to himself for convincing his Uncle Bill that he's a big boy. Once Kevin leaves, we discover that the entire conversation was for Kevin's benefit. The higher-up emerges from hiding and the two men congratulate each other (somewhat shamefacedly) on their cleverness. It's pure movie magic from there.
Kevin's assignment takes place in communist China proper and Malaysia. His new superior (played by Michelle Yeoh) tells him of his mission: He is to infiltrate a group of drug-runners and terrorists by aiding the escape of an unwitting prisoner who is one of their number. This prisoner, known as "Panther," adopts Kevin into the fold for the great job he did busting him out of jail.
If we were forced to pick an actress who would then beat the living daylights out of us, it would be Michelle Yeoh. Then at least we could keep some self-respect, because we'd know we were being bludgeoned by the best. Yeoh is an accomplished athlete, as she has shown in films such as Wing Chun and Heroic Trio. Although we understand she practices no martial arts, she sure does fake it well. She didn't know how to ride a motorcycle before the shooting of this film either, but you'd never know it by the way she lands on top of that moving train. Yeoh, like Chan, does her own stunts.
The pain of such a beating would also be lessened by the fact that Yeoh is no slouch in the looks department, either. If you think she starts out homely in that uniform at the start of the movie, wait 40 minutes and you'll change your tune. Please keep in mind that this scenario would only be desirable if we were forced to choose. We don't normally fantasize about being beaten up by actresses -- at least not that we admit to each other.
Yeoh and Chan buddy it up in Supercop.
Yeoh's presence in Supercop is quite welcome. She makes a good partner for Chan -- proving that sometimes "buddy" movies really do work. It's nice to see Chan's goofy faces and reactions bounce off of someone besides the bad guys.
Supercop was Jackie's second feature under director Stanley Tong. This fact is noteworthy because Chan has a tendency to alienate any one tries to direct him. Wong Jing was apparently so scarred by his experience with Jackie on City Hunter that in Jing's next film, High Risk, he created an unflattering parody of Jackie's persona. Perhaps Chan and Tong found kindred spirits in each other. By this we mean they're both crazy.
Stories of Jackie's insanity are numerous (we call him the Human Bruise), so we won't go into any more detail. But we do have a story to relate about Stanley Tong. During the making of Stone Age Warriors, Stanley was hesitant to send his two female stars over a waterfall as the script demanded. So instead, he and his head stuntman dressed as the two women, tied themselves to a branch, and went over themselves. At least we know he's not asking his stars to do anything he isn't prepared to do himself. You'll also see the insane Mr Tong at the top of a crane with a camera in the outtakes at the end of Supercop.
What Tong brings to his films is crunch -- lots and lots of crunch. During the numerous actions scenes in Supercop, and in particular the final prison van/wimpy sports car/helicopter/motorcyle/train chase at the end, all sorts of collisions are staged for our unbelieving eyes, all rendered in loving detail. Watch in particular the scene in which the helicopter is tied to the train -- where do you think the creators of the Mission Impossible movie got the idea, anyway?
Chan's signature expression.
And as if that weren't enough, at the end of the film we get to see outakes of the stunts that didn't work. Our favorite is one where Michelle Yeoh is hanging off the prison van and is supposed land on the hood of a moving car. In the outake, Michelle misses her mark and hits the pavement. Meanwhile, her spotter lurches into frame, makes a grab for her, and then eats pavement himself. In scenes like this, the creators say to us, "Look how much pain we went through to make this film. You don't want that to be for nothing, do you?"
At the heart of it all, though, is Jackie Chan. He not only kicks butt, but manages to be funny and sensitive as well. Jackie is a real man's man -- he can stage a fight on top of a moving train while wearing a pastel yellow jumpsuit and still look plenty macho. When was the last time you saw Arnold Schwartzenegger in a pastel yellow jumpsuit? And hey, Arnie doesn't even do his own stunts.