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Passport Cinema: Supercop

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Supercop demonstrates the best and worst of what a Jackie Chan movie has to offer. The vast majority of Chan fans congregate for the man's latest releases to see some awe-inspiring stunts, tinged with a mild dose of humor. Plot almost always plays second banana to the action in situations like this, but there's a difference between keeping things simple and hardly having any story at all. This is the malady that befalls Supercop, a film that would have been one of the most memorable additions to Chan's career — had the plot not been in such a chaotic state of affairs.

In this third chapter of the popular Police Story series, Chan plays Ka Kui, the pride of Hong Kong's police force. Ka Kui is the most dedicated officer out there, and he knows it, which is why he successfully finagles his most daunting assignment yet. In hopes of busting up an international drug ring, Ka Kui is sent undercover in a prison camp to bust out Panther (Wah Yuen), the brother of cartel bigwig Chaibat (Ken Tsang). The mission goes off without a hitch, but when our laid-back hero discovers that he's in a bit over his head, help arrives in the form of no-nonsense Inspector Yang (Michelle Yeoh). Together, the pair of cops slowly work their way towards taking down Chaibat, all while doing whatever they can to ensure that their cover doesn't get blown.

Supercop is one of Jackie Chan's few R-rated efforts, but by action-movie standards, it's pretty tame stuff. Chan's never been one for nastiness; the fact that his movies depend more on physical dexterity than bloodshed is a credit to his talents as a genre icon. As a result, Supercop's philosophy is pretty simple: fight some bad guys and have fun doing it. The premise is a real yawner, so it's up to ol' Jackie to put his skills towards making sure we can tell this movie apart from the dozens of other action flicks with the very same idea.

To a point, Chan is successful, if only because he and director Stanley Tong approach the material in a manner that's carefree without getting too silly. In any case, the film's most important aspect, the stuntwork, remains intact. The first two acts contain some fun sequences, from a police academy fight to an assault on Chaibat's compound. But the climax is where the good stuff is, a denouement that has Chan perilously dangling off a helicopter whilst flying over a city. Not one to be outdone, Michelle Yeoh gives it her all and comes out kicking as much butt as Chan does.

With some solid action in tow and Chan's personality keeping the mood playful, Supercop should've been a dream come true for the man's fanbase. But too many elements are working against the film — at least in its current form. The version I viewed was released by Dragon Dynasty, a company famous for giving martial arts films the royal treatment. But instead of the longer cut still floating around out there, this Supercop is a slightly re-tooled rendition of the English dub that hit American theaters last decade. The original audio is back, but the hack-job editing is still present, rendering a film already short on plot darn near incomprehensible. Too often the movie stumbles into its action sequences, their abrupt and tactless handling creating an annoyingly choppy sense of pacing. The comedy is also misplaced, randomly thrust in amongst the chaos to no effect. I was also left confused by Chan's own character; if he's supposed to be the most skilled cop Hong Kong has to offer, then why does he never seem to know what he's doing?

About A.J. Hakari