Director: Ding Sheng
Cast: Jackie Chan, Liu Ye, Jing Tian, Guli Nazha, Liu Yi Wei, Yin Tao, Zhou Xiao Ou, Liu Hai Long, Wu Yue, Liu Pei Qi, Yu Rongguan
RunTime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: GV and Clover Films
Opening Day: 24 December 2013
Synopsis: Night. Inside an enormous bar on a busy street, all the patrons are being held hostage. Among them are policeman Zhong Wen and his daughter Miao Miao, and several strangers who seem to have met before…. The kidnapper is the bar owner Wu Jiang. His only demand is the release of a long-term prisoner. What motive is worth this risk? The prisoner is brought to the scene of the crime, but the police now face an even greater crisis, as a cold case is re-opened. Cold is the mind of the policeman, decisively using his wits to resolve the crisis; his mission is to find – the truth. Cold is the blood of the criminal, calmly carrying out his evil plan for – his revenge. Cold are the hearts of uncaring people, reacquainted only to pay the ultimate price for their selfishness – their lives. Cold are the facts that prove to the rebellious Miao Miao through her extreme ordeal with her father – their love. This is a death-match to avenge a lost love.
Police Story 2013 while retaining the iconic title and its marquee star Jackie Chan is by and large a huge departure from the rest of the entries including the 2004 reboot by Benny Chan. Scripted and directed by Ding Sheng who did Little Big Soldier, this crime drama set entirely in Mainland China is a far grittier, melancholic affair.
Even with Chan’s trademark elaborate daredevil stunts and fights glaringly missing for those acquainted with the franchise, Ding Sheng manages to keep things tense and taut with almost the entire movie set in an enclosed bar. Arthouse favourite Liu Ye plays the bar owner, Wu Jiang who mysteriously holds his patrons, policeman Zhong Wen (Jackie Chan) and her estranged daughter, Miao Miao (Jing Tian) hostage. Demanding the release of a prisoner, Wei Xiao Fu in exchange for the hostages, Wu Jiang’s motive is revealed to be finding out the person responsible for her sister’s death five years ago. But what has Zhong Wen and three key hostages got to do with it?
To be frank, it does take a while before Ding Sheng can find his footing and establish the motives of his characters especially with Wu Jiang who appears to be so ambiguous and relaxed in the beginning. Interspersed with some soapy dramatic arc of Zhong Wen, the hardworking cop who neglected both his wife and rebellious daughter and a noisy bunch of supporting cast including a news team, a pair of generic boyfriend and girlfriend, a guy collecting his bad debts and more grabbing your attention, the first 30 minutes is honestly a drag to sit through.
Issues as such require much patience and it doesn’t help that much of the action you seen in the trailer comes from Zhong Wen’s recounting some of his past cases to Wu instead of them happening in real time. There is just one scene of Zhong Wen squaring off with one of Wu’s henchmen in a cage though the mixed martial arts inspired sequence is hampered by too much close up and quick camera movement. Another issue is that Ding Shen always try to showcase Zhong Wen’s thoughts to ruffle the feathers of the audience for example a sudden scene showing Wu Jiang getting shot at by snipers is in actual fact just a figment of Wen’s thoughts. Talking about the differences between imagination and the reality.
Fortunately, in the last half an hour, Ding Sheng’s Rashomon-like crime drama finally redeems itself with the true revelation surrounding Wu’s sister death in a pharmacy. As everyone screams and talks about their version of the fateful night, ugly bits and pieces of information slowly surfaces and a surprise twist right to the end brought the situation to a decent closure. Those familiar with Ding Sheng’s works will know he is one filmmaker who prefers to work on a miniscule canvas and Police Story 2013 is yet another proof of his token touches despite the latest entry going against the sometimes globe-trotting nature and generally action packed Police Story series.
It’s sacrilegious not to mention our aging action hero, Jackie Chan who puts in a more than decent performance as the suffering Zhong Wen, one who is bound by his job, responsibility and his guilt towards his late wife and daughter. Who knows an acting award might be in line for the action star next year. Jing Tian last seen as the kick-ass policewoman opposite Donnie Yen in Special ID is largely underused as Zhong Wen’s daughter while Liu Ye shedding off his usual dramatic roles impresses with his cage fighter turned bar owner character though his prior villainous role in Connected is far more convincing.
Almost a decade later, Police Story has spin yet another crime tale although for this 2013 entry, you will no longer be seeing Chan creating havoc in KL, Queensland or across the island of Hong Kong, this ultimately is a showcase of Chan’s acting chops in the later phase of his decades long acting career.
(Perhaps a subtle send-off for his Supercop character, Police Story 2013 wins in storytelling instead)
Review by Linus Tee