Should I Watch..? 'Police Story 3: Supercop' (1992)
What's the big deal?
Police Story 3: Supercop is a Hong Kong action film released in 1992 and is the third instalment of the Police Story series. Although he relinquishes directing duties to Stanley Tong, Jackie Chan reprises his role as Inspector "Kevin" Chan Ka-Kui - a police officer with the Hong Kong police who is this time assigned to accompany a Chinese Interpol agent in her pursuit of a drugs baron. Eventually, the film received a US release in 1996 where it was simply titled "Super Cop" after the success of Chan's Rumble In The Bronx the year before. The film was redubbed into English and edited down by about ten minutes but was released to a positive critical reception. The film's many stunt sequences were especially well recognised with director Quentin Tarantino claiming that the film features "the greatest stunts ever filmed in any movie ever".
What's it about?
Chan Ka-Kui is a "supercop" within the Hong Kong police force with exceptional martial arts skills. He is dispatched to Guangzhou in mainland China to meet up with Inspector Jessica Yang, China's Interpol director, who wishes to work alongside Ka-Kui to bring down drugs baron Chaibat. In order to do so, both Ka-Kui and Yang adopt new identities and work to spring Chaibat's right-hand man Panther out of prison. Once Panther reunites with his old running gang, they head off to Hong Kong.
Before long, Ka-Kui and Yang find themselves at Chaibat's luxury retreat and escort Chaibat to a meeting of heroin dealers. But it soon emerges that Chaibat has other interests at heart - his wife Chen Wen-Shi has been arrested by the Malaysian police and he needs her freed in order to access his Swiss bank account. With Chaibat in control, Yang and Ka-Kui find themselves assisting the villain with an audacious jail-break with the life of Ka-Kui's unsuspecting girlfriend May hanging in the balance...
What's to like?
Chan has long been established as the clown prince of kung-fu with a long list of credits that feature him either goofing around or dispatching baddies with whatever is laying around. Police Story 3: Supercop enables him to do just this - in the action scenes, he is as assured as he is when he lightens the mood. It is impossible to take your eyes off him, especially when the film's legendary finale kicks into gear. At times, you're watching through your fingers as Chan and the rest of the cast flirt with danger and death to bring you the most exciting film possible. Health & Safety would have had a field day if they were allowed on set.
Equally good is Yeoh who shows no sign of rust during her brief retirement. She might not be quite as funny with the comedy but that wouldn't suit her character anyway - in the action scenes, however, she is just as impressive as Chan. Together, they make this movie a real once-in-a-lifetime treat for jaded action fans tired for the same macho slogs produced by Hollywood. This is action wearing a jester's outfit instead of a bandolier and trench-coat.
- Both Chan and Yeoh performed a number of stunts themselves, often with painful results. Chan claims to have dislocated a cheekbone during production while Yeoh's motorcycle stunt took several takes to get right as she kept falling off.
- The film possibly inspired two missions in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The mission Wrong Side Of The Tracks features a motorbike chasing alongside a train while End Of The Line features CJ chasing the baddie in a red open-top car trying to catch Big Smoke, something Chan also does in the film.
- The film was responsible for Yeoh coming out of retirement following her divorce. She later went on to enjoy a career renaissance in films like Tomorrow Never Dies and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, arguably becoming an even bigger star than she was before.
What's not to like?
As a rule, I generally try to avoid dubbed movies because it's simply too distracting. While this movie at least has the sense to bring Chan and Yeoh in to redub their lines, the film still has that hokey B-movie feel to it that almost ruined Enter The Dragon. The plot isn't that obvious due to the poor dubbing and certain characters are undermined as well - take the Thai general running the heroin trade, sadly voiced by the unmistakable Burt Kwok. It led to him simply not feeling as dangerous or villainous as the film-makers intended. If you can, track down a subtitled version of the original - the film would be much improved, I'm certain.
There were also times when the comedy turned rather farcical, especially when Chan's girlfriend May is clumsily introduced into the picture later on. Parts of the film feel somewhat dated and display a backward-looking approach to gender equality, despite Yeoh kicking all kinds of ass across the film. Chan's comedic style is very much inspired by Buster Keaton and the wily master bumbles his way through the picture like Inspector Clouseau like crack. While the slapstick is funny, I'm not sure it belonged in a movie like this - the film seems to be trying to be an action-thriller which Chan has brought comedy into. It's certainly less serious than the other two Police Story movies but does that mean it's less entertaining, really?
Should I watch it?
Regardless of whether it's dubbed or not, Police Story 3: Supercop is an exhilarating and exciting thrill-ride that will leave you wanting more. The action scenes are better than almost anything Hollywood could counter with and Chan's unique abilities, coupled with Yeoh's explosive performance, make the movie far better than it should be. However, the dubbed release for American viewers makes a real hash of it and reduces the film to little more than the usual kung-fu clichés. Stick with the original, however, and feel free to avoid that an extra star.
Great For: action fans, raising interest in Asian cinema, Yeoh's career
Not So Great For: anyone who hates dubbed films, devotees of The Matrix
What else should I watch?
Chan's career goes back a lot further than most people might think. From his earliest roles as a stuntman on Bruce Lee movies like Enter The Dragon to his breakthrough appearance in 1978's Drunken Master, Chan would slowly enter the Hollywood mainstream after his appearance in The Cannonball Run. Interestingly, it would be that film's use of outtakes during the end credits that inspired Chan to do the same for his films.
The concept of 'supercops' is one that American audiences have been used to for a long time - the idea that one man can see the law upheld with the right set of skills. From Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry to Bruce Willis as NYPD officer and generally unlucky dude John McClane in the Die Hard series, a number of action films often feature a lone protagonist fighting against the bad guys. Even the likes of James Bond could be argued to follow this idea...
"Kevin" Chan Ka-Kui
Michelle Yeoh (credited as Michelle Khan)
Inspector Jessica Yang
Edward Tang, Fibe Ma & Lee Wai Yee *
Release Date (US)
26th July, 1996
Action, Comedy, Thriller
© 2016 Benjamin Cox