Ditching the Chan Ka-Kui persona from the first four Police Story films and Chan Kwok-Wing from New Police Story, here, Jackie Chan plays Mainland Chinese police Captain Zhong Wen. He goes to meet his somewhat-estranged daughter Miao Miao (Jing Tian) at the Wu Bar, an industrial-chic establishment converted from a factory. Zhong discovers Miao Miao is dating the Wu Bar’s proprietor Wu Jiang (Liu Ye), something he disapproves of. It turns out that his suspicions of Wu Jiang are not unfounded as Zhong and the rest of the patrons get taken hostage inside the nightclub. Wu Jiang pursues a vendetta that began one night five years ago with an incident in a pharmacy, and it turns out that Zhong was there. Zhong has to fight for the safety of his daughter and everyone else held hostage as the police plans an infiltration of the Wu Bar to put an end to a night of madness.
Audiences will know they’re in for something different than the usual Jackie Chan action romp from the opening scene onwards – that scene featuring Jackie holding a gun to his head. In his review of Police Story 3: Super Cop, film critic James Berardinelli said of Jackie Chan’s style, “this is action with a smile, not a grimace.” Well, Police Story 2013 is very heavy on the grimacing indeed. This film is essentially Die Hard in a Nightclub, with Capt. Zhong and the other characters stuck on the premises for most of the film. It’s even set during Christmas, like Die Hard. However, Bruce Willis cracked a good number of jokes but here, Jackie Chan does nothing of the sort, gritting his teeth through the whole affair.
The vast majority of Jackie Chan’s films are exuberant and silly, the actor favouring a madcap style of physical humour and incorporating comedy into action sequences in an inventive manner. While Chinese Zodiac was almost gratingly juvenile, here, we have a Jackie who’s grizzled and hard-boiled. The problem with this is that everything that makes Jackie Chan who he is gets stripped away. There really aren’t enough action sequences in this action thriller and the main fight is a pretty brutal cage match, hits and impacts enhanced with Zack-Snyder style slow-motion and ramping. It’s not an enjoyable melee to watch; that mix of playfulness and peril that Jackie does so well replaced with more typical movie violence.
Ding Sheng, who directed Jackie in Little Big Soldier, pulls triple duty as director, screenwriter and editor. In all fairness, Police Story 2013 isn’t a poorly-constructed film and possesses some effectively dramatic moments. However, Liu Ye makes for a relatively disappointing villain. The character’s motivations are very personal, veering into soap opera territory. As an adversary, he pales in comparison to Daniel Wu’s captivating, wickedly charismatic turn as Joe Kwan in New Police Story. The idea of an aging cop mending bridges with his daughter is far from a new one but Jackie and Jing Tian work well enough as father and daughter.
The frustrating thing about Police Story 2013 is that Jackie Chan is not a bad actor and he can be convincingly serious (see Crime Story or even Karate Kid) – but then, he ends up just like every other action hero. As he gets on in years, he has been open about his desire to take on more dramatic and less action-centric parts. Perhaps we should be glad that he's no longer running through spice markets butt-naked but we’re pretty sure that most of Jackie’s fans will find themselves missing the humour and vim and verve that are his trademarks. As with most of his films, a gag reel rolls as the end credits do, in which we see Jackie flub lines, get nicked by too-realistic prop knives, take some hits and goof off. It only goes to show that “action with a smile” really is his wheelhouse.
SUMMARY: While not a bad film, Police Story 2013 doesn’t play to Jackie Chan’s strengths, turning him into every other tough action hero ever. It’s surprisingly short on the stunts and thrills too.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars