Weekend Retrospective - Glass Story


Jackie Chan's output between the late 70s and early 90s is often something I find difficult to choose a favourite from, with hits and their sequels cropping up almost as soon as he began working for Golden Harvest after a brief stint at Seasonal Films brought him into the public eye. Fans of hair raising stunts, action comedy and goofy facial expressions are pretty much spoilt for choice in this era.

It's often an embarrassment of riches, whether you prefer the classic old school thrills of The Young Master or the later more refined period adventures in Project A. There are plenty of team ups with his old opera school pals to choose from with familiar faces popping up throughout. Where to even begin? For me though it always comes back to the eye watering, glass breaking, shanty town destroying madness that is Police Story.

As the story goes after trying and failing a second time to break into the US market with crime thriller The Protector (after a misfire with The Big Brawl but before international fame in Rumble in the Bronx) Jackie decided to sit down and make his own kind of cop movie. He now had complete freedom with his own production company Golden Way and as many steel railings and window panes as he could get through.

Who else would let him get away with including the sort of fight scenes he dreamt up here. Perhaps it's cruel to think that his failures in America were worth it just so he would get inspired to mastermind this kind of extravaganza, but the results speak for themselves, they completely get schooled on how to make a martial arts movie.

In a lot of ways it's an uneven mixture, throwing in all kinds of domestic tribulations, slapstick humour and silly jokes. In one instance an undercover officer has a total meltdown after coming under real life and death pressure, but soon after there's a silly press conference and publicity photo montage. They even use two pie in the face style gags, both in scenes following a violent encounter with a gang of armed thugs for some reason.

The tone veers wildly from grim stake outs, explosive car wrecking chase sequences and sinister gangster intimidation. But the likeability factor wins out because everything is always so energetic, the momentum keeps it going. Unlike the later attempts at dark seriousness in later films like Crime Story (sigh) or the modern spin-offs of this series, here they know exactly what to include in terms of characters and situations.

The underdog police sergeant Chan Ka-Kui (sometimes just dubbed as Jackie) is the perfect character in terms of his performance style and disposition. The endless girlfriend trouble and the big court room debacle are pitfalls that suit the character and make you root for him when far more dangerous developments come along. The streak of bad luck is just a great fit, it's far better than any kind of grim drama and works alongside his invincible hero factor.

Maggie Cheung as his long suffering romantic interest is always entertaining, but it's clear that she's adapted to more versatile roles in the years that followed. A lot of the supporting cast are also plenty of fun whether it's Jackie's superiors or the camp villains. The obligatory 80s Hong Kong comedy 'hiding in bathrooms/bedroom' scenes are present and correct too, as if they'd skip that kind of childish humour. But the tone is fairly stable -- it's a movie that ends with the star and director also singing the theme song after all.

There's always a certain charm to it all, and while dark moments are included during the third act it never goes overboard like the second entry in this series or some of the other action comedies from this period. While the sequel is often great to watch, a few moments are almost too mean spirited to fit with the overall spirit of things. This first release builds up to a satisfying blend of melodrama and double crosses that is generally more suitable.

Of course there's plenty of action, the kind that makes your head spin when you even start to consider the sort of pre-production nightmare it must have required to pull off, and the amount of injuries that were caused. The opening and closing set pieces are just a massive kitchen sink effort as metal shacks are ripped down, motorbikes push henchmen through store fronts, and stunt performers fly out of upper floor bus windows. The elaborate and meticulous kung fu moves from the traditional period have all been left aside in favour of a more grounded choreography style, and there's a certain kind of painful, wince inducing feel to most of the sequences.

The sort of dedication, or at least insanity required to even consider the falls and hits needed never fails to impress -- even when you can see their JC Stunt Team vans in the background of certain shots. But the people involved want to show their skills, so even when things go badly, horribly wrong they want to keep all their near misses in the final cut. After all pain is temporary, film is forever; and where better to find a record of all those cuts and bruises than here in their finest effort.