How Jackie Chan Perfected The Stunt-Driven Action Sequence
Occupying the space between Shaw Brothers boom of the 1970s and the new wave of Hong Kong action cinema in the 1990s, Jackie Chanis incomparably tense and gloriously energetic Police Story served as a bridge to redefine Hong Kong action cinema. By balancing stunt sequences with meaningful storytelling, Police Story weaves a web of sociopolitical and character-driven storylines, commenting on the corruption of the police force through Chan’s narrative Buster Keaton-esque protagonist. By merging the martial arts craftsmanship of the Shaw Brothers era and the “ballet to bullets” of the upcoming films of John Woo and Tsui Hark with a physical stupidity characteristic of the silent era, Police Story perfects the stunt-focused setting with a balance of cinematic spectacle and gripping storytelling. The result is an aesthetic excellence that has undeniably influenced Hong Kong cinema and the action canon as a whole.
Although Jackie Chan remains one of the most important figures in martial arts action cinema both on screen and behind the camera, it is essential to recognize the trajectory of Chan’s career that has brought him to life. leads to Police Story. After a series of cameos in Bruce Lee hits and several small films from Orange Sky Golden Harvest Studios, Chan delivered a star performance in the legendary franchise opener Drunken Master, which would establish his ballet fighting style and comedic approach to acting. In an attempt to capitalize on his newly acquired star power, Chan would make a series of ensemble action films with his frequent collaborator and close friend. Sammo Hungincluding the counterfeit-centric comedy thriller Winners and sinners and the culture shock spy feature Meals on Wheels.
After observing the intricacies of filmmaking on and off screen, Jackie Chan finally added directing to his talent repertoire, slowly advancing his directorial skills through the fairly traditional martial arts film. dragon lord and the brazen post-colonial pirate adventure Project A. Through patient training as an actor and director as well as detailed honing of his athletic craft as a martial artist and stunt performer, Police Story sees Chan at his happy medium between being a fresh-faced talent and a seasoned commander of the big screen, combining zealous self-assurance and artistic mastery to create one of the most entertaining and structured action films in history. the cinema.
Before the first infiltration puncture sequence in Police Story, Jackie Chan establishes the film’s tense narrative through an effective visual montage of all the major players in the police pre-sting briefing, allowing the film to immediately catapult into the action. By prioritizing a stripped down approach to character introductions in order to immediately engage with the stunt set pieces audiences expect in action cinema, Chan demonstrates an expert understanding of the genre’s strengths, drawing from the history of the cinema to bypass any annoyance that might slow down the movie. a break.
As soon as the opening slum sequence begins, the film’s antagonists realize they are being chased by Chan’s detective protagonist Ka-Kui and a host of undercover agents, causing a simultaneous eruption. of hand-to-hand combat and a cataclysmic car chase sequence through the center of town. While a contemporary interpretation of Police Story would more than likely employ computer-generated effects to visualize the destruction of the small village, the use of live sets throughout the film advances both the physical stakes of the action as well as the haunting tactility of the destruction at the screen, creating pure Eisensteinian spectacle punctuated by concise editing and clear camerawork.
While the destruction of the slum advances public understanding of the annihilating power of villains, the conclusion of the car chase which sees Chan dangled from a double-decker bus illustrates the comedic power of Chan’s stunt style, bringing him closer to Buster Keaton on the action hero spectrum rather than contemporary hardbody favorites like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. Casting his detective Ka-Kui as an expressive man who seems just as surprised to be hanging from the bus as the audience, Chan uses slapstick humor to convey a level of relatability that remains especially rare in the action genre. Rather than making dialogue the primary tool for inflecting humor in the action set, Chan’s umbrella hanging from the back of the bus mirrors Keaton’s hanging from the front of a moving train in The general from nearly sixty years prior, demonstrating the timeless heartbreaking humor at the heart of Chan’s action antics.
In a magnificent act of storytelling, the final sequence of Police Story similarly invokes the physicality of humor-tinged action that punctuates the film’s bravura opening in the symbolic spatiality of a shopping mall, extending the slapstick stunts at the center of Police Story set in the realm of 1980s consumerist satire. As Ka-Kui unravels the complicated conspiracy of early digital espionage inflicted by crime boss Chu Tao and his accomplices, Chan’s protagonist encounters the men inside ‘a busy shopping mall to directly retrieve the necessary data files from the criminals. With the help of Chu Tao’s girlfriend, Salina, portrayed with panache and special nuance for the mid-80s by the legendary Brigitte LinKa-Kui defeats the antagonists in a match of technological intelligence and physical savvy.
From extended sequences of death-defying falls through multiple glass panes to hand-to-hand combat in department stores and on escalators, the final sequence matches the iconic opener in terms of balletic violence and slapstick spectacle. Yet even as the opening allows political commentary to seep into the narrative through the dynamics of police corruption and runaway crime, the spatiality of the mall in the film’s finale advances the film’s socio-cultural critique. , juxtaposing the indulgence of criminals in over-the-top violence with the capitalist excess of the 1980s embodied in the mall. By interweaving the subtle satirical parallel between unchecked consumerism and brazen criminal behavior, Chan solidifies Police Story equal parts brain and brawn without sacrificing the socio-cultural significance or spectacular entertainment that makes the film an indelible entry into the action canon.
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