For about 20 years, Jackie Chan has been saying he wants to stop doing action and concentrate on drama. Fortunately, for the past two decades he’s kept doing amazing action movies like The Myth, Rob-B-Hood and Chinese Zodiac, so I’m not too worried anymore. Chan is a good actor, but there are lots of good actors. If I want to watch drama, I could watch Robert DeNiro Nicolas Cage, Amy Adams or Brit Marling. If I want to watch comedic martial arts, nobody’s better than Jackie Chan, and there are really no alternatives. But he’s given us so much, at great cost to his physical well being, so I don’t begrudge him wanting to explore different genres too.
So he uses his famous Police Story franchise as more of a transitional vehicle for drama. He actually did that with New Police Story too, but even that had a few elaborate action scenes. Police Story: Lockdown is much more of a contained drama, but it’s not as action-less as the likes of Shinjuku Incident. It’s more akin to his Crime Story but I get it, Police Story is the popular brand that lets him take dramatic risks.
Chan looks sufficiently grizzled as Zhong Wen with a buzz cut and more than one Lethal Weapon moment. He switches seamlessly from grizzled veteran to kindly negotiator, as a real cop would have to do under pressure. Zhong ends up in a hostage situation, but flashbacks give us more reasons to see him in action. Lockdown is sort of Die Hard in a Nightclub, only the police outside have a little more to do with the plot.
There are several opportunities for Zhong to fight. It’s not comedic, but it’s still Jackie Chan so its graceful and elegant. There are car chases and gunfights too, so it’s not like a total drama. We still get to see outtakes at the end, in which we see they still had fun on the set, although interestingly the most common struggle was to keep certain shots from looking comedic.
It’s interesting, the original Police Story was a reaction to American cop movies of the ‘80s, particularly Chan’s bad experience making The Protector. While it had outrageous violence that caused injury to Chan and his stunt team, it also had the comedic tonal shifts that characterized Hong Kong Cinema. In the past three decades, the international market has caught up with Hong Kong so the comedic tonal shifts have given way to the more internationally generic gritty drama. There still are Hong Kong comedies, and Chan’s previous film Chinese Zodiac had it, but Police Story: Lockdown feels more in trying to keep up with David Ayer or David Fincher.
Or, maybe it just allowed Chan the opportunity to do what he wants without taking a total departure from action. I’ll always support my favorite artists and I was much more pleased to see the creative expressions of serious action than I was to struggle through Shinjuku or the awkward romance of Gorgeous. I’ve been mentally preparing myself for Jackie Chan’s retirement for 20 years now. I think I’m going to be okay now. It seems he’s finding ways to go easier on himself but stay relevant to his fans. Plus he gave us about 20 more movies after he vowed retirement so I’d consider that pretty generous.
Rating – VOD