From the late 1980’s through the mid-1990’s, Jackie Chan experienced what you might call the “sequel era” of his career. Though the prolific star did some noteworthy original films during these years, he spent just as much time making sequels to prior hits like Project A and Drunken Master. Police Story 2 was the sequel that kicked off this era: as with most sequels it is not a groundbreaker but fans will like it because it finds Chan using his commercial clout to indulge his action film skills on a large scale.
Police Story 2 begins with hero Ka-Kui (Chan) under a dark cloud: he’s been demoted for the expenses of his justice crusade, his nemesis Chu (Chor Yeun) is out of jail for “health” reasons and Chu’s thugs are giving his long-suffering girlfriend May (Maggie Cheung) a hard time. Ka-Kui quits the force and is about to take a vacation with May when a new criminal threat pops up in the form of extortionists who aren’t above bombing a mall to make their point. Ka-Kui rejoins the force and starts to work with a squad of undercover cops to track down the extortionists – but this new mission will be complex and possibly deadly for both him and May.
The big surprise with Police Story 2 is how story-driven it is: it doesn’t skimp on the acrobatic fights or explosive action but it also devotes much more time to the relationship between May and Ka-Kui as well as a lot of nuts-and-bolts depictions of the police investigation. Unfortunately, having an abundance of these scenes doesn’t mean they enrich the story – these moments are handled in a boilerplate style and merely make the story longer (at 122 minutes, it could have easily lost a reel without sacrificing coherence). Since Chan is both star and director here, it’s very easy for him to indulge himself – and Police Story 2 is a much more episodic and awkwardly-paced film than the original.
That said, Police Story 2 never becomes dull thanks to Chan’s ability to showcase his skills with style. The film features epic fight scenes at the beginning, middle and end of the story and each is breathtakingly choreographed: Chan uses visually interesting locations to facilitate the action – a restaurant, a park’s playground and, most notably, a fireworks factory – and each scene boasts the kind of intricately choreographed, acrobatic yet hard-hitting action that Chan is known for. The finale in the fireworks factory has become one of the great Jackie Chan fight scenes over the years and it remains pretty impressive by modern standards.
It also helps that Chan uses his quality supporting cast to better effect than he did in the first Police Story. Bill Tung returns as Chan’s superior officer and the two get many chances to show off their comedic chemistry. Even when the material is lowbrow, like a recurring gag about Tung’s intestinal distress, he and Chan make a winning pair. The same can be said for Cheung, who gets many more scenes with Chan. Their romance material is of the boilerplate variety but she is an appealing presence. When the stakes get high near the end, they even manage an impressive high-emotion scene together.
It’s also worth noting that Chan’s direction is more confident here. Though pacing is an issue – and would always be for him – he constructs complex visual sequences with style and deploys swirling camera moves to make dialogue scenes more interesting.
In short, Police Story 2 suffers from a certain amount of sequel-itis but it does action and comedy in such skillful, distinctive ways that it remains worth the viewing time. If you’re a Chan fan, you’ll want to see this.