" I’ll be monitoring your frequency "
— Zoe Saldana, Star Trek

MRQE Top Critic

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It is odd to see Jackie Chan shooting a gun. This modern-day Buster Keaton is such a nice guy that he even made a movie called Mr. Nice Guy. He’s not above kicking and punching bad guys, but he almost never kills anyone, and he almost never picks up a gun. (The DVD’s extra features confirm that Jackie is very conscious of his image, superseding the director and screenwriter to make sure his persona fits with his institutional image — guns are okay, but he can’t appear too sexy or too vicious.)

Nevertheless, in 1993, Jackie wanted to try his hand at serious action drama, and Crime Story is the result. The screenplay is based on the true story of a kidnaping (if you don’t live in Hong Kong, the “true story” angle has little appeal). A rich developer comes to the police for protection but is kidnaped anyway. The developer is no saint, but Chan’s police detective believes that even the wealthy and privileged deserve protection. In the end, the cops fight the triads for possession of the rich citizen.

This crime story, even if it’s loosely based on true events, plays like just another cops & robbers, cookie cutter, action-movie plot.

High and Low

Jackie wanted to try his hand at serious action drama
Jackie wanted to try his hand at serious action drama

The movie doesn’t hold together very well. Instead, it crumbles into individual scenes, some good and some bad.

There is an impresive, gravity-defying crane shot that starts out looking like a simple tracking shot. There are some well-assembled highway chase scenes. There’s a subtly funny scene of Jackie in a pink polo shirt and chinos, beating up a thug in black denim and leather. And for the teenaged pyro in all of us, the crew blows up a building with huge, orange fireballs.

There are some low points too. Rather than write character exposition, the screenwriter includes a scene where each member of a secret society says “I, [name], [relevant affiliation], pledge my oath...” Then there’s the casting of Jackie’s psychologist. She was clearly hired for her looks and not her talent. She wears a skimpy black dress to her office and flirts like a stripper with her patients. But she’s wearing a pair of eyeglasses, a token gesture toward pretending she’s an educated professional therapist.

As a fan of Jackie Chan, I’m glad I saw Crime Story, simply for completeness’ sake. But I probably won’t remember it a month from now, nor do I think I’ll be sorry for the loss.

DVD Extras

As part of the Dragon Dynasty collection, the Crime Story DVD has loads of extra features. Primary among them is the audio commentary by “Hong Kong Cinema Expert” Bey Logan and director Kirk Wong. Logan plays host and interviewer, and Wong plays along. Logan is very knowledgeable, and he never allows a dead spot in the dialogue. Unfortunately, he’s a little too fast-paced. Here’s how it goes: Logan will ask Wong an interesting question. Wong will give a simple answer at first, catch his breath, and collect his thoughts. Then before Wong can elaborate, Logan will change the topic entirely. So although the commentary has never a dull moment, it remains shallow throughout the duration. Eventually Wong laughs, seemingly in amazement, at Logan’s non-stop pace.

The DVD also includes an on-camera interview with Kirk Wong, which is refreshing for its frankness. He repeats some of what’s on the audio commentary (this time at his own pace). It’s clear that, even though he’s director, he was not necessarily in charge. When you work with Jackie Chan, and for a studio, you’re not so high on the totem pole. Wong even says he’s not entirely happy about how Jackie handled some post-production cuts, going behind Wong’s back rather than picking up the phone. To appreciate this DVD interview, you need to think of the polished, calorie-free garbage on most American studio releases, where smiling actors praise each other in front of the dramatically lit poster for the movie. At least the interviews on these Dragon Dynasty DVDs feel real.

There’s also a twelve-minute interview with screenwriter Teddy Chen.

Picture and Sound

I have no complaints about either picture or sound quality. This DVD is made from a good print. The surround sound is decent in all languages. It’s hard to get too excited about any of it, though, since the movie isn’t a visual or aural masterpiece.

When I tried out the English dub for a few minutes, the dialogue sounded more natural, more logical, and easier to follow than the subtitles. The movie seemed less dry. The problem, as with most dubs, is that the voice actors sound like they’re reading for cartoons. Also, I know what Jackie Chan sounds like when he speaks English. So hearing another man’s voice coming from the familiar face is distracting. Watch the dubbed or the subtitled version according to your own tastes.

How to Use This DVD

Pick a scene. Watch the dubbed version, and then watch the subtitled version. See which you like better, and then watch the whole thing from the start. Unless you want to be the next Bey Logan, just watch the movie and send it back to Netflix. The commentary, interviews, and back story are okay for fans, but not essential.