Supercop (Hong Kong, 1993)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Miramax owes a debt to New Line Cinema. In order to facilitate Jackie Chan's long-overdue breakthrough in the American market, New Line spent a lot of money hyping Chan's Rumble in the Bronx, taking great pains to make sure nearly everyone who saw a print ad or a TV spot was aware that Chan does all his own stuntwork. The campaign worked, because Rumble turned a profit. But Miramax, who owns the rights to several of Chan's previously-unreleased films, is now reaping the benefits of New Line's cash layout. Judging by the healthy opening weekend turnout, Supercop is going to be profitable for its distributor. And, after years of frustration, Jackie Chan has finally found his American niche.

Supercop was released internationally three years ago under the title Police Story 3, but, aside from playing a few specialized venues, it had no U.S. exposure. Now, with a new soundtrack, the movie has been thrown into wide release, and, in its current state, represents one of the summer's best opportunities for pure, undemanding entertainment. With its infectious mix of action and comedy, Supercop is vastly different from any big budget American picture. And the knowledge that Chan and his co-stars are doing their own stunts only sweetens the pot. Who can imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger dangling from a helicopter hundreds of feet above the ground? Or Sylvester Stallone falling off a moving train? Then there are the martial arts sequences (choreographed by director Stanley Tong), which are, quite simply, amazing, and remind the viewer that the fist is faster than the eye.

Supercop gives audiences an opportunity to appreciate the clown aspect of Chan's personality (something we'll be getting more exposure to in an upcoming American production where his co-star is Chris Farley). Although he's best known as an action star, he's also a gifted comic. He has an expressive face -- his features go through more contortions than his body. Supercop is a better movie than Rumble in the Bronx, in large part because it's funnier. The dubbed English is actually an asset for this kind of film -- the cheesy mis-synching of lips adds to the goofy fun.

Frankly, dialogue doesn't mean much in Supercop, nor does the plot. It's a framing device to get Chan into action. All we really need to know is which characters are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys, and, once that has been established, little else matters. For the record, Supercop pairs Chan's Hong Kong detective with a female Chinese security officer (Michelle Khan). Together, they go undercover to break a master criminal, Panther (Yuen Wah), out of prison, so he can lead them back to his drug lord brother (Ken Tsang). Their goal: infiltrate the organization and bring it down.

As is usual in a Chan film, the end credits (which show out-takes of failed stunts) are one of Supercop's highlights. There are more laughs in this hilarious three-minute sequence than in the whole of Kingpin. I can't think of a better reason to stay through the entire movie. Ultimately, the closing montage points out one of the chief differences between Chan's stylized, fast-paced films and those of his American counterparts: this is action with a smile, not a grimace.

Supercop (Hong Kong, 1993)

Director: Stanley Tong
Cast: Jackie Chan, Michelle Khan, Yuen Wah, Bill Tung, Ken Tsang
Screenplay: Edward Tang, Fibe Ma, and Lee Wai Yee
Cinematography: Lam Kwok Wah
Music: Joel McNeely
U.S. Distributor: Dimension Films
Run Time: 1:36
U.S. Release Date: 1996-07-26
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence)
Subtitles: English dubbed
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1