BLU-RAY REVIEW: POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN (2013)

To be honest, it really has been years since I have gotten around to watching another Jackie Chan flick and many years since I have watched one of the films in the POLICE STORY series. I believe that the last film I have seen from this pretty popular series was POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE (a.k.a. JACKIE CHAN’S FIRST STRIKE) and that came out in 1996. I think that a few years after that, I sort of was out of my Jackie Chan phase and that was partly due to him being mainstreamed by appearing in action-comedies like the RUSH HOUR films. I had much more respect for him when he was making classic Martial Arts films laced with his physical brand of comedy, similar to America’s late and great Charlie Chaplin, but with much more violence and elements of danger fused within.

Then I read that Jackie Chan is making a new POLICE STORY entitled POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN, the sixth in the series and not to be confused with 2004’s NEW POLICE STORY (which I still haven’t bothered to see), and I read that it is allegedly much darker in tone and the comedic elements of the past films in the series have been removed. The film is straight action. I had some high hopes for this film. As much as I can appreciate humor in films (even those that are not straight comedies), I appreciate much more watching straight genre films, whether it be action or horror, and if elements of comedy are mixed in, dark comedy is usually preferred and if goofy comedy is tossed in, over-the-top violence and gore is a must. There usually is a fine line to be drawn when various styles are mixed in and a truly creative director can win me over if the ingredients are mixed in just the right manner.

Director Sheng Ding, having previously worked with Chan on LITTLE BIG SOLDIER as director of the Chan-scripted action-comedy, is back with the Asian superstar to direct him in a story that Ding wrote himself. All the previous installments of the POLICE STORY films had taken place in Hong Kong so the new spin on the sixth film in the series is that Chan is a mainland Chinese officer instead of a Hong Kong cop. To be honest, I really did not know the difference besides the fact that Chan had gotten a haircut (which I learned in the Extra Features portion had something to do with his role) and there was no joking around in this film. At all.

The plot is a simple one: revenge. Jackie Chan plays Police Captain Zhong Wen and goes to a hip club to reconnect with his daughter, whom he has not seen for quite some time. Once at the club, Captain Zhong immediately makes the place out to be an environment he would rather not have his daughter part of. Once he meets her, he notices she got a tattoo on her neck, sporting a punk-Goth look with her hair dyed a blondish-orange in a leather ensemble, and is all attitude. Wen’s daughter Miao, portrayed by actress Jing Tian (SPECIAL ID), looks real trashy and father is not happy. They talk a little bit, more along the lines of arguing, and Zhong Wen (Chan) learns that the owner of the club who ushered Wen (Chan) in earlier is actually his daughter’s boyfriend.

I guess this is why Wen (Chan) was asked to come see his daughter after all these years and one gets the idea that maybe the two are thinking of marriage. Through flashbacks and dialogue between Wen and his daughter Miao, viewers learn that Wen’s job as a police officer has always taken priority over his family life. Revealed to viewers through father-daughter interaction, flashbacks Wen (Chan) has during various scenes triggering emotion, and key parts of the plot that are revealed later on, these are character and plot builders, but also drag down the pace of the movie which already is sluggish.

Since almost the entire film takes place in this nightclub that resembles a steel prison or military bunker more than any sort of club or bar setting,  I felt that the film was going to have to really “wow” me with an incredible script, explosive action and fighting, or an insane amount of violence, blood, or gore. I was slightly hopeful but once finding out fairly early on why suddenly Miao’s boyfriend Wu Jiang (played by Liu Ye, CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER) locks everyone within the club in a large cage and Wu Jiang specifically singles out Captain Wen (Chan) and takes everyone hostage, I felt the story had its limits and I was going to start becoming bored with the movie. It almost happened.

I was right. The film’s plot goes back to a crime earlier that Captain Wen (Chan) was involved in and Wu (Liu Ye) turns out to be bad (which we sort of got a feel for right off the bat) and Wen’s daughter is betrayed and all the now present dilemma brings Wen (Chan) and his daughter Miao (Jiang Tian) closer through slightly tense drama and action. The drama was not as tense as I would have liked it to be and the pace of the story dragged slightly, giving the film lower marks in overall satisfaction. There is quite a bit of action in the film, but because the setting of the prison…err…club has very narrow walkways, and weird piping located all over, there is a great deal of close-quartered, hand-to-hand combat and not much room for cinematic, unrealistic acrobatic spinning kicks and Chan’s trademarked wall-leap jump-offs to kicks and punches, which are always fun to watch. The film goes for realism in the fight scenes, with a lot of quick punches and small kicks, just like a lot of actual police use when taking down a bad guy, but this sometimes does not look as great on the big screen. One film that had some of the funnest and most riveting hand-to-hand combat scenes that I felt were some of the best were the fight sequences in the Jason Bourne films. The BOURNE TRILOGY have some of the finest close-quartered combat scenes I have seen in quite some time. I think the fight choreography in LOCKDOWN fell a little bit short and because the scenes of action were only mediocre. Take this mediocre action and pair it with average to slightly above-average dialogue and story, and the film fell way short of my expectations.

I thought the latest installment of POLICE STORY was going to be much darker than it was, way more violent than it seemed, and have more fighting and gunplay than watered-down father-daughter chats and a villain that doesn’t really seem all that bad. In fact, in one scene where Chan is talking with bad guy Wu Jiang (Ye) in his private office, Chan’s character saves him from getting sniped from the cops. The lines of good and evil really are blurred and even with most of the club’s guests who are held hostage in the cage, I never really felt any of them were ever going to die. The film was just too nice a film for that to have happened in director/writer Sheng Ding’s story.

Actress Jin Tian

As a huge fan of Johnnie To’s crime dramas and action films, I was hoping there was going to be more intensity and stronger characters in POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN like I have come to expect and really admire in To’s films, but this definitely was not the case. The film is a nice popcorn flick to watch to pass the time, but not really anything more and as a fan in the past of Jackie Chan’s films, I really was expecting a great deal more from his performance and a movie he would choose to star in. I have come to see Chan’s career going in a more mundane direction, especially after routine comedies like the RUSH HOUR series and the slightly dreadful comedy-action like THE TUXEDO, SHANGHAI NOON, and SHANGHAI KNIGHTS—I really cherish the films he made early on in his career like the corny but incredibly entertaining kung-fu flicks in the ’70s and his action-packed comedies and dramedies in the ’80s! Granted, Chan was much younger and able to wow viewers with death-defying stunts done by him (and not stuntmen) on the screen, but I felt the pace and action within the film was quicker and far more entertaining. LOCKDOWN could have had more fight scenes, a much grander and darker villain, and a plot that moved along much faster.

The film has quite a few fight scenes, a dab of no-holds barred MMA-style fighting in one flashback where are main villain’s backstory is told, and really Wu’s (Liu Ye) story and Captain Wen’s (Chan) are the only characters who director Sheng chooses to highlight and elaborate upon within the film because Miao (Jing Tian) is just presented as a by-product of a specific tragedy that occurs within her and her father’s life, all of which eventually ties many characters within the film together towards the film’s ending. The rest of the scenes do offer a little bit of gunplay, but it is very nice gunplay. One “bad guy” gets stabbed in the leg but does not die. Captain Wen is merciful. He is a very kind cop in China and not like American cops who are getting caught on camera murdering suspects that try to run away or don’t even put up a fight. Like I said, the world I am living in is far different than the fictional backdrop for POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN…or maybe a more appropriate title would be POLICE STORY: WATERED DOWN.

Actor Liu Ye

I don’t know if due to this internet age of lightening speed news, information, and instant online gratification my patience for a story being told slowly has completely diminished, or that if I just don’t have as much sympathy for slower-developed storylines, but action films in the States that really rocked me like the BOURNE SUPREMACY had intensity to their characters, plot, and each scene of action. Nothing was sugar-coated. There was no bullshit. Even the (more than) slightly cheesy EXPENDABLES films bring over-the-top action to the forefront of their story, littering the dialogue with gross and nearly unbelievable lines of macho-savvy delivered dialogue with brain-numbing efficiency that a coma victim gives more life to, but the directors’ make up for what they are lacking in with extreme scenes of violence and action.

Take a look at the beloved ’80s Cannon studio films like the DEATH WISH sequels and all those fabulous Chuck Norris B-films like THE DELTA FORCE, INVASION U.S.A., and the MISSING IN ACTION series—likely characterized as B-films or B-Action but the entertainment value was delivered nonetheless. POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN is a watered-down version of a better action film that does not rise above to a level of serious drama because it is pitted between being a straight action film or a solid drama. It does not give one category its all. It is dipped into both but does not shine outright in either. The entire film is just kind of average.

As for the extra-features on the blu-ray from Well Go USA, it does offer some cool behind-the-scenes footage of specific stunts within the film that were kind of interesting to watch being set up and executed. There are some interviews with cast and crew including the director Ding Sheng, stars Jackie Chan, Jing Tian, and Liu Ye and a few trailers. The film is presented in its original Mandarin language or an English dubbed version. It has English subtitles and I NEVER watch the English dubbed version. I abhor the thought of watching a film dubbed in English. It just brings me back to those chop-socky flicks that American television played that were actually decent films that just had atrocious dubbing done to them. The sound quality on LOCKDOWN was excellent and presented in a 5.1 HD Surround sound complemented by a superb picture presented in 16:9 Widescreen format. The film runs 107 minutes in duration and never was rated by the MPAA. That should have been another reason to load up on the violence, blood, and even toss in some nudity for good measure. That would have made it my kind of film, or at least something more interesting to watch!

I recommend this film to die-hard Jackie Chan fans because I still think they will like it even though it is a totally different type of film for the POLICE STORY series. For those that really expect a great deal of action in their films, they may have a hard time dealing with the slower pace and down time within the story. They may also cry out in angst for more impact in their fight scenes and some harsher villains portrayed within the film. POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN lies down somewhere between average and mediocre.

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