Review: Police Story 4: First Strike (1996)

Starring Jackie Chan

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan and Stanley Tong

Directed by Stanley Tong

Jackie Chan returns in what would be the final of the Police Story sequels. The question is as he continued at this time to try to tailor his Hong Kong films for a western audience, did he lose something in the process? The easy answer is yes, and I don’t know whether to fault Jackie Chan or Stanley Tong. The fault probably rests with both of them.

The film opens with Jackie Chan once again stepping into the shoes of Chan Ka-Kui as he and Uncle Bill (Bill Tung) decide, I guess because they’re shit bored, to help the CIA in finding a Russian woman whose boyfriend may be linked to a terrorist organization trying to acquire a nuclear device. Chan follow the woman to Russia and meets his CIA contact and old buddy Mark there. I can tell you what disappointed me from the get go immediately. No Maggie Cheung. No Michelle Yeoh. Barely any Bill Tung. Almost all of the hallmarks of the Police Story series are gone. That’s like saying let’s make a Star Trek movie with Kirk, but forget those other guys. But it’s Spock, McCoy and all the others that Kirk needs to be Kirk, and it’s the same here. Chan needs May to constantly be the foil and damsel in distress. Bill Tung needs to be the loving police chief uncle who barely has a clue. Without them, Chan isn’t Chan because he has no one to play off of. More on that later.

While in Russia Chan follows Natasha to her boyfriend, a mysterious ex-CIA operative named Tsui. He appears at first glance to be the one getting the nuclear device, and Chan finds himself teamed up with the Russian Secret Service under the command of a man named Gregor, but not before a James Bond style snow mobile and ski chase that ends in Chan dropping from an exploding helicopter into a frozen lake below. Brrr! Afterwards Chan and Gregor go to Australia, where Tsui’s sister Annie lives, knowing that he may have sent the nuclear materials to her, which is kind of fucked up if you think about it. Here’s a present from your estranged brother! Hope it doesn’t melt your face, or cause a few terrorists to shoot you with a rather large bullet! The only thing more silly than this is the different disguises Tsui wears, especially those jackass wigs. A blonde haired asian guy won’t get noticed by anyone…

Chan gets wrapped in Tsui’s family drama, and gets attacked in his hotel by 3 giant European guys, a hallmark of his late 90’s and early 2000 films. I have no damn idea where Jackie got in his head that we’d have fun watching him duck and avoid 3 same suited but poorly acting big guys, but whomever gave him that idea (Stanley, I’m looking at you) needed to be shot in the face. I’d trade all 3 of those big guys for one Yuen Wah.

After getting framed for killing Tsui’s father, Chan goes to see Annie after the funeral, and her cousins step up to kick his ass, and the best fight of the entire film is here, and it’s an instant classic as Jackie fights them as only he can, and ends it with a fantastic use of a metal ladder as a weapon. Afterward Jackie teams up with Tsui and Annie to stop the real terrorists in one final confrontation…

One of the hallmarks of Jackie’s films with Stanley is the very flimsy story the action is hung on, and it is at its worst here. The stunts are great as usual, but once again, Chan Ka-Kui has been turned into a cartoon character, and at no point do you ever really believe that he’s the underdog or in any real danger. Even the fight scenes have turned cartoonish, with the bad guys not even looking as if they are really getting hurt. This, and the lack of the other Police Story regulars, and the fact that there’s really no “police” in this story, has me believing that this is without a doubt the weakest entry of all the Police Story films. Jackie wanted to play James Bond, and has admitted as much in regards to this film. By all means do that, but don’t do it and call it Police Story.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) The Ladder fight is an instant classic, one of Jackie’s best individual scenes, but still nothing compared with the Mall Fight or Playground Fights of the other films. After that, there isn’t much there.

STUNTS: (6) As always, the best stunts are from Jackie himself, but even his were a little underwhelming. Jackie just didn’t really imagine anything really elaborate or exciting for this one. The other stuntmen were kinda weak.

STAR POWER: (6) Jackie Chan just coasts along in this film and mugs for the camera. No one else stands out. None of the other Police Story participants are in this except Uncle Bill in a weak extended cameo. It just doesn’t feel like a Police Story film.

FINAL GRADE: (6) The weakest of the Police Story films. Still entertaining, probably more so if you’ve never seen any of the previous entries in the series.

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