Review: POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE 警察故事4之簡單任務 (1996) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Review: POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE 警察故事4之簡單任務 (1996)

Review: POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE 警察故事4之簡單任務 (1996)

In this fourth instalment, Jackie (Jackie Chan) is a top Hong Kong cop whose service is required by the American CIA to tail a mysterious woman named Natasha (Grishajeva Nonna), who is travelling to Ukraine. His assignment is supposed to be a very simple task since all he needs to do is just follow Natasha until the airport in Ukraine. But being a nosy person as always, he gets himself caught in the middle of a bigger agenda. Apparently, Natasha is there to smuggle US currency into the former Soviet Union, which is meant for an international terrorist named Tsui (Jackson Lau), who also turns out to be a double CIA agent. Tsui uses the smuggling money to purchase a nuclear warhead from the Russian Mafia in a black market. Several complications later, Jackie joins forces with Russian intelligence, lead by Agent Gregor (Yuri Petrov) to help track down Tsui all the way to Australia. From there, Jackie meets Annie (Annie Wu), Tsui's sister who works at an oceanic theme park. Unbeknownst to her, Tsui informs her to hide a package which is actually contained the illegal nuclear warhead into the giant aquarium filled with lots of sharks.


REVIEW: POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE goes globe-trotting for the first time in the lucrative POLICE STORY series, with returning director Stanley Tong (1992's POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP) trying to expand its typical cop-vs-criminal formula mixed with espionage genre in the way of a James Bond movie. The result does sound ambitious, especially it's refreshing to see the fourth instalment is daring enough to venture out of the comfort zone. But the movie itself is surprisingly a bloated mixed bag, and Stanley Tong's mix of genres is strangely lacklustre.

Despite being marketed as POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE with the return of Jackie Chan, Bill Tung and director Stanley Tong, it's strange that the title has actually nothing to do with the previous three movies. Even in the movie, Jackie Chan's character is called Jackie, rather than his usual name of Chan Ka-Kui. It is also noted that another regular cast is missing as well -- including Maggie Cheung who plays Chan's girlfriend in the previous three movies (where is she anyway?). But whatever the marketing strategy the movie is trying to pull here, it works very well. In fact, POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE was such an enormous success in Hong Kong that it grossed an unbelievable HK$57.5 million at the box office and till today, it remains as Chan's biggest hit of all time.

While the movie may have struck gold among sizable audiences, I personally found that POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE is a huge disappointment. It is not because the movie is lacked connection from the previous three movies, but rather the overall execution itself. The plot is heavy-handed with too many agendas going on, and no doubt everything here feels long-winded. It doesn't help either when the pace is surprisingly slow-moving especially in the draggy middle section. Stanley Tong's direction is haphazard, and he's clearly looking out of place attempting to direct a big-scale action movie loaded with a complicated story.

The cast is also a mixed bag, even though Jackie Chan remains as entertaining and hilarious as usual. But the rest of the actors are totally forgettable. Even Bill Tung is sadly relegated into a worthless cameo appearance.

The action department, always a top priority in POLICE STORY movies, are the least lifesaver here. The James Bond-like opening scene of a snowboard chase featuring Chan being pursued by a group of high-tech terrorists all the way down the snowy mountain is an exciting highlight while a particularly memorable scene involving the use of a steel ladder ranks as one of Chan's most entertaining fight set piece ever choreographed. But shame about the final 20 minutes, though, as the underwater fight scene inside the giant aquarium is simply long-winded, yet it lacks a certain intensity whatsoever.

Regardless all the success surrounding the movie, POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE certainly ranks as among Jackie Chan's worst movie ever made. The movie won Best Action Choreography at the Hong Kong Film Award, and also nabbed four nominations including Best Picture (obviously lost to Peter Chan's COMRADES, ALMOST A LOVE STORY), Best Actor (Jackie Chan lost to Kent Cheng in THE LOG), Best New Artist (Annie Wu lost to Shu Qi in VIVA EROTICA) and Best Film Editing (lost to BIG BULLET).

Some of the spectacular stunts are the least lifesavers here, but it's still not enough to overcome POLICE STORY 4: FIRST STRIKE from the heavy-handed plot and haphazard direction all over the place.

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