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Capsule Reviews

Crime Story    (1993)
Kirk Wong’s daring and gritty action-drama, based on true events, sees Jackie Chan breaking away from his usual formula and making Crime Story a darker experience for those accustomed to his action-comedy style.

Detective Chan (Jackie Chan) is put in charge of security duty for a wealthy business entrepreneur (Law Kar Ying) who is threatened by gangsters and has been kidnapped for a high ransom once before. When Mr. Wong is attacked and kidnapped along with his wife, and a police officer is brutally killed in the process, Chan is assigned to work with veteran detective, Hung (Kent Cheng) in solving the case. But Detective Chan is unaware that his new partner is working alongside the kidnappers and using his position from inside the police to steer the investigation away from the gang and get the ransom paid fast. With Chan’s work leading the police ever closer to the kidnappers, and getting Wong back alive, as well as Hung interfering at every turn, while hiding his true motives, it is unclear who will live to walk away from this nightmarish situation.

Crime Story clearly does not reflect the usual Jackie Chan formula, and hardcore fans of his comedy-blended martial arts action may be surprised to find a somber drama with a lot more gun action that martial arts. However, it arguably represents a more serious piece of Jackie’s career and while it may not stand up to fan favorites like Project A and Police Story, it is worth seeing purely for the intense performance that Chan delivers. This, and Police Story 3 of the same year, were the first cases where Jackie allowed his work to be moulded in the hands of other directors. Kirk Wong creates a powerful and visually grainy style, which frames the story, and style of the screenplay perfectly. Combined with this, Arthur Wong’s cinematography is stunning, utilizing many bright lights and glowing visuals in dark locations, such as the famous scene in the hull of a ship, in which we see threads of light puncturing the darkness, chains rattling and glimmering and water scattering around the action. Kent Cheng’s performance is quietly menacing and the way he is seen to turn slowly to Chan when his back is turned, and give a stare that seems to combine fear and defense proves Cheng is to be one of the most dynamic actors in Hong Kong today.

It is also important to note that the already intense and emotional performance Chan delivers would have been even more so if the screenplay remained completely accurate to the real events. The real Detective Chan was said to have suffered immense trauma following an off-duty shootout with some robbers, a scene shown near the start of the film, which followed with a psychological analysis concluding that he suffered from guilt after taking lives. Jackie allegedly toned this down substantially when overseeing the screenplay as he wanted to avoid it becoming too heavy-handed. This trauma would distract him and interfere during the Wong kidnapping and affect his mental state during the case. Having read about this, I would have liked to see Jackie immersing himself in this kind of dramatic role, nevertheless based on the changes made, the film still provides a well-developed insight into the conflict of Detective Chan, both with himself and the gangsters he is hunting down.

For the serious action-fans of the ‘Little Dragon’, there are still some spectacular scenes, namely the incredible car chase in which Chan anxiously races to the kidnapping-in-process, and some incredible pyrotechnics, courtesy of action director, Bruce Law. In all, this sticks out as quite a different type of Jackie Chan film, and that is exactly why it should be seen. It may not be his most popular, but it couldn’t be better at showing off the versatile star that he is. Highly recommended for all fans of serious cinema.
Mike Fury 1/4/2007 - top

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 1/4/2007 Mike Fury

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