Crime Story begins with a psychological evaluation, a troubled cop mourning over a public shoot-out that left multiple men dead. Intersected between the gunfire, chases, and stunts are snippets of a somber Jackie Chan, dissecting the material from his psychiatrist. It is a capable action star mixed with a capable actor, and nearly all of it is ancillary.
Crime Story was meant to be a tighter, more serious drama than the colorful comedic films the Hong Kong superstar would be known for. At his own hand, worried about public reception, Chan cut most of the emotion from the film, his character more direct and his mental status flat. He carries on the mission of a tracking down kidnappers fervently with little qualms as to violence.
Based on real events, Chan still adds his combative flavor as an elder business man is held for ransom, corrupt cops hiding clues and a gang ever growing at the promise of riches. Crime Story is littered with violence, from copious amounts of blood, to intense falls that rank as some of the most dangerous of all Chan films. It carries its dramatic card proud, even if the deepest elements have been cut from the finished product.
With Chan losing his characterization, the centralized focal point becomes Detective Hung (Kent Chung), an often devious, heavy-set man with a layer of cowardice. He situates himself amongst detectives, drawing eyes away from the crime as money is sent out of the country. His methods carry the tension whenever Chan is not in play, sweating it out under pressure or manipulating on the fly. The moment Chan becomes aware of Hung’s plot is tremendously effective, if only because of how tight the plotting is.
Despite a tonal shift away from antics, Crime Story’s remarkable action is no less a signature. Multiple car chases are thrilling, including a wild downhill stunt that should have killed someone, yet is pulled off with the grace only Chan is capable of. A teetering rumble on top of bamboo stage rafters is unforgettable, and the finale loads itself with shattering neon lights, collapsing structures, and explosions that occur immediately behind the actors. Planned flames or not, the heat is enough to prove how close the stuntwork is to a potentially charred reality. It is all on film, selling the chaos and a pseudo-reality that only comes from Hong Kong action.
Shout Factory releases the film uncut, not in a truncated Dimension Films version. Sadly, the master used seems to come from DVD era sensibilities. Immediate impact comes from thick edge enhancement, halos abound in all aspects of the frame. Messy grain is heightened by the manipulation. Shout’s AVC encode is enough to avoid glaring compression issues, although artifacts would not further the concerns unless they were drastic.
The loss here is resolution. While rigid, even ill-defined facial detail is regularly in view of the lens, medium or long shots that power the action are devoid of definition. Quick glances between this and a DVD edition, no matter how aged the disc in question may be, would show little improvement. Faces become unidentifiable, crowds are messy, and sharpness – despite the attempt to artificially raise it digitally – is completely lost.
Manipulation does not end there, with clear instances of color boosting. Primaries match any of the neon signs scattered around the film, flesh tones absurdly glazed and costumes rising above any level of normalcy. The idea of Crime Story being “dark” is taken to extremes as well, with abhorrent black crush that is wildly overcompensating. Shadow detail would have been too merciful.
Add all of this to a print that has seen better days with its level of scratches, knicks, dirt, and momentary judder, you’ll find little to warrant a purchase. This is not a matter of a two-film set being under supported on the encoding side either; packed with The Protector, each film is given half of a single BD-50 to work with, more than enough to handle two films short of the two hour mark. The blame lies entirely on the dreadful master.
Audio options abound, with Catonese and English DTS-HD 5.1 mixes, and both receiving compressed 2.0 tracks as well. Focusing on the 5.1 efforts, the Catonese is notable for being dry. Bass is flat and relegated almost entirely to the finale. Surrounds go unused for the action, leaving the score to pick up the elements. Separation is handled by the stereos which handle tracking well during car chases, and plant gunfire in the right or left as needed. A general lack of fidelity is nothing to be excited about though.
On the other side, the English dub is especially boomy, if all together artificial. Bullets planted in the surrounds are clearly not an element of the original design. Richer audio thanks to the active LFE is appreciated, but this one often sounds more like a volume boost rather than a legitimate clean-up. Of course, you’ll also be handling raised dialogue due to the dubbing. Mixed together in some way, these two would come together at a happy medium. As it is, they each carry individualized faults.
A brief 10-minute interview with director Kirk Wong and six minutes of low quality deleted scenes are the key bonuses. Two trailers are included too if you’re so inclined to check out marketing materials. As stated prior, Crime Story does come bundled with The Protector, that film hosting its own menu and bonuses.
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