“Better to die than live poor,” snarls one of Police Story 2’s villains, setting off a fireworks factory brawl in this sequel content with Hong Kong’s advances. Where the first resisted changes to Hong Kong and the growing influence of western capitalism, Police Story 2 finds Chan Ka Kui (Jackie Chan) utilizing his public service to protect a corporation’s assets. No more shantytowns – shots of Hong Kong focus on skyscrapers, their expense, and dollar signs.
It makes sense for criminal elements to exploit this economic bubble for their own. Police Story 2 deals in ransom, with a threat of violence via bombs if money isn’t paid. Although not without Chan’s eccentric brawls, the procedural style parks the story, lingering through stalled scenes of nighttime stakeouts without energy.
There’s still humor, even some childish bathroom gags (and they work). Overall tone calms down. Chan spends the film stern-faced and serious. He fights angrier, given more reign from his superiors as they realize his vigilante-like heroics work and public support depends on flashy theatrics.
When approached, Chan retreats into a playground, used not only for its potential in a fight, but also the brutality possible when swinging people around onto metal bars. It’s vicious. Criminals find their way to ruin the purest scenery; Chan finds a way to make it hurt.
Police Story 2 doesn’t shy away from cruelty. A deaf mute bombards a shirtless Chan with small fireworks, each leaving a mark. People go up in flames, slide through neon lights face first, and bounce off metal surfaces like pinballs. In-between, a touch of levity as someone tosses barrels down a ramp toward Chan in a goofball recreation of Donkey Kong with a martial arts twist.
On the outside, a rotting metal exterior barely holds this factory together. Industry is gone. Everything inside is abandoned; a last gasp of old Hong Kong, with a fight between those lost in the financial progress and the man determined to defend the changing values (and save the girl, of course).
There’s mention of low police recruitment by Bill Tung, the low-level superior of this series who keeps prodding Chan into service. As with Police Story, this sequel glamorizes police life, recognizing the danger, turning Chan into a precision poster child for public service. He makes it cool, pointing guns, kicking guys in the face, and saving everyone. Hong Kong’s Captain America basically, but doing for police what Cap did for the military.
Criterion gives Police Story 2 its own disc and the lavish treatment it deserves. This fresh 4K scan produces plentiful resolution. Exteriors display top-end sharpness, capturing the coarseness of Hong Kong’s streets.
With a different cinematography style in play, the source blooms and softens with a dramatic haze. That leads to some compression problems. Overall grain structure is thicker than in the first Police Story. Bundle that with the creative decisions and Criterion’s encode rarely has a chance to replicate grain over digital noise. This disc doesn’t master this grain, but holds up enough as to marginally clip detail.
Overall saturation is likely to hide any misgivings anyway. The level of stunning color here deserves special mention and appreciation, giving this import a totally new life. Primaries shine to an extreme, yet without bleeding. Flawless flesh tones won’t suffer either.
Also rich is contrast. Hearty brightness helps establish density with black levels failing only when the film stock does. Depth doesn’t wane.
Presented in Cantonese and English 5.1 (with the original and faultless Cantonese mono too), this soundscape bests its predecessor, speaking exclusively of the original language track. Notably, a subtle jolt of LFE helps with establishing kick/punch impact while giving explosions a touch of dynamism. For an ‘80s mono mix, it fits in naturally without sounding artificial.
In the opening scene, a fleet of trucks pass the camera, swinging around the soundstage as if mixed today. Rain and ambiance play well, with dialog mingling nicely even under crowded conditions. A few pieces of the score sound pinched, but it’s minor.
As an extra, Criterion includes an additional, unrestored Hong Kong release version (mastered at 2K) of Police Story 2, running around 20-minutes shorter and with burned-in subtitles. A 1989 episode of The Incredibly Strange Film Show travels to Hong Kong to cover the rising star of Chan at the time. It runs 41-minutes. Historian Grady Hendrix speaks on both films for 21-minutes in Re-inventing Action. An interview from actor Benny Lai runs 16-minutes, seemingly shot around the early/mid-2000s.
Criterion digs up a nifty gem from France. This 1964 show covers the training of Beijing Opera performers, used to example the strenuous expectations Chan endured as a child. It runs 12-minutes. Finally, a montage of stunts and bloopers runs nearly five minutes.
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Police Story 2
A darker, edgier sequel, Police Story 2 doesn’t have the energy of the first, but it’s still loaded with ridiculous stunts and fights.
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