Crime Story (1993)
Directed by: Kirk Wong
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Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1994:
Real-estate magnate Wong Yat Fei (Law Kar-Ying - Summer Snow, Forbidden City Cop) has been kidnapped once and fears it will happen again. He contacts police and receives protection from Inspector Eddie Chan (Jackie Chan) but a plot orchestrated by disgruntled cop Hung (Kent Cheng - Once Upon A Time In China, Why Me? ) makes the threat come true and both Wong and his wife (Susanna Au - The Roving Swordsman) are abducted. The wife is soon released and the demand of transferring money for Wong's release is carried out in order to source vital clues about the destination of the money. Working alongside Eddie is Hung who will go to any lengths to disrupt any progress made...
Jackie Chan was advised to turn away from directing after overshooting budget and schedule on Armour Of God II: Operation Condor and begin experimenting by working under other successful and notable directors. Earlier on in 1993, specifically during the Chinese New Year, he clashed with Wong Jing (not in a good way) in the box-office hit City Hunter, a colourful and wacky adaptation of the Japanese comic. Then Golden Harvest decided to debut Crime Story as a summer release, the very much opposite to City Hunter, this time helmed by director (Health Warning, Gunmen, The Big Hit) and occasional actor (Legacy Of Rage, Casino Raiders) Kirk Wong (1*). Based on the true story of the kidnapping of Wong Chak Fei (2*), the project opened up the rare opportunity for Jackie to attempt to log a credible acting performance. A daring move at the time especially since his image was resembling nothing like that to say the least.
So a box-office success it was and audiences clearly had no qualms about accepting Jackie Chan in serious mode, nor should they have had as Crime Story, for a Jackie Chan film, succeeds due to this choice. But equal kudos goes to our credited and uncredited filmmaker who early on realizes the need to jolt the audiences perceptions of what this particular Jackie Chan movie is like. That's done by going a slight Ringo Lam route, employing street shootouts and a generally gritty nature to the proceedings with the occasional stunt by Jackie thrown in (one where he's squeezed in between two cars resulted in another one of his injuries). A thrilling mixture and the serious tone is set for easy acceptance early on. Taking cues from another way of Ringo Lam's, utilizing strong blues and the neon lights of the Hong Kong city, the film paints an edgy, violent picture of Hong Kong that is also infused with a financial dissatisfaction, the main theme of the film as a matter of fact.
Despite ventures throughout into that thematic territory, there's never an attempt to shoot Cheung Lai Ling and Teddy Chen's script as a deep journey but the film benefits from the excursions it makes. Kirk Wong is still rightly known for his cinematic eye for action and chaos so merging with Jackie's team in addition to Bruce Law for car stunts is an intriguing proposition. But one question that arises, can Chan's type of action fit into all this? Thankfully, it rears its head very little as the emphasis is on shorter, grittier brawls with some admirable stunt work in between by Jackie's guys but there are some sidesteps where clearly the team weren't brave enough to let go off the kind of sights and sounds that accompanies a Jackie Chan action scene. This in particular rings true in the Taiwan segment but overall, Kirk Wong and Jackie deliver action design that is in tune with the straight on, serious action-thriller that the film is.
Aided by award winning editing by Peter Cheung and James Wong and Mark Lui's excellent, pounding score, a very pleasing and rousing cinematic sense is added to the film, employing slick colours and crane work that is well-above what one would expect (Andrew Lau was one of the cinematographers on the film). While certain parts of an already fairly long movie tends to drag and the kidnapping theme therefore gets forgotten, pace is largely excellent and damn exciting but really the biggest kudos should go out to the direction of (and by) Jackie.
Unlike the recent New Police Story where Chan, despite a more mature role there as well, went overboard with the emotions on display, the character of Eddie is taken more balanced routes. There's not much to him (but depth might've been obtained via the deleted material with the psychiatrist played by Poon Ling Ling that reportedly was excised by Jackie and Golden Harvest against Kirk Wong's wishes. These scenes can be found on Joy Sales dvd release) but what's thankfully true about Eddie is that he's not the cool supercop. Instead Jackie brings a calm demeanor to the role that speaks more to a humanity, rather than towards some overblown super-hero type that these films normally get. As mentioned, the chosen action design goes outside of this character arc at a few select times but Jackie comes through with a respectable performance that Benny Chan should've taken notes from when directing New Police Story. Kent Cheng also is excellent as the absolutely menacing Hung, the disgruntled police man whose plight you do feel sympathy for but not the way he goes about it in creating the kidnapping scheme. Of note is an extended cameo by Blackie Ko and William Tuan gets an fairly sizeable role as head of the police, far from the bumbling ways he showcased in City Hunter.
Crime Story can't proclaim itself to be the best Jackie Chan movie ever but if his desire still is to transfer from action to acting, it was clear already in 1993 that he had what it takes to erase his goofy action-image in favour of thrillers or dramas. New Police Story admittedly almost had it but blew the chances after its opening reel and if all involved around Jackie are smart, they should look at the execution of Crime Story again as it stands out as a highly different and effective Jackie Chan film.
Deltamac presents the film in an 1.89:1 aspect ratio approximately but for some moments, the frame goes as wide as 1.97:1. As for framing issues, I noticed none though. Print has mild wear and blacks aren't properly balanced at some points. Sharpness is favorable though and colours presented fairly well. Note that the Hong Kong Legends remastered print has little to none of the blue tint that is utilized in several scenes so if that bothers you, you perhaps want to get this cheap Hong Kong import instead.
The Cantonese (with scenes in Mandarin sprinkled throughout) Dolby Digital 2.0 track presents dialogue and effects in a clear manner. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.
The English subtitles has very few errors and ranks as a well-worded translation. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. Only extra is the trailer.
Finally, if you want to take a look at stills, accompanied by explanations, of the mentioned deleted material, visit Schnittberichte.com (in German only).
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) Although differences on the production resulted in Jackie directing undisclosed parts of the movie but giving sole credit to Wong as a sign of respect.
(2) Reader Michael Thomason wrote in to add some more facts about the real case Crime Story actually tweaked for their movie reality. The following paragraphs contains spoilers.
"The case this film was based upon was the kidnapping of Chinese businessman Wong Chak Fai . In the events that played out in the real case, from memory, the HK Police refused to budge against the kidnappers demands and after a lengthy game of attempting to secure Wong’s release without stumping up the cash that was demanded, the criminals at hand pulled the pin on their extortion plan – killing and dumping their hostage. There was no happy ending in the real events.
It was extremely famous and notorious, for its outcome at the time. The HK Police force came under heavy criticism from Chak Fai’s widow for the manner in which they handled both the investigation and the negotiation process with the kidnappers – some still insist his murder could have been avoided."