Police Story: Lockdown (Cert 15)
1 Disc (Distributor: Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment) Running Time: 110 minutes approx.
Jackie Chan is a legend, there is no argument, and after his tireless, physically torturous forty plus year contribution to cinema, he deserves the opportunity to slow down on the action front. Lockdown, the latest entry into Chan’s most successful franchise – known as Police Story 2013 in Asia – is a step closer to realising this in that he isn’t fighting or falling out of buildings on the same scale or frequency as in his previous films.
A much darker and story driven film, veteran police officer Zhong Wen (Chan) receives a call to meet his estranged daughter Miao Miao (Jing Tian) at the glitzy nightclub Wu Bar. The meeting is short and unpleasant due to old emotional wounds be reopened, exacerbated by Zhong not approving of shady club owner Wu Jiang (Liu Ye) being Miao’s new boyfriend.
Problems escalate when Zhong is then knocked unconscious, only to awaken and find himself hostage along with a group of other club patrons. Wu has one key demand aside from a hefty sum of money – the release of a convicted murderer named Wei Xiaofu, (Zhou Xiaoou) and have him brought to the club. Upon Wei’s arrival the summit begins, along with Zhong and three other select hostages all of whom are connected to Wu’s need for revenge.
This film hasn’t been well received by critics and fans which is perhaps is a little unfair as it isn’t a bad film. In the west, the problem presumably lies with this being released under the Police Story umbrella yet isn’t strictly canon, nor is it a wall-to-wall action fest. The tone is sober, sombre and laugh free – at least until the now obligatory blooper reel during the end credits.
Among the many changes, aside from Chan playing a completely different character, is that this is shot and set in Mainland China instead of Hong Kong, hence the spoken language being Mandarin instead of Cantonese. This is a significant cavil for Chan’s domestic HK audience, who objected to his overt cosying up with the communist mainland, inciting feelings of betrayal and disappointment.
The running theme of the story is the sacrifices we make for our loved ones, with Zhong being a policeman facing the toughest choices. To wit: Miao is angry with her father because he didn’t arrive at the hospital in time where his wife, Miao’s mother, eventually died. Zhong’s reason for this was due to attending a botched robbery at a chemist’s which had turned into a hostage situation and didn’t want to endanger a life.
A “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation for Zhong and one which cost him dearly that night, and now five year later looks to cost him again – for the victim that night was Mei (Guli Nazha), Wu’s younger sister and he wants answers as to what happened that night. Also present on that night alongside Zhong and Wei, where the chemist shop owner, a drunken customer and a floozy, each one Wu believes is responsible for his sister’s death.
It’s a great idea on paper, even if it does resemble the SAW films insofar as allegedly culpable people rounded up for punishment, but the lack of character building harms the emotional impact of this fated group. To be fair, not singling these people out from the onset is a fresh approach, leaving their presence at the end of the whittling down of the hostages novel but sadly underplayed.
This also blights Wu’s character and motives a little despite receiving ample time to reveal his background as an abandoned teen turned underground kickboxing screwed over by a criminal syndicate. Quiet how this made Wu react to his sister’s death in such a sociopathic fashion is unclear but he’s a baddie and that’s what they do.
A similar piece of lazy writing befalls Miao, who begins the film with short spiky red hair, heavy make-up, a scorpion tattoo on her neck and a bad attitude. She chews out Zhong for being a bad dad and rubs her relationship with Wu in his face, but as soon as the brown stuff hits the fan, off comes the wig and make-up and Miao is Daddy’s little girl again just like that.
Fans expecting to see Chan kicking butt are not left going without but they may feel undernourished. There are a few fights but they are kept short, the longest being a cage fight against one of Wu’s henchmen. It’s a decent little scrap that sows Jackie can still go but the reliance on CGI to exaggerate some of the carnage – such as slow motion flying glass – is tacky and counterproductive.
Visually the film is well shot and the club makes for an impressive setting, the contained area evoking comparisons to The Raid in terms of a single location story. Unfortunately the frenetic quick cut editing becomes tiresome, especially when employed in the most mundane of situations; it may create a unique look for the film but Ding Sheng over does it.
Having directed Chan in Little Big Soldier, Sheng has shown he can get a great straight acting performance from Jackie, and he almost achieves it here had Zhong’s character not been so morose. But Chan’s star presence, even at aged 60, remains lustrous and his future in straight roles just needs to be nurtured. His co-stars are stuck to type in their roles, with Liu Ye only given something substantial to work with.
A Jackie Chan film without fighting sounds like pornography without the sex but unlike this analogy the former is possible. His turn in Police Story: Lockdown is a competent indicator of the potential of this, while the film itself is a compelling and taut drama, albeit one with areas in need of improvement in the scripting department.
A bold departure from the norm for Jackie Chan, if only a moderately successful one in execution.
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
English 2.0 LPCM
Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Mandarin 2.0 LPCM
Behind The Scenes
Rating – ***
Man In Black