Police Story 3: Supercop 4K UHD Review
4K UHD Release: April 25, 2023
Video: 2.35:1/2160p (HDR10/Dolby Vision)/Color
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD core), DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono, and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 home video mix; original English DTS-HD 2.0 Mono (Hong Kong Cut) and Dimension re-release English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (US Cut)
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 96:30 (Hong Kong Cut), 90:42 (US Cut)
Director: Stanley Tong
To infiltrate a drug cartel, police Inspector Chan Ka Kui (Jackie Chan) goes undercover in a Chinese prison. There, he earns the trust of Panther (Yuen Wah), a cartel member, by breaking him out of prison. With the help of another undercover agent (Michelle Yeoh), they travel to Hong Kong and join up with Panther's gang. Ka Kui is accepted by the gang's leader (Ken Tsang), but his operation is jeopardized when Ka Kui's girlfriend (Maggie Cheung) accidentally reveals his true identity. (From 88 Films’ official synopsis)
In February of 1996, a decade after his latest attempt at breaking into the American market, James Glickenhaus’ The Protector (1985, following Robert Clouse’s The Big Brawl [aka: Battle Creek Brawl] in 1980), failed, Jackie Chan finally had a surprise stateside hit, when New Line Cinema released an edited and dubbed version of Stanley Tong’s Rumble in the Bronx. Realizing that they had been hoarding Hong Kong action films for years, the loathsome Weinstein Bros. released (annoyingly re-edited) versions of Chan’s biggest 1990s Hong Kong hits (via Dimension Films) to considerable North American box office success, including Armour of God II: Operation Condor (1991, re-released as Operation Condor in 1997) and Police Story 4: First Strike (1996, released as Jackie Chan’s First Strike in 1997). This led directly to Chan shooting his first entirely English scripted film, Sammo Hung’s Mr. Nice Guy (1997, released in the US in 1998), and finally scoring a Hollywood-branded hit with Brett Ratner’s Rush Hour in 1998.
Meanwhile, recognizing public interest in a new breed of matinee idols, Dickson Poon’s D&B Films ‘discovered’ Michelle Yeoh (born Yeoh Choo Kheng), Malaysia’s Miss World representative and co-star of Jackie Chan’s 1984 Guy Laroche commercial, who was originally schooled in ballet. D&B renamed their new luminary Michelle ‘Khan,’ trained her in stunt work, kung fu, kickboxing, taekwondo, and Cantonese (she was raised speaking English and Maylay), then introduced her to audiences via a supporting role in Hung’s The Owl vs Bombo (1984). Soon after, D&B cast her as the lead in Corey Yuen’s Yes, Madam! (1985), followed by two similarly titled movies under the director David Chung, Royal Warriors (1986) and Magnificent Warriors (aka: Dynamite Fighters, 1987), and Stephen Shin’s Easy Money (1987). She then married Poon and retired from filmmaking for a handful of years. The couple divorced in 1992 and she returned to acting alongside her Guy Laroche co-star Chan for Tong’s Police Story 3: Supercop (1992), the third film in Chan’s groundbreaking crime/action series, preceded by Police Story (1985) and Police Story 2 (1988), both directed by Chan himself.
During the late ‘80s and into the ‘90s, Hong Kong action movies went through a creative renaissance that made their Hollywood counterparts look positively sluggish in comparison. Filmmakers like Yuen Woo-ping introduced extensive wire work to martial arts sequences, John Woo combined kung fu choreography with Sam Peckinpah shoot-outs, and Jackie Chan combined Peking opera acrobatics with increasingly dangerous stunt work. While not either Chan or Yeoh’s best film, Supercop might be the apex for both in terms of the pure spectacle of its stunt work. The Police Story movies were already known for this, but the climax of Supercop is an absolutely jaw-dropping cascade of death-defying acts. The film also expands the crime thriller aspects of the Police Story movies into more of a grab-bag of action subgenres, from hand-to-hand kung fu fights and bone-crunching car chases, to the squibby shoot-em-ups and explosive military action. It’s never as violent as a John Woo movie or Sammo Hung’s Eastern Condors (1987), but it does maintain the harder edge that the franchise was known for.
The bigger departure from the formula is probably the plot, which inserts Hong Kong’s favorite street cop into a high stakes political thriller alongside a mainland Chinese special agent, played by Yeoh. In the real world, Hong Kong was handed over by the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China on July 1st of 1997. The changeover date had been set by 1985 and was a point of anxiety throughout the decade, finding its way into the text and subtext of Hong Kong’s cinematic New Wave. Supercop approaches the situation with trepidation and consistently portrays China as a militaristic state with strict etiquette standards, but is ultimately more optimistic about the two countries being able to work together, despite a last minute joke where the heroes argue over who should receive the recovered money. It’s not unlike Walter Hill’s Red Heat (1988), which sees a Chicago detective (John Belushi) teaming up with a Moscow police captain (Arnold Schwarzenegger) during the closing years of the Cold War.
Supercop was a massive hit across Asia and was re-released stateside (with edits) in 1996, grossing more than any of the other Jackie Chan re-releases, followed closely by a profitable stint on home video, where it became Dimension Films’ second highest grossing rental of 1997, behind Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). It solidified Chan’s international stardom in the lead-up to Rush Hour and helped Yeoh score a co-starring role in Roger Spottiswoode’s 1997 Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. Tong continued working with Chan as director, choreographer, and sometimes uncredited stunt double on the aforementioned Rumble in the Bronx and Police Story 4: First Strike, as well CZ12 (aka: Chinese Zodiac, 2012), Kung Fu Yoga (2017), and Vanguard (2020). He also directed and co-wrote (with Sandy Shaw) Supercop 2 (aka: Once a Cop, 1993), a direct follow up once again starring Yeoh as Interpol Inspector Jessica Yang and featuring a cameo from Chan, and collaborated as director and producer on Chan’s period epic The Myth (2005) and the subsequent TV series of the same name (2010). The gap between First Strike and The Myth was spent on the Sammo Hung cop show Martial Law (1998-2000) and making China Strike Force (2000) – co-starring Aaron Kwok, Mark Dacascos, and (checks notes) Coolio? – back in Hong Kong, but his most unexpected film is the 1997 live action adaptation of Mr. Magoo, starring Leslie Nielsen.
Rumble in the USA: Jackie Chan in Translation by Mark Gallagher (pub. 2004)
Police Story III: Supercop has been one of the most widely available Jackie Chan movie for decades now, though always with the caveat that it was the Dimension Films cut, which was shorn of about 10 minutes of valuable character beats and featured a different soundtrack (a full rundown of the differences can be found here, on moviecensorship.com. If you lived in the US and wanted the original cut, you had to import tapes, DVDs, and Blu-rays. 88 Films has finally broken the streak with stateside Blu-ray and 4K UHD debuts of the HK version. This is the second available 4K disc worldwide, following Eureka’s UK exclusive. I had assumed that both UHDs were based on the same Fortune Star restoration that so many import Blu-rays have used, but the Eureka 4K transfer is reportedly different than this one in terms of framing and color-timing. I do not have that disc on hand for a direct comparison, nor can I lift 4K screencaps for this review, but I have included caps from the included Blu-ray copy for illustrative purposes.
Even putting aside the inferiority of the US cut, this is a fantastic clean-up all around and desperately needed after years of flat and overly compressed HD transfers from Echo Bridge Entertainment and various streaming services. The image is crisp without being oversharpened and richly colorful, especially the scenes set in green forested areas. Overall, accuracy has been prioritized over clarity, meaning that grain levels and lens artifacts haven’t been smoothed over with digital tinkering. The extra resolution keeps edges clean and noise from clumping, while the HDR enhancement helps push black levels and highlights, but not to the point that significant detail is lost.
Police Story III: Supercop comes fitted with a number of audio options. Assuming you’re opting for the Hong Kong cut, you can choose between a new Cantonese language Dolby Atmos remix (I assume based on the 5.1 remix that debuted on various HK DVDs) or DTS-HD Master Audio versions of the original theatrical mono Cantonese, the home video mixed stereo Cantonese, or the original mono English dub. If you watch the US cut, you have 5.1 Dimension-branded English dub and stereo Cantonese options, also in DTS-HD Master Audio. It should be noted that Chan and Yeoh both did dubbing work for the Dimension mix and Joel McNeely composed a completely different score. The Cantonese Atmos track is a bit excessive in my opinion, but remains relatively true to the stereo mix’s use of space and offers some nice support to the original Mac Chew/Jenny Chinn/Jonathan Lee musical soundtrack, which is pretty thin, otherwise. I opted to watch most of the movie in the original theatrical mono and that particular track was very impressive in terms of its clarity, despite being comparatively compacted. For the most part, I believe the dialogue was captured on-set, so everything has a natural sound to it, compared to all of the ‘70s and early ‘80s HK movies I’ve been watching for review lately.
Disc 1 (4K UHD)
Commentary with Frank Djeng (Hong Kong Cut) – The NY Asian Film Festival programmer, historian, and critic gets an entire track to himself for a change (he’s paired with FJ DeSanto on the Eureka release) and does a typically fantastic job breaking down the behind-the-scenes story, the careers of the cast & crew, the political context surrounding the film (in much greater detail than I managed for my review), the histories of its various locations, and the logistics of those incredible stunts. He also rightfully compares parts of the climax to similar scenes in The Matrix (1999) and Mission: Impossible (1996), both of which were released after Supercop, and Terminator 2 (1992), which Tong and Chan were probably purposefully cribbing.
Cantonese trailer, English trailer, US trailer & teaser, seven US TV spots, US video screener promo, Japanese teaser
1984 Guy Laroche commercial with Jackie Chan & Michelle Yeoh (0:33, SD)
Disc 2 (Blu-ray)
Commentary with Frank Djeng
2009 Dragon Dynasty archival extras:
Flying High (19:21, SD) – Jackie Chan chats about the success of the Police Story movies, working with Tong and other directors, collaborating with Michelle Yeoh, and the intensity of the stunts.
Dancing with Death (23:12, SD) – Michelle Yeoh recalls her ongoing martial arts training, missing out on a career as a ballerina, meeting Chan on the commercial shoot, near-misses and injuries on set, and Supercop being a particularly important film in her career.
The Stuntmaster General (19:33, SD) – Director Stanley Tong discusses his collaboration with Chan on Supercop and Rumble in the Bronx, the planning and logistics of Supercop’s action scenes, and learning to ride a motorcycle alongside Michelle Yeoh.
The Fall Guy (21:45, SD) – Chan's bodyguard, stunt double, and occasional co-star, Ken Lo, talks about befriending Chan, the crossover between his various jobs, Chan’s relationship with Tong, and his perspective on those dangerous Supercop stunts.
2004 interview with director Stanley Tong (17:16, SD) – This second, older interview with Tong was initially included on a Hong Kong DVD from IVL and digs further into the making of the film’s climax.
Outtakes and behind-the-scenes (51:33, HD) – A series of raw outtakes with no production audio, set to music from the film, including "I Have My Way,” sung by Chan himself.
Cantonese trailer, English trailer, US trailer & teaser, seven US TV spots, US video screener promo, Japanese teaser
Guy Laroche 1984 Commercial with Jackie Chan & Michelle Yeoh
Limited Edition box contents
6 replica lobby cards
A3 poster featuring original Hong Kong artwork
Perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the film
The images on this page are taken from the included BD (not the 4K UHD) and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.