POLICE STORY - LOCKDOWN
Directed by: Ding Sheng
Starring: Jackie Chan, Ye Liu, Tian Jing, Rongguang Yu
Captain Zhong When is called by his estranged daughter Miao to meet her at the Wu Club, where she intends to tell him about her engagement to the club's owner, Wu Jiang. However it is just a ruse by Wu to entrap Zhong an a number of other patrons, holding them prisoner - but why? Zhong must do his best to keep the hostages, including his daughter, alive, while outside the club the police are gathering, waiting to breach...
In many ways its a shame that this film has been released under the Police Story banner. That's not to say its a bad film per se, just that it's tone and style is hugely different to the previous films (even the previous entry, New Police Story). Lockdown is a much grittier, dour film with little to no humour to lighten proceedings.
Like New Police Story, Jackie is playing a different character to the one seen in the first four films. Here he is Zhong When, a captain who nevertheless constantly finds himself on the front line, putting his life at risk to save others. Even on the day of meeting his daughter, he's just rescued a man from committing suicide. However its that selfless nature which has caused a deep rift between himself and his daughter.
There are a few fights in the film but they are more brutal than usual for a Jackie Chan film. At one point Jackie has to fight one of Wu's men in order to have some hostages to be released. At first the hostages are egging him on but as the fight continues and Zhong gets more and more beaten, they're begging him to stop. They've obviously never had the pleasure of watching a Jackie Chan film, however. As mentioned this fight is particularly hard hitting, lots of grappling, elbow strikes - Jackie even uses some MMA style Jiu Jitsu holds. Jackie was about 60 when he made this, so of course he's not going to have the same stamina or athletic ability he's had in the past. So we get a lot more cuts in the fight scenes than we would have before, but Jackie shows the same kind of tenacity he always has in his films. He's older, slower, but doesn't know how to submit and give up. Think back on every classic Jackie Chan fight - always outgunned and beaten but still somehow manages to hang in there and find a way to win. This follows that classic template.
What isn't "classic" however, is the visual style of the film, which uses a lot of hand-held camera work on the interiors of the club. We're not into shaky-cam territory but it feels like everything is filmed too close at times. One thing I did like however was the visualisation of Zhong's thought process as he considers the more violent option before dismissing it. So for example we see what would happen if the SWAT team breached too early, or if Wu was shot by a sniper. Its a nice directoral flourish that the film really needed.
Jackie Chan has been developing his acting chops over the past decade and puts in some of his best acting to date here. He gives a really nuanced, stoic performance as the cop carrying the world on his shoulders. Not surprising then that the director is Ding Sheng, who also got a good acting performance from Jackie in Little Big Soldier. Ye Liu gives Wu some depth and shade, and his motive for setting up this kidnapping operation is quite interesting and emotional. The other standout character is the SWAT Team commander, played by Yu Rong Guang, whose film Iron Monkey is still one of the best martial arts films made in the early 90's.
If this had been called anything else, this film would have been very favourably compared to the likes of Crime Story and Jackie's other more dramatic roles. But by calling it a Police Story film, we can't help but hold it up to three absolute classics, and its can't help but be found lacking. My advice - forget the title, and enjoy it for the solid police thriller that it is.
7 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)