Police Story 3: Supercop

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Four years after the previous installment, Jackie Chan unleashed Police Story 3: Supercop (1992). Chan, Maggie Cheung and Bill Tung all reprise their roles from the earlier films with Michelle Yeoh and Kenneth Tsang joining the cast as Interpol Inspector Jessica Yang and Boss Chaibat respectively. Police Story 3: Supercop was a big success for Jackie Chan internationally and, with the success of Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), has found a new life in the wake of Yeoh’s mainstream stardom in the west.

Police Story 3: Supercop is the only film in the franchise to be set in mainland China. The reunification of 1997 greatly informs the film in terms of its perspective on China as well as its humor. The anxieties of the handover seem to have motivated the plot that sees a Hong Kong cop team with China’s law enforcement in order to take down a vast criminal network. Quips abound regarding jurisdiction, China’s provinciality, and the contrasting wealth of Hong Kong. This political commentary lurks in the background as the priority of the filmmakers is to package an international hit rather than a political statement couched in a genre film.

The other significant difference between Police Story 3: Supercop and its predecessors is that Police Story 3: Supercop is a “buddy movie” in the tradition of 48hrs. (1982). The duo of Chan and Yeoh is the centerpiece of the movie that otherwise hits all the familiar beats of the genre. On the one hand this fresh take on the franchise helps breathe new life into the property. On the other hand, Police Story 3: Supercop features fewer jaw-dropping set pieces to showcase Chan’s stunt work. Characterization is almost always preferable to the spectacle of violence, but since the two previous films focused entirely on Chan’s martial arts clowning, this shift in aesthetic agenda feels a bit odd.

Police Story 3: Supercop is perhaps most significant as the first teaming of Jackie Chan with director Stanley Tong. The team of Chan and Tong proved to be the winning combination that broke Jackie Chan into the mainstream Hollywood markets of the United States which had long been Chan’s greatest ambition. The pair followed up Police Story 3: Supercop with the even bigger hit Rumble In The Bronx (1995) before both star and director began making American films separately.

What’s disappointing about Police Story 3: Supercop is how it uses Michelle Yeoh as a dramatic foil for Chan rather than allowing her character to exist within the economy of the narrative as a figure of equal importance. As is, Yeoh supplants Cheung dramatically and accents Chan’s skills in the action scenes. One is left wishing that Police Story 3: Supercop had approached the “buddy movie” formula as democratically as in Yeoh’s earlier film Yes, Madam (19985).

None of this at all detracts from the pure pleasure of Police Story 3: Supercop‘s superficial delights. Few action films are as consistently funny and eye-popping as Chan’s and Police Story 3: Supercop is no exception. It may not be Chan’s best movie, but it still accomplishes all that it sets out to do. However, it’s definitely more a film for the Jackie Chan fan than the Michelle Yeoh devotee.