Reviews Of

NEW POLICE STORY and FINAL FU

BY PATRICK VUONG New Police Story

Director: Benny Chan DVD Extras: Making-of featurette, Jackie Chan commentaries, English dubbing session Rating: R

Frustrated in recent years with Hollywood's bureaucracy, Jackie Chan returned to Hong Kong to produce or star in a half-dozen films. Fortunately, one of those productions, New Police Story, has been released stateside on DVD. Despite the title, it's a return to the old-school Chan action we loved in the long-running Police Story series.

Interestingly, this sequel is not a sequel at all. The characters are new, and the story line is not an extension of the previous films in the franchise, including Supercop and First Strike.

In New Policy Story, Chan's cocky Inspector Wing promises Hong Kong he can arrest a new gang of bank robbers in three hours. What he doesn't know is that the thugs are adrenaline junkies, spoiled rich kids who thrive on extreme sports and murdering cops. A failed raid on the robbers' warehouse leaves Wing's comrades massacred and the cop wallowing in alcohol. But then a rookie (Nicholas Tse) prods Wing to redeem himself and capture the criminals.

Here, Chan's "king of kung foolery" disappears. In fact, he's actually the straight man to Tse's comedic antics. Chan plays the crying, pitiful alcoholic (the non-Drunken Master kind) to great effect, not showing such acting range since 1993's Crime Story.

But it's still a Jackie Chan film, so action is naturally the most impressive part. Witness the opening warehouse raid: In a futile attempt to save his colleagues, who are tied to the rafters, Chan leaps off a second-story floor onto a burning rope. Then his sleeves burst into flames, and he uses his sliding hands to extinguish the fire. The third act pays tribute to the original Police Story with a stunning bus stunt that destroys cars, phone booths, storefronts and plenty of glass.

Then Chan pulls off one of his most spectacular hand-to-hand combat sequences in a decade with help from action choreographer Li Chung Chi. At the climax, which takes place in a Lego store, Wing confronts Tin Tin (played by American Andy On of Black Mask 2), and the results prove Chan is still untouchable when it comes to crafting complex, flashy fights. Sure, he uses stunt wires, but only to accentuate the action. You probably wouldn't even notice them if they weren't discussed in the making-of featurette.

Unfortunately, however, New Police Story doesn't quite match the quality of its predecessors. The writing and directing aren't flawless, Chan cries a little too much and all the Asian pop stars appearing in supporting roles make it seem like human product placement. Nevertheless, he hasn't made a film like this in ages. Let's hope it's the start of a Chan renaissance.

New Police Story sells for $26.98.

Final Fu

TV Network: MTV2 Host: Ernie Reyes Jr.

Despite impressive headliner Ernie Reyes Jr., MTV2's new martial arts reality show, Final Fu, didn't strike me as a contender at first. I admire the actor and taekwondo expert, but I despise reality TV. I was afraid this televised competition would trivialize the traditional arts the same way Survivor turned the challenge of surviving on a deserted island into manufactured backstabbing and contrived drama. Final Fu, which premiered in June, pits 10 martial artists of various styles against each other—in physical challenges and a stand-up, point-sparring tournament— for $25,000 in prize money.

Thankfully, the producers avoid artifice by casting talented black belts. For example, there's tang soo do stylist Jessen and taekwondo specialist Ilram, both of whom possess amazing aerial kicks. To add a bit of novelty stunt casting, the producers chose twin karateka Nicole and Shannon to provide some butt-kicking eye candy.

I was impressed with the pilot episode's first challenge, called the Strike Zone. It's a gauntlet/obstacle course filled with color-coded targets. Sounds easy, you say? Try firing a

jumping spin kick while standing on sand. Then there was the episode's face-off between Tom, a 6-foot-tall hung gar fighter, and Gemma, a female taekwondo champ who isn't even 5 feet tall. It was a compelling "Davida and Goliath" battle if ever there was one in point sparring.

By emphasizing the traditional arts, Final Fu is a nostalgic throwback to stand-up tournaments in an age when Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter is knocking out the competition. Final Fu is an entertaining curiosity for most fans and worth watching for Reyes alone. >•<

About the author: Patrick Vuong is a freelance journalist, screenwriter and martial artist based in Fountain Valley, California. To contact him or to read more of his work, visit http:// www.blackbeltmag.com and click on Community, then Black Belt Authors.

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