So normally ebullient is the great Hong Kong martial artist, stuntman and movie star Jackie Chan that the initial 40 minutes of his semi-new film "Supercop" are actually quite disappointing.
Chan seems to have put his personality under a bushel basket as what appears to be a wan and badly dubbed comedy wends its lame way along, with only a few action sequences to lighten the load, and then only barely. Perhaps it's that he isn't directing himself, as he usually does, but is instead letting Stanley Tong run things from behind the camera.
But wait: By its second half, "Supercop" cranks up into such an extravaganza of fighting, blowing things up, spin-kicking, punch throwing and death-defying that it all but takes your breath out of your lungs and packs it up for shipment to Hong Kong.
The plot is meager. Chan is Kevin Chan, an undercover inspector in the RHK Police who goes on an undercover mission to mainland China, where, with the help of a rigid female Chinese Security Officer (Michelle Khan), he infiltrates a mob that's smuggling heroin into HK. And once he's in, he's stunned to learn that the big deal isn't the drugs but the fact that in Indonesia the mob boss' main gal has been arrested for murder. Alas, she and she alone possesses the Swiss bank codes by which the gang's millions may be accessed. So the gang sets out to rescue her with Chan and Khan right in the middle.
The comedy is mild and the dubbing especially rotten. A character's mouth moves as if to say "The square root of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the equilateral angles" and the words "You silly dodo-head!" come out. Chan looks stuck somewhere between bemused and befuddled and Khan is so uptight you're afraid she's slipped into the rare case of pre-death rigor mortis.
What a surprise then that the stiff-jointed and nearly sexless Khan soon proves herself to be one of the world's sublimely convincing (though formally untrained) martial artists, and she's really the true-grit star of "Supercop." Name it, and she'll do it. At one point, she even makes a motorcycle leap onto the roof of a moving boxcar. That's her! That's really her! (Can you see an American male doing this: "Uh, Brad, in this one, see, you leap from the hill onto the train. It won't be bad. The train is only moving at 20 miles an hour and you should only be doing about 40 when you leap so - Brad? Brad?")
Meanwhile, Chan is fighting bad guys atop the same train, with the added complication that an actual helicopter is on the train and those are actual rotors spinning within inches of his multi-billion-yen smile! He ducks in and out of the whirring blades, slides under overhanging impediments, all while fighting. Dumb movie, amazing grace!
Note: Watch the outtakes at the end, where many stunts are blown and actors collapse into laughter, and you'll see the crew wearing T-shirts for the movie's actual name, "Police Story 3" under which it was made and even enjoyed had limited release in this country three years ago.
Starring Jackie Chan and Michelle Khan.
Directed by Stanley Tong.
Released by Miramax.
Sun score: ** 1/2
Pub Date: 7/26/96