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The Police Story series is one Jackie Chan’s long running series, spanning six movies over a 28 year period. Police Story: Lockdown is the first movie in the series for nine years, but is really a sequel in name only.
Zhong Wen (Chan) is a police captain who goes to a nightclub trying to make amends with his daughter Miao (Jing Tian). The attempt at reconciliation does not go well and is made even worse when the nightclub owner, Wu Jiang (Liu Ye) launches his scheme to hold everyone inside hostage and enact his revenge scheme against Zhong over a case from five years prior.
The Police Story was rebooted in 2004, taking a darker, more serious tone and Police Story: Lockdown continues down this trajectory. Lockdown makes even more departures from the series’ origins – Chan is playing a new character and this is the first movie in the series to be set in Mainland China instead of Hong Kong. Newcomers can come into this movie without any knowledge of the series because there is no connection to the previous movies.
Jackie Chan is a more haggard figure than some audience members might be use to – he is a world weary cop who has lost his wife and daughter yet still upholds the law wherever he is. This is not a movie filled with jokes or physical comedy although the movie does end with the outtakes. Police Story: Lockdown is a melodramatic affair with its themes of familial relationships, suicidal behavior and Zhong’s philosophy that all life should be protected. These themes are heavy handed with the actors shouting and screaming at each other during these moments – it’s at times grating.
Police Story: Lockdown is essentially a Chinese version of Die Hard – both are about a cop trying to reconnect with an estranged loved one, both are set at Christmas and like John McClane, Zhong is stuck behind enemy lines giving the police intelligence. Despite the movie being shot in Beijing Police Story: Lockdown was a small scale movie, being shot in a two story building – at least Die Hard had a whole skyscraper to work with. Much of the action that appears in the first act in flashback, scenes that were not even relative to the plot. The action proper does not start until the 45 minute mark – 45 minutes in a movie that lasts for an hour and 45 minutes.
Despite Police Story: Lockdown following the Die Hard template it becomes unstuck with its convoluted story. Wu comes up with a revenge plan that is over-complicated and filled with holes. Every time a new part of Wu’s plan is revealed it just raises more questions and contradictions like saying all the hostages except Zhong will be safe and forcing Zhong to fight two of his henchmen to free some of the hostages when Wu’s plan relies on Zhong helping him. The story is at its worst during the final act where the movie keeps throwing twist after twist – it was ridiculous. It seemed like the screenplay was not looked at or questioned before filming began.
Chan was 58 when he filmed Police Story: Lockdown which limited the stunts he could do. The filmmakers use his age to make Chan’s character more vulnerable and when we finally get to see Zhong fight he goes through the ringer. The big sequence is when Zhong has to fight one of Wu’s large henchmen in a cage and Zhong ends up on the receiving end of a beating. It was a hard fought fight, Zhong gets smashed into glass tables and barrels. Chan reteams with Little Big Soldier director Ding Sheng and he had a particular liking for slow motion. It worked well for the cage fight because it emphasises every hit Zhong receives, showcasing he is an older man who is fighting a fitter, bigger opponent. The cage fight was more a high hitting brawl than a quick martial arts fight.
Ding tried to pad out the movie’s action quota by showing that Zhong had Sherlock Holmes level skills of observation and prediction. It is fine when Zhong was piecing together clues and the predicted action sequences – like a SWAT raid gone wrong which were like scenes from Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies. Yet these sequence are weightless because they were in Zhong’s head and did not really happen.
Police Story: Lockdown is a cheap action movie with a simple plot made overly complicated. Yet the movie is raised above its station because of the action prowess of its star and has some decently staged action scenes.
– A five minute Behind-the-Scenes Featurette