Michelle Yeoh plucked this viewer out of the haze and made a lasting impression.
Director Stanley Tong
Screenplay Edward Tang, Ma Fibe, Yee Lee Wai
Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Khan (aka Yeoh), Maggie Cheung, Ken Tsang, Yuen Wah, Bill Tung, Josephine Koo, Wong Siu
If Rumble In The Bronx brought Jackie Chan into the minds of American audiences, then Supercop brought Michelle Yeoh to her rightly deserved prominence. It was from here that the Malaysian beauty pagent and star got her first recognition for her astounding work as a martial artist and compelling onscreen presence. Remarkably, she’d already retired once before making it big. Supercop was her first big role post retirement. What a great decision that turned out to be for the world.
Originally concieved as the third part of Chan’s Police Story series, the film was bought by Mirimax / Dimension Films four years after its original China release following the booming success of Rumble. They cut about 10 minutes of the run time, added a few new songs (one by Devo, another by Tom Jones), then had most of the stars dub their own lines in English. The film had some big promoters within the ranks, Tarantino being foremost among those enamored with the film.
To be sure, Supercop is a wonderful action movie with many excellent action scenes. We get to see Chan, and Yeoh at their best during the film’s climactic chase scenes. The stunts for these scenes are shown quite clearly in the end credits as having been performed by the actors themselves. It goes a long way to make the film historically relevant.
Chan had been doiing his own stunts for years and had picked up the end credits routine from his experience in Cannonball Run. This helped to solidify recognition for his actual skill and expert comic timing, to the point where he was already a worldwide star outside the U.S. before he hit it huge stateside.
Supercop is more a vehicle than an actual solid film. The story is a flimsy one. Chan is selected by his uncle (Tung) to infiltrate the lair of Chaibat (Wah), who is a drug lord in Hong Kong. This leads him to Jessica Yang (Yeoh) who briefs him on his assignment and eventually gets involved in the operation herself.
The story doesn’t have any believable characters outside of the primary protagonists. Most of the villains are the mustache twirling type. Chan is not to be faulted for this, as his films are on par with other action films in Hollywood at the time. He has a formula and he sticks to it faithfully.
What Chan does best here, as usual, is to share the action scenes. This allows him to showcase others, even to the point of making them look brilliant at his potential expense. His confidence in his ability is so immense that it does not matter. The viewer is fully aware it takes a lot of skill to look as lucky as he does surviving their attacks.
In his sharing, Chan took the actress that he’d filmed with on her first commercial and helped her over a decade later, solidify her spot as a major action star. Yeoh is as incredible here as Chan is, with a winning smile to boot. Michelle Yeoh plucked this viewer out of the haze and made a lasting impression. That impression was cemented four years later when she helped make the classic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Michelle Yeoh is the epitome of dangerous grace.
There are no scenese with dialogue in Supercop that amount to anything, but each chance the viewer gets to see either Yeoh or Chan in action is worth the price of admission.
(***1/2 out of *****)