Police Story 3 - Supercop (1992)

Directed by
Shoehorned into the franchise but earns its place
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-12-11

The Royal Hong Kong Police are tasked with infiltrating a drug cartel operating out of China, so they send Ka Kui undercover - not an obvious choice since he was previously the public face of RHKP, but agreed to be the closest thing they have to a supercop.

Ka Kui is teamed up with a partner from the mainland played by Michelle Yeoh, tasked with helping him pass as a native and keeping him safe - and perhaps to show Hong Kong that China's own supercops could go toe to toe with theirs any day of the week.

POLICE STORY 3 has minimal narrative continuity with the first two films and I suspect it wasn't originally written as a sequel - it's never really explained why they need a Hong Kong cop to pose as a Mainland criminal when the local cops seem perfectly capable of doing the job themselves. Still, it gave them an excuse to write Maggie Cheung into the plot and she is most welcome.

It's clear that the looming handover was on their minds when they made the film, as it tries to tackle some of the negative perceptions Hong Kong people had about the the mainland, painting a more rounded picture of the country than was sometimes the case... though still palpably nervous about the situation.

Ka Kui's in with the gang comes from helping one of their men escape from prison, a delightful Yuen Wah in one of the more substantial dramatic roles he got in his career. The staged escape convinces him of Ka Kui's potential, and he offers to introduce him to his boss... in Hong Kong... yeah the plot doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Ka Kui introduces Michelle Yeoh to them as his sister and the two make a good enough impression to be taken along on a major operation.

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In 1992 Jackie Chan was arguably the biggest star in Asia but his profligate spending on Operation Condor made Golden Harvest nervous so they insisted he work with another director. I'm not sure whether Stanley Tong was their choice or Jackie's, or what made anyone think he was the right man to entrust with presumably still their biggest budget of the year since he had relatively few credits to his name, and nothing on this scale. Clearly they saw something in him though, and they seem to have been right as he delivers arguably the most technically accomplished film Hong Kong had produced to date, and keeps it focussed.

The film moves along briskly and efficiently, dishing out doses of action and comedy amongst the drama that build towards a spectacular final reel, containing some remarkable stunts. Apparently Michelle Yeoh was determined to prove that she was just as capable of doing her own stunts as her male co-star and Jackie was just as determined not to be upstaged, so the two drove each other to ever more impressive feats. I'd say Michelle Yeoh probably comes out on top, she's fabulous, but Jackie isn't slacking either.

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Supercop is perhaps questionable as a Police Story sequel, it could easily have been a stand alone film, but its mix of action, comedy and spectacular set pieces probably justify expanding the scope of the franchise to encompass it.

Watching this film made me realise I've never flown in a helicopter, and it actually came as quite a shock given how often I've been in one in movies and games... I spent several minutes checking my life history to confirm that no, none of those events actually happened to me.