I went through a pretty intense Jackie Chan phase during the mid-90s, thanks to being introduced to some bootleg videos by a friend. Thankfully, the timing coincided with Chan’s long-deserved American stardom – after Rumble in the Bronx was released to US theaters, it became a lot easier to get his stuff, all of which started being released over here, and I devoured through almost all of it.

Then Chan started making American action-comedies, which were occasionally entertaining but never on the same level as his  Hong Kong output. And then, of course, age started catching up with Chan, and his movies started to have noticeably less and less fight scenes and big stunts. I’m not complaining, mind you – the guy left his mark, and I certainly don’t want to see him end up seriously hurt (again) or killed, so I’m all for him slowing down. But as his truly stunning movies became a thing of the past, I sort of drifted away from that hardcore Chan fandom – although once every few years I get a jones to watch some of the oldies again, and am instantly transported back to that time. If pressed, I might even say Chan is my favorite movie star. Note: I didn’t say “favorite actor,” as I’m not here to claim the guy has put in a number of amazing acting performances or anything. But still, there’s nothing quite like the sheer enjoyment I feel watching one of Chan’s classic movies.

Now, as I said, it seemed like 1999-2000 was sort of when the “glory days” of Chan ended, as he started to focus more and more on lame American comedies, and his Hong Kong output became less frequent and less consistently entertaining. It got harder to be truly excited about a new Chan film, which might help explain why I stupidly missed this one until now.

Despite its misleading title and Netflix’s erroneous description, New Police Story is NOT a continuation of Chan’s classic Police Story series (Police Story, Police Story 2, Supercop, First Strike). Rather, it serves as kind of a reboot of the series; a clear attempt to make the franchise a bit more serious and gritty (no surprise there, as in recent years Chan has clearly become more interested in exploring his dramatic side). Chan plays a detective who is forced to watch his entire team slaughtered during a botched raid on a gang of young, tech-savvy bank robbers. One year later, Chan is a drunk shell of his former self. But when his new partner informs him the same gang has become active once again, it’s up to Chan to conquer his demons and take down the punks once and for all.

I’m sorry I ignored this one before, because it’s pretty great. It serves as a perfect bridge between the classic Jackie Chan (it features a number of impressive stunts and a few very good fight scenes) and the new Jackie Chan (the aforementioned focus on more dramatic territory). It’s a real shame that this one came too late in the Chan game to get a US theatrical release, as I really think it could have done quite well over here. A lot of the big action scenes (including Chan’s team’s raid on the gang’s booby-trapped warehouse) play more like big American action scenes, only with a bit of that signature Chan feel – for instance, check out that trailer. See the scene at the end when Chan is running away from a huge explosion? That would of course be done with CGI over here, but as the end credits highlight reel of New Police Story confirms, Chan – not surprisingly – just really ran away from a giant explosion.

The fact that Chan was 50 when he made this movie only makes stunts like that all the more impressive. In fact, Chan looks surprisingly young throughout this film, both in the stunt-work and the fighting scenes. Perhaps he was feeling a bit more energized because he could tell this was the first really good movie he had made in a while. I’m sure he was also excited at getting to start to show his dramatic chops in a number of scenes, including the particularly brutal sequence where he is forced to watch his men be strung up and then violently dropped to their deaths (this sequence is quite shocking, if only because I’ve never seen something that unpleasant in a Chan film). Although, it should be said, Chan’s over-the-top drunk acting doesn’t really do the intended drama any favors – it’s like he can’t quite shake that Drunken Master acting style. Actually, there are a couple other comedy scenes mixed in here that feel a little out of place with the rest of the movie. I assume Chan was nervous about completely putting that kind of stuff behind him, and so still wanted to wedge a little bit of it in.

Despite these small complaints, I loved this movie. Even though it is not technically the same series, it is a worthy successor to the original Police Story series (in fact, I would say it’s actually a lot better than First Strike). If you’re a Chan fan, you owe it to yourself to check this one out, especially since it might be one of the last really great Chan films we ever get.

This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on June 18th, 2011.