michelle 05Why beat around the bush? Supercop, this year’s second belated Hong Kong import, ties with Rumble in the Bronx for the title of best action movie of 1996. Some of you will know where I’m going with this: Jackie Chan is unquestionably the best thing to happen to the action genre since Indiana Jones. Chan, of course, finally broke through in America with last February’s Rumble and may do it again with Supercop, which has even less plot getting in the way of the story.

Technically, a lot is wrong with Supercop. I can only assume that Miramax/Dimension, having seen New Line’s Rumble bring home the bacon, snapped up the rights to Supercop (actually Police Story 3, first released in 1992 overseas) and rushed it through the process of Americanization. The dubbing is wildly off the mark (which often enhances the movie’s comedy), and the studio has added an alterna-rock soundtrack that’s as inappropriate as it is extraneous.

But who cares? Supercop isn’t as flat-out goofy as some of Jackie Chan’s earlier outings, and it depends a little too heavily on gunfire and explosions; there isn’t as much brilliant choreography as there was in Rumble, where Chan used whatever came to hand — shopping carts, a pool cue, a fridge. Still, it’s dazzling enough. Chan still does all his own stunts, some of which make you wonder whether he’s the hardest-working star in the business or a guy with a severe death wish.

Chan plays Kevin Chan, a crackerjack Hong Kong detective assigned to go undercover and infiltrate a notorious triad. Along for the ride is his superior officer (Michelle Yeoh, billed here as Michelle Khan), who poses as his sister and fights at least as skillfully and ferociously as he does. Any studio execs who think that Jackie Chan’s demographic (male, 15-25) won’t accept tough females should hear the audience’s enthusiasm whenever Michelle Yeoh goes to work. Will we see more of her, Miramax?

The plot is implausible and utterly insignificant. I know I’ve spent the summer bashing plotless wonders like Mission: Impossible and Incompetence Day, but the stuff Supercop gives us instead of a plot is actually entertaining — a distinction apparently lost on Hollywood. Director Stanley Tong (who also did Rumble) wastes very little time; he essentially just points the camera at Chan, but at least he knows how to shoot action and how to set up a visual joke. That puts him ahead of most action directors and comedy directors right there.

Chan’s greatest asset is his personality. Here, as elsewhere, he goofs around and mugs (no other action star has a more expressive face or a more winning smile — that grin, like Morgan Freeman’s, is so sappy yet so warm that you can’t help smiling along with him). He hurls himself into whatever he does, whether it’s chop-socky or clinging to a speeding train (a scene far more exciting than the one in Mission: Impossible). Mostly, though, Jackie Chan communicates a deep love for his work. He wouldn’t rather be doing something else; he doesn’t want to do ‘Hamlet.’ What he wants to do is break his bones entertaining us, in movie after movie. He succeeds on both counts. Supercop isn’t art, but it sure is great junk food.

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