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Jackie Chan’s First Strike (Blu-ray Review)

First-StrikeLookie here!  Another Wishlist title getting checked off and put onto Blu-ray.  Jackie Chan’s First Strike is more suitably called Police Story IV: First Strike.  The Police Story movies are kind of Jackie Chan’s “going back to the well” franchise in Hong Kong.  This series started in the 1980s and is still going today (5 installments, the most recent came in 2013 but new to the US in 2015).  Unfortunately for fans, this edition making the Blu-ray debut is the US and UK cut of the film that played in theaters in 1996.  The film was notoriously hacked up for some reason and not just to speed up the action as full action sequences were cut.  Will that Hong Kong cut rise from the ashes over here one day?  Everyone seems to be pretty doubtful.  However, this US cut is still enjoyable in its own right, even if its a bit of a jumbled mess.

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Film 

Jackie, a cop, participates in a sting operation on an international spy-ring. But when one of them gets away, Jackie is ordered to apprehend him. This leads Jackie all over the globe starting with Tsui’s sister in Australia. The story follows him as he tries to stay alive and capture the villain.

I’ll always remember when I saw Jackie Chan’s First Strike.  It was my 14th birthday.  School had been canceled due to weather.  My mother, I think was unprepared to deal with my sister and I all day.  So, she just took us out to do random stuff.  Then she asked, how about a movie?  We went to the theater.  First Strike was in its second week, and I was a big Jackie Chan fan.  My mother tried to coax me into seeing something else, but I stuck to my guns.  It was my birthday after all.  I forced my mom to go to something she had zero interest in seeing, which is no easy feat.  I had a ball with this movie, and my mother seemed to have “not that bad” of time as I could hear her laughing pretty good during it.  So, yeah, the memory of that has stuck with me to this day.

How’s the movie?  Well, it is definitely problematic.  But, Jackie Chan has the ability to make even a terrible film highly enjoyable based upon his performance.  He is a man of both action and comedy.  His physicality can both impress you and have you in stitches with giggles.  With his movies, a plot, story structure, character development…they can all be nonexistent because there is such a spectacle with what he is able to do.  The man is one of the most special talents in movie history and its a crying shame that he never truly took off and got humongous in Hollywood.  However, internationally he’s an iconic legend.

And that’s where I’m really going to stand with First Strike.  If you’re looking for the Jackie Chan thrills, this will deliver.  If you’re looking for some action/espionage epic…look elsewhere.  The film is Jackie Chan’s attempt at parodying James Bond, and it works on that silly level.  I’d love to see the original cut of the film.  That’d be terrific.  But, I’m also ok with this one.  It the weakest in the Police Story series, but its still fun.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.42:1

Clarity/Detail:  Well, I haven’t seen this film in a long while, so I can’t comment on how much an upgrade this is.  The picture isn’t very flashy and doesn’t look pretty.  I think its a solid effort with the scenes in the snow looking pretty good.  Detail is okay, and that’s really what this mostly is, is “okay”.

Depth:  This is a little more flat for the most point.  There are some scenes that look pretty good but for the most part this one’s dimensional work isn’t going to wow anyone.  Movement ranges from smooth to slightly blurry.  Background imagery’s clarity isn’t the finest.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and get a little more grainy in darkly lit scenes.  There’s detail lost here and there and I didn’t see any crushing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are fine and well represented.  Nothing’s outstanding per se, but in a natural sense, they get the job done pretty good.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones look natural.  There is detail in close ups, but this one looks a little too smooth.

Noise/Artifacts:  This transfer does look pretty murky at times with some halo’ing and aliasing that is present.  There is some grain as well as light specs/dirt.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, German 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Spanish (Latin) 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Spanish (Castillian) 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Thai 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, German SDH, Korean, Mandarin, Thai

Dynamics:  This is a really solid, nicely above average action packed track.  The voices are all dubbed, but there is a charm to it honestly.  If you can’t appreciate that, I’m sorry.  This isn’t the kind of film that requires the strict “MUST HAVE ORIGINAL AUDIO OR GTFO” sort of amalgum.  What matters is action and this one delivers.  The score is a little low in the mix, but it works just fine.

Low Frequency Extension:  Explosions, some gunfire, car crashes and all sorts of action fill the LFE with plenty of work.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There are some cool sounds coming from behind during some action sequences like gunshots and crowd.  Front speakers keep this an entertaining jaunt with movement back and forth as well as good volume placement.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is fine, a little low, but clear and clean.

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Extras 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:35)

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Summary 

Jackie Chan’s First Strike might be a bit of a mess thanks to the cutting up of it by the US and the UK, but I still think the film is a load of fun.  Its still and features Jackie Chan with his charm and skills full intact.  This one attempts to go bigger than the others in scope, but still doesn’t feel as impactful as the previous “bigger” effort.  This Blu-ray has an average-ish picture with some quality sound to boot.  No bonus features is a bummer.  However, even if its the US version and no bonus features, I’m happy to have my Police Story Blu-ray collection complete in some fashion.  I’ve never seen the longer cut of this one, and I’ve not really had too much of a problem with this one.  Its still fun.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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