Jackie Chan takes a career swerve with “Crime Story,” a dark-edged cop thriller in which the star’s stunts play second fiddle to plot and mood. Stylish direction by former New Waver Kirk Wong makes it a fresh entry in the Chan oeuvre.
Pic is a clear attempt by Chan, now 39, to broaden his range from purely stunt-driven blockbusters, though on present evidence he still needs more time with his drama coach. Chan buffs will note similarities with the angry tone of the first in the “Police Story” series, which has since softened into exotic comedy-actioners.
Supposedly based, according to final crawl, on a recent hushed-up case, “Crime Story” has Chan as a member of Hong Kong’s Serious Crimes Squad (the pic’s Chinese title) recently bent out of shape by a botched shootout. He’s assigned to protect a millionaire real estate developer threatened with kidnapping by a powerful combo of triad groups.
In a well-staged car chase recalling classic Chan, the tycoon is kidnapped and held for $ 60 million ransom. The brains behind the operation is one of Chan’s cop superiors, Hung (Kent Cheng). Rest of pic is Chan unravelling the case in Hong Kong and Taiwan, climaxing in a tense finale in a burning building.
Playing by Chan is straight, sans his usual boyish humor, and he’s well framed by Wong’s moody lighting and direction, all diffused light and Ridley Scott-like interiors.
Action set pieces and firepower are high caliber, with a simmering tension that holds the whole together. A standout sequence of the zillionaire’s wife handing over the ransom loot while being tracked by the cops is a tour de force of cross-cutting and direction.
Tech credits are fine, with a spacey synth score by composer James Wong.