SUPERCOP 2 (aka PROJECT S) (1993) review

After having taken a 5-year break from 1987 to 1992 to dedicate herself to her mariage with producer Dickson Poon, Michelle Yeoh made a triumphant comeback as Jackie Chan’s female counterpart in Police Story 3 : Supercop. She made such an impression in it, more than holding her own in the fight scenes next to Chan, that her character in that film, Mainland police officer Jessica Yang, got her own spin-off the following year : Supercop 2 (also known as Project S). When her boyfriend David (Yu Rongguang) decides to leave for Hong Kong to try and make a better living, Jessica Yang refuses to go with him, out of dedication to her work as a police officer. Later, she is herself called to Hong Kong to help fight against a huge crime wave in the city. What she doesn’t know yet is that David has crossed over to the other side of the law and is one of the masterminds behind this crime wave.

A good spin-off should never ape its source material : on the contrary it should set itself apart in terms of tone and atmosphere, and Supercop 2 does just that. The Police Story films were essentially action comedies, albeit with sometimes suprisingly dark and edgy undertones. Supercop effectively reverses that formula : it is a story of heartbreak with sometimes comedic elements and interludes. For instance, Yeoh’s character is paired with two sidekick (Emil Chau and Fan Siu-Wong), one of which (Chau) harbors a crush on her and clumsily tries to win her over, in a subplot that takes up a little too much screentime. Similarly, Jackie Chan’s cameo comes as jarring farce, with him and Eric Tsang fighting in drag in a scene completely unrelated to the main plot. It feels tacked on, it breaks the rhythm, and it’s a missed opportunity as it would have been much more satisfying for him to share a scene with Yeoh, as their chemistry in Police Story 3 was a thing of beauty.

Still, even with these little tonal inconsistencies, Supercop 2 manages to move along at nice speed, thanks to Stanley Tong’s assured direction, especially every time an action scene erupts. There is a short fight against a cameoing Yukari Oshima, a particularly exciting car chase that is shot in a very down-to-earth, seventies style, a building shootout that is tense and intricate, as David must both fight off the cops and protect Jessica from his colleagues in crime, but the most memorable set piece comes when Michelle Yeoh takes on an adversary twice her size when trying to fend off a bank robbery. It’s one of her best fights, her unparalleled grace gradually giving way to extreme brutality. And as usual, Yeoh is also a commanding presence on the more dramatic side of her character, a dedicated cop who realizes, soul-crushingly, that the love of her life is now on the other side of the law. As her conflicted boyfriend, Yu Rongguang is excellent and the two of them make for an affecting pair that anchors the film and makes it resonate emotionally.

Long Story Short : Apart from some tonal inconsistencies, Supercop 2 is a worthy spin-off, thanks to affecting performances by Michelle Yeoh and Yu Rongguang, and a handful of Stanley Tong’s hard-hitting actions scenes, brought together by a surprisingly tragic plot. ****

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