At this year’s Oscars, Michelle Yeoh – Time magazine’s Icon of the Year 2022 – and the cast and crew of Everything Everywhere All at Once swept the ceremony, picking up 7 gongs. The repercussions of these wins may prove to be profound. A film closer to a Marvel superhero flick than the usual Academy fare, the pop culture phenomenon has blown the field wide open. Yeoh’s triumph, as the first Asian actor to pick up a Best Actress Oscar, is hugely significant. Having loved and followed her since I was a kid, my teenage mind was first blown by her in the Jackie Chan action vehicle Police Story 3: Supercop.
Yeoh exploded onto the Hong Kong action cinema scene in the mid-80s with films such as Royal Warriors. Her no-nonsense cop characters, who were glamorous yet hard as nails, set a precedent and created a new subgenre: ‘Girls with Guns’.
In Chan’s cop action comedy franchise. Yeoh plays mainland Chinese police officer Inspector Jessica Yang, who teams up with Chan’s Hong Kong cop Chan Ka Kui to take down drug lord Chaibat. A simple plot becomes an international adventure, culminating in a beyond explosive finale filmed in Kuala Lumpur.
At the time Police Story 3 was made, in the early 90s, Chan was in his late 30s and was the biggest action star in Asia. A couple of years later he would break Hollywood. Yeoh was the comeback queen and outdid Chan at every turn, insisting on performing her own stunt and fight scenes. Her martial arts abilities here run the gamut from traditional kung fu to high-kicking styles. Where the real screen gold lies is in her stunt work, especially in the finale. First, she hangs off the side of a van moving at high speed, with only a thin wire supporting her. Then she rides a motorbike off a small hill onto a moving train. If that’s not badass, I don’t know what is.
Police Story 3 contains all of the elements that make golden age Hong Kong action film-making arguably the best of all time, from hair-raisingly dangerous stunts and breakneck pacing and action to a hefty slice of cheese. When Quentin Tarantino was asked what film scene he would put in a capsule for aliens to discover many aeons from now, he answered that it would be the last ten minutes of Police Story 3. Yeoh and Chan remained friends, and the latter was offered the lead role in Everything Everywhere All At Once, which he turned down. Yeoh texted Jackie after he told her he had been offered the part, but before its unprecedented success: ‘Your loss, bro.’ He won’t be able to upstage that one.
Police Story 3: Supercop is available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, and is also available on Blu Ray