By Deane Barker

Here’s an experiment for you. Take Jean-Claude Van Damme. First make him two-thirds the size, twice as flexible, and ten times as fast. Then mate him with a weed-wacker and jam a IV the size of a fire hose into his arm until you’ve injected him with enough caffeine to make a bull elephant giddy. Congratulations – you’ve just created Jackie Chan.

Chan is a Hong Kong detective sent to China to infiltrate a heroin ring in Supercop. He goes undercover and gets the help of a pretty Chinese military officer (Michelle Kahn) who just happens to have a few nasty moves of her own. They go from China back to Hong Kong, beating the crap out of people all the way. Life should be so simple.

Chan and Kahn manage to demonstrate enough unbelievably slick martial arts moves to keep the owner of Bob’s Quickie Karate Studio awake at night. They blow up a Cambodian military base in a pyrotechnic display the Unabomber would envy, and finish things off with a show-stopping action sequence that runs from the streets of Malaysia to the skies above it and finally onto the inevitable freight train.

All throughout, Chan remains as lovable as ever with his continuously dumb-founded expression and his naturally astute sense of comedy. At times you don’t know whether to fear him or whether to give him to your kid as a stuffed animal.

Supercop follows Rumble in the Bronx as the latest in a series of Chan movies that are being dubbed into English in preparation for his first American release late next year – Confucius Brown with Wesley Snipes. Supercop is technically an improvement over Rumble, but this has drawbacks of its own.

You see, Rumble was a blast simply because the plot existed just to string fight scenes together. Rumble was essentially a pornographic movie with action substituted for sex. Production values were comparatively poor, but none of this mattered – Chan was a human tornado and he single-handedly conquered the streets of New York. Life was good.

The production values of Supercop, however, are first-rate. The cinematography, directing, sets – all approaching or equaling that of the major American studios. All this kept encouraging me to try and take Supercop seriously and it kept coming up short. The plot is right off the shelf and the characters are horrendously over-acted – a problem only exacerbated by the Chinese to English dubbing.

But perhaps I’m over-analyzing. If you liked Rumble in the Bronx, you’ll dig Supercop. Jackie Chan is quickly becoming a serious threat to the employability of Van Damme, Seagal, and the like. After watching Chan imitate a jackhammer three or four times, Jean-Claude and Steve just don’t seem to measure up.

As a Martial Arts Film: A

As a Mainstream Film: B

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