I first saw (and loved) the Dimension Films cut of Police Story 3 when it was released in the U.S. in 1996. For years, I didn’t even know it was a sequel, since the American version was simply titled Supercop. Twenty-seven (!) years later, thanks to Criterion Channel, I’ve finally seen the original version, and the differences are fascinating.
- Score: I don’t remember much about the Dimension version’s score, but I do remember it being peppered with distinctly American songs (Tom Jones, Devo, and 2Pac, among others, including, maybe most weirdly of all, Rocket from the Crypt), which felt out of place well before I heard the melodramatic pop song sung by Jackie Chan himself over the original version’s closing credits. The original score is somewhat sparse and has more weight, heightening the narrative stakes.
- Sync sound: Dimension’s English dub makes most of the characters feel pretty cartoonish. It undermines the gravitas of the serious scenes and doubles the silliness of the comedic scenes. In the original cut, hearing everyone’s real voices speaking their native tongues (for the most part) makes the whole thing feel more grounded. It’s also interesting to see how Maggie Cheung’s character, a multilingual tour guide, speaks Cantonese (or Malay?) to her English-speaking colleague in one pivotal scene, when previous conversations between the two were entirely in English.
- Editing: Dimension removed a handful of scenes, including ones showing drug use, discussing some icky details of drug smuggling, and glancing at the issue of endangered species and other taboo animals sold as delicacies at wet markets. Seeing the drug stuff sanitized for Americans was a little surprising, given our enthusiasm for war-on-drugs jingoism, but my guess is it was too much of a downer for the lighter vibe Dimension was going for. Same for the animals, though the Dimension version does for some reason have Jackie Chan ordering a meal of “roast cat with string beans,” which was apparently deemed more palatable for American audiences than the original “stewed civet and turtle penis.” Dimension takes liberties with other translations throughout as well, often when regional politics come up.
Both versions of the film have pros and cons. Thankfully, the biggest con they share—the strident copaganda—is outweighed by the biggest pro: some of the greatest stunts and action sequences of all time.