Shout! Factory kicks off its 2013 martial arts movie releases with a double feature of Jackie Chan films from the ‘80s and ‘90s – “The Protector” and “Crime Story.” While certainly not the most popular entries in the international superstar’s filmography, they do provide an interesting glimpse at his career prior to his bonafide crossover into Hollywood. The high definition presentations are about what you’d expect for this type of film and its vintage, meaning there’s just as much good as bad. Still, this shouldn’t be anything new for longtime followers of the genre. http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo//flags/LS Jackie Chan Double Feature: Crime Story / The Protector Release Date: January 15, 2013 Studio: Shout! Factory Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray keepcase Year: 1993 / 1985 Rating: NR Running Time: 1:47:18 / 1:35:27 MSRP: $19.93 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video AVC: 1080p high definition 1.85:1 High and standard definition Audio Crime Story: DTS-HD Master Audio: Cantonese 5.1, English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: Cantonese 2.0, English 2.0 The Protector: DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 2.0 Various Subtitles English Various The Features Two of Jackie Chan’s lesser known films, produced eight years apart and representing different stages in the international superstar’s career, make up Shout! Factory’s latest double feature release, and the first of several of his older titles the company plans to bring to Blu-ray. First up, is the 1993 police actioner “Crime Story,” directed by Kirk Wong. Inspired by the gruesome 1990 kidnapping of businessman Teddy Wang, the film stars Chan as a Hong Kong detective assigned to protect a wealthy real estate developer who’s got more than his fair share of enemies. Although the film travels some familiar territory, especially with the precedent of the “Police Story” series, it’s also a significant departure as Chan plays a darker and, at times, more brutal, character who’s grappling with psychological demons. The action scenes also tend more toward gunfights, car chases, and explosions, with only a handful of fight scenes when all is said and done. While those sequences are impressive in the way only Chan can make them (the one atop a bamboo scaffold especially), they’re also consistent with the film’s darker tone and will inevitably run counter to expectations of him as a lovable kung fu clown. Those prepared for a more serious turn, however, should find plenty of thrills in “Crime Story,” though some of the more dramatic sections could be trimmed down to play up the film’s ultimate selling point. 3.5/5 But even a trim run time isn’t enough to salvage the 1985 film “The Protector.” Director James Glickenhaus’ crime drama represents Chan’s second, failed attempt (after 1980’s “The Big Brawl”) to crossover into Hollywood. Though it has a similar kidnapping motif as “Crime Story” (and happens to star Danny Aiello as Chan’s cop partner), its action sequences range from dull and uninspired to ridiculously over-the-top, no thanks to Glickenhaus disregarding Chan’s input and experience about that type of thing. The dramatic scenes are also the epitome of clichéd, with plot points that are often nonsensical (Glickenhaus seems to think New York City was a hotbed of random, senseless violence). Chan eventually re-edited the film for its release in Asia, addressing some of the pacing and story problems and tightening up and extending the action scenes. It’s a slight improvement from the original edit; however, there’s no amount of editing that can fix something that’s just poorly conceived and executed from the start. The only upside to “The Protector” is it motivated Chan to direct and co-write “Police Story,” which remains one of his most popular and entertaining films. Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade. 2/5 Video Quality The quality of the films’ transfers – both framed at 1.85:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec – mirrors the quality of the films themselves, with “Crime Story” looking superior to “The Protector.” The former does show signs of digital processing, namely some mild doses of grain reduction, but otherwise black levels, contrast and color are all strong to decent, depending on the scene in question. Some dust and scratches pop up on occasion, but not enough to be distracting. Detail of course is less than it should be given the processing, but sharpness nevertheless holds up well from close ups to establishing shots. 3/5 The same can’t be said for “The Protector,” whose main problems are its overly soft image and frequently compressed contrast. Black levels and color are fine by comparison, but it’s hard to appreciate when you feel like rubbing your eyes for most of the movie. Yet despite its obvious problems, the transfer often looks more filmlike than “Crime Story,” suggesting this is the best Shout! Factory had to work with. 2/5 Audio Quality Audio quality is a little more consistent between features, though “Crime Story” once again bears the superior mix and presentation. Dialogue in the Cantonese language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is clear and intelligible. Surround channels provide some support for the soundtrack and environmental effects, but the mix basically occupies the front speaker array for the entirety of the film. LFE is non-existent, and sorely missed during the copious explosions in the final act, but the overall depth is strong outside of those scenes. 3.5/5 “The Protector” English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track features clear and intelligible dialogue, though its surround activity sounds consistently unbalanced and bluntly placed, to the point I was wondering if I shouldn’t just switch to the lossy stereo track. Bass levels go deeper than in “Crime Story,” though they too sound tacked on and ultimately distracting. 2.5/5 Special Features The collection of bonus material offers a few surprises – namely “The Protector’s” alternate cut. The interview with Glickenhaus is also interesting, if only to hear his side of the story. Crime Story: 2.5/5 Interview with Director Kirk Wong (10:30, SD): Wong talks about the inspiration for the “Crime Story” script, how he got involved with the project, and his experiences working with Chan. Deleted Scenes (6:23, SD): The material centers almost exclusively on a romance sub-plot between Chan and a love interest, dubbed in Mandarin. Original Trailer (3:38, HD) Theatrical Trailer (1:41, SD) The Protector: 3.5/5 Alternate Cut (1:28:22, SD): The Asian re-edit removes some of the more “R” rated material and tries to fix some of the story problems – mainly by reincorporating a number of scenes starring Taiwan pop singer Sally Yeh as the niece of one of the Hong Kong crime figures. The action scenes are also noticeably tightened up, for the better, but overall the film is still far from Chan’s best. Picture quality is pretty poor at times, even for standard definition, so the cut is best viewed for illustrative purposes. Presented in Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 with burned in English subtitles. From New York to Hong Kong: Interview with Director James Glickenhaus (9:32, HD): Glickenhaus remains insistent he made the right call about how to present Chan to U.S. audiences, despite evidence to the contrary. Interestingly, he recalls no real conflicts with the star during production, only becoming aware of Chan’s unhappiness after the fact. Locations Then and Now (4:19, HD): A montage of New York City locations compares recently shot footage to scenes from the film, with Chip Taylor’s closing credits song, “One Up for the Good Guys,” as background audio. Behind the Scenes Featurette (5:00, SD): The vintage Hong Kong promotional piece is presented with Cantonese as the only audio option. Hong Kong Trailer (4:00, SD) U.S. Trailer (:48, SD) Recap The Features: “Crime Story” 3.5/5 | “The Protector” 2/5 Video Quality: “Crime Story” 3/5 | “The Protector” 2/5 Audio Quality: “Crime Story” 3.5/5 | “The Protector” 2.5/5 Special Features: “Crime Story” 2.5/5 | “The Protector” 3.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5 Shout! Factory delivers problematic to decent high definition presentations for the first of its Jackie Chan Blu-ray double features. Though “Crime Story” gets the most acceptable marks for video and audio quality, the bonus material for “The Protector” proves the most worthwhile, mainly because it pulls back the curtain a little on a troubled production experience. While the two films are neither the most well regarded or popular of Chan’s films, and are kind of a curious way to start a release series, it’s a worthwhile one for collectors of martial arts films and fans of Chan’s older work, especially at its inevitably reduced price point.