Imagine a version of Die Hard in which Hans Gruber captures John McClane early on in the film and proceeds to lecture the rogue cop on the motivations spurring his seizure of the Nakatomi Plaza, not for a few minutes, but for something like 90% of the running time. Rather than spelling out his grudge and getting on with it, Gruber plays guessing games with McClane, who offers theories, which are dramatized as flashbacks that are ultimately discarded as incorrect, effectively rendering those sequences pointless. Eventually, Gruber tells McClane why he took the employees of the Nakatomi hostage, revealing the mystery to be answerable in a few lines of cursory exposition that could’ve been easily tended within 10 minutes of the film’s start time—which is to say, for everyone’s mutual benefit. Thankfully, the filmmakers responsible for Die Hard didn’t take that narrative tack, though Police Story: Lockdown does to deadening effect, cloning every element of the action classic except for those that matter, namely its geometric precision and forward-moving immediacy. The film’s subtitle is apropos, as this is a decidedly locked-down and lead-footed talk-o-rama.
Lockdown proposes an inelegant solution to a poignant problem: Chan’s obviously an older man now than he was in his Drunken Master (and original Police Story) heyday, presumably lacking the amazing physical dexterity that he possessed as a younger performer. As remarkable as Chan’s balletic exertions once were, though, and they were extraordinary, they weren’t the entire justification of his iconic status. Chan’s also an intensely likeable performer, capable of exuding a low-key everyman charisma that amusingly contrasts with his super-human agility. In Lockdown, however, Chan self-consciously plays against his gifts as a taciturn cop of many regrets, few words, and fewer smiles whose held hostage in a bar that laughably resembles a prison, though there’s little sense of humor intentionally exhibited toward this contrivance.
Chan’s cop faces off against Ye Liu’s Gruber-light baddie, the two sorting through their banal family issues in tedious pop-psych sessions that are occasionally, unmercifully interrupted by the film’s roughly two-and-a-half action sequences (the one half is awarded to the various set pieces that are irrelevantly proved to be the Chan character’s mental projections), all of which are rushed, graceless chop-jobs that could’ve been taken from any hack’s direct-to-VOD actioner. Chan attempts to play “serious” (read: stone-faced) as a way of offering a theoretical compensation of gravitas for the film’s dearth of stunts, denying his audience the one pleasure that Lockdown could’ve offered, despite its general ineptitude: his warmth.