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Crime Story

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After more than a decade as eastern Asia's reigning star, Jackie Chan is changing his image. It's about time. At 40 the Hong Kong iconoclast is a bit too old for the daredevil martial-arts stunts that made him famous, and younger rivals like Jet Li have emerged to appropriate the characters he so endearingly limned in Police Story and Project A--those brash, mischievous, resourceful variations on the trickster-monkey-cum-itinerant-mercenary archetype of Chinese folk legend. Chan's first attempt to tinker with his screen persona culminated in 1992's embarrassingly zany City Hunter. But with Crime Story, directed by newcomer Kirk Wong with a bow to the smoky visuals of Miami Vice and John Woo, he's changed tacks. His inspector Chan is intense and no-nonsense, a moral anchor in a sea of corruption and duplicity. Based on real-life incidents, the rather predictable plot follows the kidnapping and rescue of a construction tycoon and the downfall of a bad cop (Kent Cheng). But the real story is how Chinese gangsters are operating with impunity in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China--posing a daunting problem for the 1997 Chinese takeover of Hong Kong. To be sure, there are the usual spectacularly staged fight sequences; but in this movie more than ever before, these endurance tests are cathartic expressions of moral rage and victory. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, August 6, 6:00 and 8:00; Saturday and Sunday, August 7 and 8, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, and 8:00; and Monday, August 9, 6:00 and 8:00; 443-3737.

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