Welcome to How’d They Do That? — a bi-monthly column that unpacks moments of movie magic and celebrates the technical wizards who pulled them off. This entry explains how Jackie Chan did the shopping mall pole stunt in Police Story.
Without mincing words: Police Story (1985) is the pinnacle of Jackie Chan‘s career.
After three failed attempts to break into Hollywood, Chan attacked Police Story with a vengeance. His most recent Western foray, The Protector, had outfitted Chan as a serious, gun-wielding Dirty Harry-type. But just as Chan wasn’t Bruce Lee…he also wasn’t Dirty Harry. Those molds weren’t his. And Police Story was his opportunity to clarify what kind of action star he wanted to be.
Chan served as Police Story‘s director, writer, star, and stunt coordinator. He even sang the theme song. If there was ever a film dedicated, with every fiber of its being, to stunts, this was it. Police Story has more action in its first fifteen minutes than most films have in their entire runtime. The script was literally written around a grocery list of set pieces. The production even earned the nickname “Glass Story” because the JC Stunt Team barrelled through seven-hundred pounds (Chan’s estimate) of collapsible sugar glass.
Chan plays a cop named Chan Ka-Kui, a hot-headed goof who finds himself neck-deep in the mob after he’s assigned to protect Salina Fong (Brigitte Lin), a witness for the prosecution. In the film’s conclusion, Selina goes to the office of the mob boss (Chor Yuen), which is located in a shopping mall, to steal incriminating evidence. The mob catches on. And because Ka-Kui is following their movements, all parties involved wind up in an all-out mall brawl.
In the ensuing carnage, the briefcase containing the all-important evidence falls to the bottom of the mall’s atrium, where the mob boss retrieves it. From the top floor, desperate and out of options, Ka-Kui launches himself off the guard rail. He slides down a multi-story vertical pole, electricity arcing around him as he slams through string after string of decorative lights. Ka-Kui plummets through a glass plane into an unassuming kiosk, and without missing a beat, he hops back on his feet and detains his adversary.
The pole jump is the biggest stunt of a film defined by big stunts. It’s breathtaking and unfathomable, and yet there it is, unambiguously on the screen. So how did Jackie Chan do it?