With this second sequel to his enormously popular POLICE STORY, Jackie Chan edges ever closer to matching American action films in scope, even if his budgets are lower. This one cost $10 million, paltry by U.S. standards but huge for a Hong Kong film; one can only wish that the care

lavished on the stunt sequences had been applied to the screenplay as well.

Chan is Kevin Chan, who is drafted by his Hong Kong superiors to be the "supercop" requested by the police force in mainland China. They need someone to help them bring down an international drug ring run by Big Brother Wei (Kenneth Tsang), and Chan seems to fit the bill. But first, he must prove

himself to Chinese police director Yang (Michelle Yeoh), and does so in a martial arts duel with the best fighter on her squad. He then goes undercover in a prison camp, where he helps Wei's younger brother, known as "The Panther" (Yuen Wah) "escape" from the place. After some initial doubt, Wei's

gang accepts Chan into their midst, but soon it looks like his cover might be blown.

SUPERCOP: POLICE STORY III shares many of the strengths and weaknesses of Chan's latter-day films. After he moved away from the pure martial arts films that made his name (including the amazing PROJECT A, which remains one of the best kung-fu films ever made), his movies became more dependent on

plot and large-scale stunts than his incredible hand-to-hand combat choreography. Like ARMOR OF GOD (another Chan title to get U.S. exposure recently), POLICE STORY III is overly dependent on plot for the first two-thirds, and the action doesn't come as enjoyably thick and fast as in his

all-martial-arts fests. But, as in most Asian genre films, the final half-hour makes it all worthwhile, and what makes Chan's work continually astonishing is that the actor does all his own stunts.

The movie also benefits from Chan's considerable comic skills -- he's always incorporated humor into his films, and isn't afraid to be the butt of the jokes -- and from costar Yeoh (billed here as Michelle Khan), who proves to be every bit the martial artist he is. In fact, she may be the best of

all the female sidekicks that have populated recent action films, treated with neither overt sensitivity nor sentimentality; she gets knocked down and jumps up again as much as Chan, and rarely gets into situations where she's dependent on him to save her. The scene in which Chan takes on Yang's

best fighter, surprisingly and disappointingly, is done with sped-up visuals, but the action gets better as it goes along, culminating in the astonishing, extended final sequence that ends atop a speeding train. As usual, the film ends with outtakes of Chan and Yeoh getting into alternately funny-

and painful-looking accidents in the course of shooting the action scenes.