Jackie Chan

The Tuxedo (2002)

The Tuxedo has a bonkers plot, but then again, so do most spy movies. The difference is in the clothes, and this movie boasts one very smart tuxedo. It’s something Q might want to investigate because so far, he hasn’t come up with anything like it. The tuxedo conforms to its wearer’s biometrics and in doing so endows him or her with some extraordinary physical abilities.

It might be the star of the film if it weren’t for the person who dons it, Jackie Chan. Jimmy Tong is not the first one to wear it and only does so when his boss and the owner of the suit, Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), is injured. Jimmy, a humble cab driver and chauffeur, discovers that Devlin is actually an undercover agent for the government (American, I assume) and decides to take his boss’s identity and his sweet threads to help him finish his mission.

Devlin and his associates were investigating the Banning Corporation, a water company wanting to expand worldwide. Owner Dietrich Banning (Ritchie Coster) declares that purveyors of bottled water are the new oil barons, and he’s not entirely wrong. His diabolical plan for global domination is to infect the water supply with a bacteria passed along by water striders. The bacteria causes a person to die quickly and painfully from dehydration and, if they’re especially unlucky, to turn to dust. Look, it’s fiction.

Jimmy gets some help from Delilah Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt), a government scientist whose biggest obstacle is her male colleagues. She and another agent played by Debi Mazar are objectified and harassed in ways that merit a wholesale overhaul of whatever agency they work at, and someone also fire the damn writers who decided this was funny. When she arranges a meeting with Devlin, whom she has never met, a colleague tells Jimmy to comment on Del’s chest size, to the amusement of all. Ha ha fuck you.

Clearly this isn’t the pinnacle of filmmaking, but it is an entertaining movie much to my surprise. Chan proves why he’s so popular and enduring, even though I can’t abide by his politics. He’s clever and super good at what he does, and that’s just a fact. The action sequences have his signature creativity and humor, whether he’s spinning uncontrollably with his pants half down or dancing like James Brown, who bizarrely cameos in the film. The imagination is a crazy thing, and at times I forgot that Chan and not the weaponized tuxedo was the prime mover. Chan is so quick and agile that he becomes a man transformed when he’s wearing his magic clothes. Even if the plot and acting don’t excite you, and why would they, the fighting and dancing scenes make this effort worthwhile.

Released: 2002
Prod: Adam Schroeder, John H. Williams
Dir: Kevin Donovan
Writer: Michael J. Wilson, Michael J. Leeson
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Ritchie Coster, Peter Stormare
Time: 98 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2018

Police Woman (女警察) (1973)

Police Woman will be forever branded as a Jackie Chan film, which is a damn shame because it’s not. Though once retitled Rumble in Hong Kong, an allusion to one of the actors’ most famous films, Rumble in the Bronx, for an American release, this is really a Yuen Qiu movie. Yuen, perhaps most famous for her role as the cantankerous landlord in Kung Fu Hustle, was part of the Seven Little Fortunes troupe, a group of young performers that included Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Wah. They trained at the Beijing opera school, China Drama Academy, under Yu Jim Yuen. Like her contemporaries, Yuen found some early success in movies as an actor and stuntwoman, but unlike her classmates, her career never really took off and she retired after marrying. I wonder why.

The film industry, and sexism, done her wrong, but at least we can revisit her early work thanks to Netflix (well, Hong Kong Netflix). Yuen (credited as Lin Qiu) plays Inspector Ho Mai-Wa, the titular police woman in the film. Mai-Wa is trying to figure out why her sister, Mai-Fong (Hu Chin), ended up poisoned to death in the back of a cab. She teams up with the driver, Chan Kin (Charlie Chin, or Chow Yun-Fat’s Taiwanese twin), and they battle it out with some Mainland gangsters who are caught up in a drug smuggling operation. One of those thugs is nameless Jackie Chan character, a kid whose distinguishing feature is a huge mole that he really needs to get checked out.

Yuen appears briefly in the beginning of the movie, appropriately kicking some ass while undercover, but then disappears as Kin’s story takes over. The gangsters chase him down, beating and harassing him because they think Mai-Fong hid some evidence in his cab that could incriminate them. They keep going on about a purse and can’t take the hint that he has no idea where Mai-Fong might have stashed it. Kin’s the reluctant hero, an innocent, somewhat unwilling participant in all this. His mild manner makes him easy to like, but he’s a college-educated cab driver, not a fighter, and the action always seems to swirl around him.

Things pick up when Mai-Wa shows up, and she and Kin do a little more of the pursuing. This leads them to the gangsters’ hideout and a showdown in which they get help from another woman and Kin’s cab buddies. Mai-Wa doesn’t talk much, but there’s no doubt about who is leading things. Yuen is studied and smart as the inspector, a woman who is used to navigating a man’s world and does so successfully by laying low and being very competent.

In fact, all the women in this film possess the same guile. They are the most interesting characters because of what they have to hide. Mai-Fong, it turns out, is an associate of the gang, drawn into the criminal life in part by her laziness according to her sister. Sao Mei (Betty Pei Ti) is as well. Both are more than the kept or wronged woman. They make decisions of great consequence and courage that end up costing at least Mai-Fong her life. The actors do as much as they can with their brief screen time. The film moves at swift pace, and there’s little attempt to bulk up the narrative or characterization. Even the fight scenes have an economical and perfunctory quality, though they are still fine.

Alt Title: 師哥出馬, The Young Tiger, Rumble in Hong Kong, The Heroine, Here Comes Big Brother
Released: 1973
Dir: Chu Mu 朱牧
Action Dir: Jackie Chan 成龍, Yuen Cheung-Yan 袁祥仁
Writer: Chu Mu 朱牧, Ngai Hoi-Fung 魏海峰
Cast: Yuen Qiu 元秋, Charlie Chin Chiang-Lin 秦祥林, Lee Man-Tai 李文泰, Hu Chin 胡錦, Chiang Nan 姜南, Jackie Chan 成龍, Helena Law Lan 羅蘭, Fung Ngai 馮毅, Betty Pei Ti 貝蒂, Go Yeung 高揚
Time: 80 min
Lang: Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2018

The Medallion (飛龍再生)

the medallion

The best way to enjoy this terrible movie is to turn into a ten year old – because The Medallion seems to have been made with this demographic in mind. As a kids’ flick, it’s big budget magic, a lot better than what the Disney Channel has lined up. There are funny good guys, menacing bad guys, exciting fight scenes, and a cool, glowing medallion that will give you superpowers and make you immortal.

Jackie Chan fans who have gotten past puberty, however, will want to skip this dying gasp of an effort. All the hallmarks of a Chan film are tried here, and all fail miserably. The worst are the attempts at humor, which rely on the pairing of the action star with British comedian Lee Evans. Both play police officers – Chan is Eddie Yang from the Hong Kong force, and Evans is Arthur Watson from Interpol – chasing after the evil Snakehead (Julian Sands) who has kidnapped a boy in possession of the supernatural medallion.

Unfortunately, the duo don’t have even a fraction of the opposites attract appeal that worked so well in the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon series. Evans leans heavily on cartoonish physical comedy, and this film lacks the sarcastic and satirical bite of the others. The jokes rely variously on culture clash, going undercover, and later, when Eddie gets a taste of the medallion’s powers, invincibility. But they are at once predictable and not very funny. Watson’s goofiness might appeal to the kiddie crowd, but to everyone else, he’s a sniveling and incompetent prick, and even Chan looks a little fed up.

The addition of Claire Forlani as Eddie’s love interest and fellow officer, Nicole, doesn’t help. Forlani, looking like a waifish Angelina Jolie, can kick some ass, but she and Chan force affection, ending up with more awkward moments together than tender ones. The rest of the cast, which include heavyweights Anthony Wong and John Rhys-Davies, are similarly out of place. No one seems quite comfortable being on set or around each other. Then again, it might be the awful script. I’d cringe too if I had to say things like, “You and I will live forever. We are the lords of time!” The only pleasant surprise turns out to be Christy Chung, who plays Arthur’s devoted wife and who has a few tricks up her sleeve.

The sluggish acting ends up affecting the action sequences, directed by Sammo Hung. Chan’s martial arts acrobatics seem to be on the wane as he is noticeably aided by wirework. I don’t object to that so much; he’s still fitter now than I will ever be. But the action is lackluster and unoriginal, inserted out of necessity rather than creative storytelling. That’s the problem with this film generally. There’s nothing fun or lively here. Skip it, guilt free, for some of Chan’s more popular hits.

Released: 2003
Prod: Alfred Cheung 張堅庭
Dir: Gordon Chan 陳嘉上
Writer: Gordon Chan 陳嘉上; Alfred Cheung 張堅庭; Bennett Davlin; Paul Wheeler; Bey Logan
Cast: Jackie Chan 成龍; Lee Evans; Claire Forlani; Alexander Bao; Julian Sands; John Rhys-Davies; Anthony Wong 黃秋生; Christy Chung 鍾麗緹; Alfred Cheung 張堅庭; Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒; Edison Chen 陳冠希
Time: 88 min
Lang: English, some Cantonese and Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong, United States
Reviewed: 2014