Who, with both hands, hell, both hands and feet tied behind his back, blindfolded and drunk (especially drunk) could kick the collective asses of Arnold Schwartzeneger, Steven Segal and Jean-Claude Van Damme any day of the week? The answer is a guy by the name of Sing Lung, better known in our benighted hemisphere as Jackie Chan.
The Hong Kong wave has been building for several years now, with film festivals cropping up in most major cities (and some minor ones, smaller than Knoxville even -- and they all made lots and lots of money) but 96 looks to be the year that the wave finally breaks. With Broken Arrow, by Hong Kong auteur John Woo, number one at the box office and Rumble in the Bronx hard on its heels, it won't be long before Pat Buchanan calls for strict import tariffs on Asian films.
There are a number of reasons for the timing of the Asian invasion, not the least of which is the fact that in 1997 Hong Kong will once again become part of mainland China, a country not known for its generous support of the arts; Honk Kong filmmakers are making sure they have a nice, rich, democratic country in which to land. And America definitely needs them. Both Chan's and Woo's best films (not to mention the brilliant Tsui Hark whose mytho-historical epics remain almost entirely unknown) have a sense of style and fun, a dynamism and an energy that has been excruciatingly absent from big American action pictures for many years.
And Rumble in the Bronx has style, dynamism and fun in buckets. Rumble is the story of Hong Kong tourist, Keung (Chan) who comes to a strangely mountainous and Vancouvery looking New York to attend his uncle's wedding.
While there, Keung finds himself forced to kick a whole lot of ass. But Keung isn't just a brawler, he's also a lover -- the saint of ass kicking, and so he convinces many of the bad guys, after beating them up, that they should be better people. When Jackie talks, people listen.
There are those few bad guys, Mafia types, who just can't seem to see the light so Jackie really has to kick their asses. Despite all the fighting, however only one person gets killed, and Jackie had nothing to do with it. I promise.
To those weaned on the marital arts movies of Bruce Lee, Jackie will come as quite a surprise. Though Lee may have revolutionized the genre his legacy was hardly a proud one. Lee's seriousness and intensity were directly responsible for the flaccid, charmless, egomaniacal brawls visited on us yearly by his insipid step-children -- such dim-witted, slow-footed imbeciles as Chuck, Jean-Claude and Steven.
Jackie, on the other hand, returns the kung-fu movie to its Peking Opera roots. He is, simply, a superb performer, the greatest physical comedian of our age masquerading as a martial artist. And like the his idol Buster Keaton, Jackie really does do all his own stunts; a commitment to excellence that has brought him a number of broken bones, the highest insurance premiums in the world and action sequences that make Jackie Chan fans very, very difficult to impress.
There is something more than a little ironic, however, about America discovering Jackie Chan. Throughout Asia (a very big continent with lots of people) Jackie is bigger than Jesus. Whether his popularity there will ever be matched in the States is hard to guess. New Line (which released Rumble) didn't think we were quite ready to hear Jackie sing, something he does in almost every film, or speak in Chinese, also something he also does in almost every film.
Even if Rumble isn't the huge success that it deserves to be it's good just to have it here, to show Hollywood another way to make action movies. With any luck Jackie's alliance with an American studio should make his other films available, either on video, or (we should be so lucky) theatrical release. And there's a lot to see.
Though a complete filmography is difficult to come by, a rough total of his films show that Jackie Chan has completed over 64 films (some as writer and director as well) in 24 years -- an average of three films a year. Probably the best Jackie Chan film (and his personal favorite I've heard) is Drunken Master II. Police Story II and Police Story III: Supercop are also masterworks. For earlier Chan check out Young Master, which Jackie also wrote and directed.
As a rule of thumb the more numbers in the title the better. Another rule of thumb is to strenuously avoid any Jackie movie produced by Americans (Raymond Chow -- the King of Golden Harvest produced Rumble). The Cannonball Runs, Big Brawl and The Protector all suck.
Back to the Movie Guide