Jackie Chan had to lose some control of his films and come back to Hollywood, site of his worst failure, to return to his former glory. Who knew?
When the Chinese consul’s daughter is kidnapped in Los Angeles, the consul sends for Hong Kong inspector Lee (Chan) to help the FBI with the investigation. The FBI want nothing to do with him, so they get wannabe-FBI LAPD cop James Carter (Chris Tucker) to keep him out of the way. Once the premise is set up, the fun begins.
Jackie obviously has some new, and better, handlers this time. What decisions were made to sell Jackie to America and ease his transition?
1) GET A CO-STAR WHO CAN DO ALL THE TALKING. ^ Chris Tucker is the man. With the right director, as here, he can drive the momentum of any movie. If Peter Greenaway had used Tucker instead of Sir John Geilgud in “Prospero’s Books”, he could have trimmed a good hour off of that movie, and it might have actually been entertaining, though no more intelligible. As Jackie said in an interview, “He does all talking comedy, I do all the fighting comedy… together, a BIG comedy.” ^
2) GET A PLOT EVERYONE DOESN’T FORGET IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES. ^ Quick — What was “Rumble in the Bronx”, “First Strike”, or “Mr. Nice Guy” about? ^
3) GET SOME REAL ACTORS. ^ One of his last films, “Mr. Nice Guy”, all of the actresses seem to have been cast solely for their cup-size, not for any talent or charisma. ^
4) DO ONLY STUNTS THAT NOMINALLY HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE MOVIE. ^ The action sequences may not be as memorable as the aquarium sequence in “First Strike” or the wind tunnel fight in “Operation Condor,” but then we’re not sidetracked by kung-fu fights in colossally inappropriate places, like an aquarium or a wind tunnel. The stunts are great but they make sense and don’t blow the sense of reality of the whole movie. ^
5) MAKE JACKIE ACT AGAIN. ^ I’m pretty sick of Jackie’s routine of the last several films where’s he’s some poor nice-guy schlub who just gets into trouble. Here, he and Tucker, with whom he has terrific chemistry, are hostile to each other from the starting line. Chan’s a man with a job to do, and he hasn’t got much patience with anyone who’s in his way. He’s deliberately antagonistic to Tucker. He even says s–t a couple of times.
Conclusion? Our man Chan is playing catch-up for a change as Jet Li is already skyrocketing to the A-list and Chow Yun Fat is developing his carefully managed career. I had thought Chan was too inflexible, after micro-managing his own films for so long to deal with the aggravation of breaking through to America again. I was wrong. He’s made a solid, distinctly American action comedy. The crowd at the screening adored him. If he can now carry a film by himself, he’s home free, but he’s got to handle a lot more dialog than he did here. ^