This is actually a personal request, which is a first for me. So here goes…
For everyone who knows me, I am a huge Jackie Chan fan. Since I was eight years old, my family bonded over his early films such as Project A, Wheels and Meals (which has one of the best fight scenes ever), Police Story and Armour of God and as they were recorded from the TV, the videos were always in the VCR.
Then he broke into Hollywood and even though the calibre of his English-language films didn’t quite hit the same spot, his martial art choreography endured throughout his career.
So, on Monday, there was a special screening held by Empire Magazine and the Prince Charles Cinema of his latest film, Chinese Zodiac, followed by a Q&A with the man himself. To have a chance to be in the same room as one of your childhood heroes is indescribable and as one of the quickest-to-sell-out events ever at the PCC, you know that you have gotten a golden ticket.
I just had to sit through the film first. All 123 minutes of it.
Chinese Zodiac is a throwback to Jackie Chan’s ‘adventurer’ films like Armour of God and, in certain aspects, his films that feature Western actors dubbed in Chinese (classic example is manga adaptation City Hunter).
Thief/treasure hunter JC (Chan) is hired by Lawrence Morgan (Oliver Platt) to obtain the remaining bronze heads of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, as they are likely to go for millions in auction. In the process, JC and his team has to contend with political activists, French aristocrats and pirates (!).
The story is a bit unimaginative and the acting of several supporting characters is laughable. Within the first ten minutes, the film makes you giggle for the wrong reasons as most of the Asian actors are dubbed in English and/or speaking bad French or Caucasian actors are speaking bad Chinese. Either way, language is quickly lost here, as is the plot.
Thank goodness for the fight scenes.
Yes, bearing in mind that Jackie Chan is 60 years old, the stunts do not have the same punch compared to his fight scenes in, like, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Dragons Forever and The Drunken Master but they still have imagination. One of the best things about his choreography in particular is his creativity in props. Like Gene Kelly with his umbrella in Singin’ in the Rain, Chan makes the most of its surroundings and in doing so, his fight scenes are not just about blows and damage but also visual creativity.
It seemed like that the film was a labour of love for Chan; there is a historical aspect to it, culture, hidden messages about war and pacifism, but like the majority of his films, it also shows how he continues to retain his heritage and how proud he is to be Asian, which is something that is now only comes once in a while.
Overall, the film is a bit naff but seeing one of the biggest martial arts stars sat right in front of you? Priceless.
For those who subscribe to the Empire Podcast, the Q&A was recorded and is available to download or listen online, so you can listen to him talk about The Expendables and Sly Stallone, his hopes of working with James Cameron and sing the audience. FYI, listen out for the giggly girl who was so obviously geeking out big-time at 24:32 🙂
You may have noticed that most of the films have been linked here; these will take you to some of the fight scenes in his films. For something a bit more…fun, here is one of my favourite scenes in Project A, the first film I ever watched starring Mr. Chan:
Thanks for reading.