Magazine article The Spectator

Genially Scrutable Chan

Magazine article The Spectator

Genially Scrutable Chan

Article excerpt

Not all Her Majesty's subjects in Hong Kong have chosen to embrace their fate as communism's last conscripts. Half the local film industry, for example, has settled in Hollywood, and, in one of those happy coincidences, managed to arrange key releases for two one-time Kong kings in this very week. In America, John Woo's Face/Off has just opened; in Britain, Jackie Chan in Stanley Tong's Rumble in the Bronx arrives this weekend.

Back in Honkers, Woo's meticulously orchestrated violent scenes earned him a reputation as `the Mozart of mayhem'. Unfortunately, he was also the Mantovani of motivation -- cheerfully indifferent to anything except the most shrill sentimentalising. Face/Off is a high-concept film `high concept' is a Hollywood expression meaning `low concept' - in which Nicolas Cage has plastic surgery to look like John Travolta only to find that John Travolta's had plastic surgery to look like Nicolas Cage (or possibly the other way round). But, in a rare innovation for Woo as a director, the human elements are almost as good as the fight scenes. This is Woo's first truly American film.

By contrast, Jackie Chan seems barely aware, despite his picture's title, that he's left his homeland: Rumble in the Bronx is a Hong Kong action movie that just happens to be set in New York. It's as different from New York action flicks as can be imagined. If Chan keeps this standard up for the rest of his American movies, `one country, two systems' may at least have some meaning as a novel approach to filmmaking. The plot - something about the mob and stolen diamonds - need not detain us long, any more than it did in his Hong Kong pictures. As for Chan, he must be the least inscrutable Chinaman of all time. He's so genially scrutable, so eager and unabashed, that it's a bit like watching a seven-year-old boy who's had too much pop tearing up the playground.

The film lacks the wackiness of his Hong Kong work - I remember one movie where he extinguished a fire with a urinating newborn babe he happened to have to hand - and also the grace - in Jackie Chan's First Strike, the scene where he holds off a barrage of villains with a broom and a stepladder is worthy of Astaire in his romancing-the-hat-rack mode. Still, if he seems a little subdued here, he does have a great supporting cast. I don't mean the actors, who are all breathtakingly terrible, but rather the cast on Chan's foot: he broke his ankle during filming and wound up wearing a cast painted as a sneaker (trying to spot which is Chan's painted foot is one of the film's minor pleasures). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.