Chinese Zodiac: Jackie Chan's final fireworks-A A +A
Sunday, February 3, 2013
RIGHT at bat, let's get this straight: I'm a Bruce Lee fan, the dyed-in-the-wool, no-buts-no-ifs kind.
Bruce Lee was mesmerizing in "Fists Of Fury" and "The Big Boss." His duel with Chuck Norris in "Way of the Dragon" remains the classic martial art fight scene.
Like many great artists, Bruce died too early, too soon, leaving a void a host of cheap pretenders tried to fill.
Enter Jackie Chan, a struggling young stuntman who had been bouncing around Hong Kong studios, trying to hit the big time. That came with "Snake In The Eagle's Shadow" and soon he was being marketed as the next Bruce Lee.
Jackie Chan eventually became the action megastar that he is now, but he never did become the next Bruce Lee.
Jackie Chan made it by being Jackie Chan. Bruce played the heroic, often tragic hero; Jackie was the village buffoon who clowned around with the villains before knocking them out.
The first Jackie Chan films were reminiscent of Chinese opera, with its highly stylized demeanor. But one thing stood out: the fight scenes were not only exciting, they were funny. That has been the hallmark of his movies, and that is why Jackie Chan is not Bruce Lee.
After almost four decades and more than 140 films, Jackie has shot his final reel. His body has taken quite a beating because he insists on doing his own stunts. He has been gashed, bashed and smashed, but he keeps going.
"Chinese Zodiac" is Jackie's last action movie, so it has kicked up a lot of hype. Shot in eight countries, the film has an international cast that includes a face familiar to local Koreanovella diehards: Kwon Sang-woo, last seen in "Stairway to Heaven."
As expected, "Chinese Zodiac" was a monster grosser in Hong Kong, where it was first released last year.
The movie is about a treasure hunt. During the Second Opium War fought in the mid-1800, British troops sacked the Summer Palace in Beijing. Among the treasures they took were the bronze heads of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac.
Chan's elite team of treasure hunters/art thieves is recruited by the MP Corporation to recover as many of the heads as they could. MP Corp expects to collect a huge bundle of Euros by copying the artifacts and selling the imitations. JC (Chan) picks up the trail of the heads in Paris, where he meets Coco (Yao Xing Tong), an activist demanding the return of stolen Chinese treasures to China.
They strike an alliance and JC manages to recover two of the heads. A third one they find in the castle of Katherine (Laura Weissbecker), whose great-grandfather captained the shipwhich carried the looted treasure.
Katherine accompanies JC and Coco to an uncharted island where they find the ship's remains and its precious cargo. Before they can uncork the champagne, they are waylaid, first by another group of treasure seekers, then a ragtag band of pirates. After madcap chases and lots of explosions, JC's group makes a spectacular escape from the island on a giant log laden with gold bars.
But wait, there's more. Coco and her brother are kidnapped by MP Corp henchmen. JC must rescue them but must first have a showdown with a rival treasure hunter. On top of everything, the knock-offs of the bronze heads are next on the auction block.
JC has a lot on his plate. Will he pull through? We all know he will. What matters is how he does it.
Chinese Zodiac has wall-to-wall Jackie Chan stunts, some absurd, some funny, some really bone-jarring.
The story is shallow and predictable (Jackie wrote it), but who cares? Jackie Chan wanted to retire with a bang, and "Chinese Zodiac" explodes with the color and noise of Chinese fireworks.
About the columnist: A member of the Cinema Evaluation Board, Fort Yerro traces his fascination for movies back to the time when an orchestra ticket cost P1.20. A former managing editor of Sun.Star, Yerro recently retired after almost four decades as a newspaper journalist.