Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hong Kong Phooey

Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin

- Bob Dylan "The Times They Are A-Changin'"
Last night I made the regretable decision to watch the latest Jackie Chan action movie, 2004's Hong Kong import New Police Story. I had Roman Polanski's lone Polish feature, the stylish sexual tensioner Knife In the Water, in one hand and Chan's numbingly dumb actioner in the other and went - for sentimental reasons - with Chan. I guess I was thinking back to the mid-90s when I loved HK action films from Chan and Jet Li and Samo Hung and John Woo and Tsui Hark. But those days are long gone, the playing field significantly altered by the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to mainland China - and with it the mass exodus of talent to Hollywood (Jackie, Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat, Maggie Cheung, John Woo, Ringo Lam, etc.). The last good Hong Kong film I saw (on the recommendation of a waiter at Towson's Kyodai Revolving Sushi Bar) was 2002's Infernal Affairs (Mou Gaan Dou), recently remade by Martin Scorcese as The Departed. That film had an interesting plot and great acting courtesy of Andy Lau, Anthony Wong and HK's greatest actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai (once again playing a deep-cover "mole," a la his role in John Woo's Hard Boiled). But the HK times have a-changed.

Jackie Chan's new film has none of the merits of Infernal Affairs and I have to report that the new Pepsi-shilling Jackie has become completely Westernized, which is to say: fat and lazy. He built his legacy on his wildly imaginative action set pieces, his Chaplin-, Keaton- and Lloyd-indebted physical comedy, and the fact that he did his own stunts. But New Police Story is devoid of such charms. The set pieces are unimaginative and derivative, there is no humor, and the crazy he-does-his-own-stunts schtick just resonates as anachronistically unnecessary and Old School Dumb in this, the era of CGI special effects. New Police Story actuallly makes Chan's next lamest film, The Tuxedo, seem like Citizen Kane. At least the latter Disneyfied entertainment had pleasant eye candy in the form of Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Jackie tries to flex his thespian muscles in this film, but his sappy, melodramatic emoting is so laughable that he can't even manage to portray a drunk - something he allegedly has no problem projecting off the set (a drunk Jackie Chan recently disrupted a concert by Taiwanese singer Jonathan Lee in Hong Kong when he jumped on stage and demanded a duet, then tried conducting the band but kept stopping and restarting the music. The audience started heckling him after the disruption dragged on and The Drunken Master allegedly responded with insults, also admitting on stage he was drunk.)

So there's really nothing to recommed in this film other than the occasional scene with his estranged fiancee, portrayed by hottie actress Charlie Yeung (a former Cantopop diva with EMI and erstwhile star of Wong Kar-Fai's Ashes of Time and Fallen Angels).

To try to describe New Police Story's plot would be to imply that it actually had one, instead of a series of excuses for Jackie to climb up and down buildings, jump onto buses and smash a lot of glass (Rule No. 1: "It's not a Hong Kong movie until a store front window is smashed").

What a waste of talent. It's not like Jackie Chan has to fight for good scripts. He's made it, he has clout and cachet and cash. Why settle for this waste of 2 hours? (Just to sing the forgetable theme song? I hope not.) Hit the road, Jack(ie), and come up with a better idea next time.


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