Release Date: October 18, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Jackie Chan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 6.5/10
After all these years, more than fifty if you’re still counting, Jackie Chan still has it. With more than one hundred films under his belt he still knows how to deliver what his fans want. Despite making numerous genre classics before the ‘90s it wasn’t until then, with the arrival of Supercop, that he really broke out and Chan became a box office draw in the states. With the arrival of Rush Hour he began to do studio films that while good didn’t put enough emphasis on what audiences loved about him. He would do the occasional Chinese film but they simply weren’t that good. You’d have to go back to Rumble in the Bronx for the last solid Jackie Chan vehicle. Chan returns with his latest film, which he also directed, Chinese Zodiac and he doesn’t disappoint.
JC leads a band of mercenaries who hunt down and “procure” priceless artifacts for auction houses. A globe-trotting adventure ensues when they are tasked by the head of one auction house to find and retrieve a series of artifacts. Never ones to back down JC and company must rely on their wits and skills to find them, bring them back and not get killed in the process.
When one goes to see a Jackie Chan film you expect death-defying stunts. At the youthful age of 59, Chan still does his own stunts. There are some sequences that look like it could be a stunt person but you can’t begrudge the man considering he’s not getting any younger. However, when you can clearly tell it’s him it’s amazing to see he can still pull off the moves he is known for. The film opens with a great action sequence where JC body blades to pull off a heist. It’s amazing to think something like this was never used in a James Bond movie. The way the scene unfolds must be seen to be believed. Apparently that is Chan doing all the work as he was trained by the suit’s inventor Jean-Yves Blondeau. Mid-way through we are treated to what everyone loves about Chan’s films, the fights. There is a great fight between JC and Vulture, played by Alaa Safi and another where JC fights a bunch of guards in a photo studio. And for the grand finale, a four-way skydiving battle. Chan is not pulling any punches for this one.
Many of the non-studio Chan lead films often suffered from story problems, bad visual effects or Chan’s predilection towards humor. Not to say his humor isn’t funny it just requires moderation and he has the right balance in Chinese Zodiac. The story’s message of preserving one’s past is never lost in all the mayhem and Chan doesn’t really beat it in to you. The story developed by Chan, Frankie Chan, Edward Tang and Stanley Tong is reminiscent of the Armour of God series in a way. Basically it’s about one man on a mission and the numerous challenges he faces to get there. One does get a bit bogged down when they start wrapping up character’s storylines in the end, it’s as though scenes were missing or something was lost in the subtitle transcriptions. Either way it was bothersome but not enough to ruin the film.
In a time where action stars of the ‘80s are trying to make a comeback, it’s nice to see that Chan is still relevant after all these years. As the highlight of every Chan film rolls, the gag reel, you are amazed by what he pulls off and how he just gets back up. You feel the pain with every missed stunt but he still gets back up. Over the end credits of this film we are treated to a highlight reel of clips from Chan’s filmography. Every now and then Jackie Chan himself would address the audience sharing his appreciation for his work and for his fans. It’s is as though Chan is delivering his swan song to the action genre. If this was indeed his last foray into starring action vehicles fans couldn’t ask for a better exit.