When Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997, many fans of the colony's cinematic output were fearful of just what would happen to it's talent. What would happen to John Woo, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, and Michelle Yeoh? Would they flee to America and end up being caught in the Hollywood maelstrom of money and superstardom, yet see the quality of their movies dry up too? I was one such person who was fearful of this happening, but it hasn't turned out too badly really. Woo made Face/Off. Jet Li stole Lethal Weapon 4 with what was nothing more than an extended cameo. And Chow Yun Fat and Yeoh were amazing in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It seems that things aren't so bad after all.
The biggest worry I had though was about Jackie Chan. He's been in Hollywood films before. And they were crap. Why? Because Western directors don't know how to direct Jackie Chan. They don't properly understand how he works. However, the director Brett Ratner shows in this piece of enjoyable nonsense that he is at least willing to learn.
As is traditional with Jackie Chan films, the plot does not matter one little bit because Chan *is* the film. The man can do things on screen that no-one else can. You don't want to detract from that or you lose the point of having Chan in your films full stop. The plot is, in a nutshell, Triads (led by John Lone) trying to earn millions of dollars by taking over a Las Vegas casino and using millions of dollars of untraceable counterfeit bills whilst doing so. There are small side plots about Chan's dad amongst other things, but they're pretty irrelevant really.
Surprisingly, for an action film, this is packed full of impressive talent which certainly helps the film be much more palatable. Chan aside, we have Chris Tucker of course. Now, you either hate Chris Tucker or love Chris Tucker. I love him.....but not in this film. He may think that talking fast and in a squeaky voice is funny but it isn't. It is, however, hilarious when he's given good material like he was in star making turns in Dead Presidents and Friday. He really is incredibly annoying and given far too much screen time.
The rest of the cast is sparkling. Roselyn Sanchez is stunning in more ways than one as a US secret service agent and deserves more screen time. Watch out for her. It's also nice to see veteran character actor Harris Yulin back in films too. He doesn't get much to do but he adds class to the film.
But for me, the real star of this film is the young Chinese actress Zhang Zi-Yi. After she proceeded to walk away with her first major film (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), she then proceeds to do the same here. She displays all the cocky and charismatic charm that she did in the aforementioned film, and also manages to out-manoeuvre even Chan at times. It's an incredible exhibition that she puts on and if she isn't a huge star within the next two years or so then I will be frankly pissed off. She's extraordinary.
The film is nothing more than a good old-fashioned action romp. Tucker and Chan do have chemistry between them and that helps, and the action scenes are inventive and completely outrageous - just as they should be. Ratner doesn't get it right all the time when shooting Chan. Too many close-ups mean that some action scenes are a complete blur. Nonetheless, it's enjoyable brains-off material that will keep you happy for 88 minutes or so. If you like this sort of thing.
6Steve Grzesiak's Score