Grand Slam hit for Chan
Jackie Chan's First Strike
Starring Jackie Chan, Jackson Lou and Chen Chen Wu
Directed by Stanley Tong
At Famous Players 6, 7:20 and 9:20 p.m.
Probably the easiest and most accurate thing to say about Jackie Chan's First Strike is that if you like Jackie Chan movies, you will like this one. His more-experienced fans will understand that this entails entering a tacit agreement to sacrifice certain aspects of dramatic quality in exchange for superior action.
The story follows Chan's exciting pursuit of a man who has transferred some sort of stolen nuclear weapon from Hong Kong to Russia to Australia, where Chan discovers this man is a good guy and his own bosses are the bad guys. Along the way, of course, Chan repeatedly has to save the token useless woman, who is more of a prop than a character.
As per usual, this film is rife with painful humour. It is difficult to say whether such lame jokes are the result of poor translation or just bad writing, but be prepared to groan and look puzzled frequently. There are a few surprisingly funny moments, such as when Chan dons a hat in the form of an absurdly large stuffed seal immediately before an intense chase scene.
Acting skills range from mediocre to lousy and plot and dialogue are forced. I use such blunt terms to emphasize how good the action must be in order to compensate for the weakness of the film as a whole.
Thankfully, the action is almost non-stop. Chan and his co-stars are masterful fighters and the combat scenes are genuinely stimulating. Chan's signature creative use of props makes the ordinary extraordinary. In one scene, he does more with a ladder than you can do with a Soloflex.
A highlight of any Jackie Chan movie is the eye-popping stunt work. No trick photography or special effects are used and Chan does not have a stunt double. The knowledge that these death-defying feats are actually taking place makes the stunts more interesting than those in most films.
Chan himself is at his very best, proving he is a man of many talents. His fluid, almost surreal speed and grace often create the illusion that the film has been sped up. Additionally, he showcases some of his lesser-known abilities at one point singing while nude in a crowded parking lot before slipping into a whale costume.
Many people will be relieved to learn that the excessively pro-American advertisements for the movie have been grossly exaggerated. In fact, none of the action even takes place in North America and the United States is not mentioned once. The buzz about the big budget is equally unfounded. First Strike may have a few more explosions, submarines and live sharks than in previous films, but these are largely unnecessary additions. This movie is up to or even above the standards of Chan's previous major pictures, Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop, but its success lies more in the appeal of Chan and his co-stars than in the type of action Hollywood is so used to buying.
Overall, if you are able to embrace the cheesier aspects of this film as part of the complete Jackie Chan experience, then First Strike is an immensely enjoyable piece of work.