Jackie Chan: My Stunts (1999)

Starring Jackie Chan, Ken Lo, Bradley James Allan, Anthony Carpio, Mars, Nicky Li Chung-Chi, Rocky Lai Keung-Kun, Johnny Cheung Wa, Go Shut-Fung, Louis Geung Gwok-Wa, Sam Wong Ming-Sing, Chan Man-Ching, Alex Yip Choi-Naam, Jack Wong Wai-Leung, Huang Kai-Sen, Rocky Cheung, Andy Cheng, Ron Smoorenburg

Directed by Jackie Chan

Expectations: High.


It’s no secret that I hold the work of Jackie Chan in very high regard. A good portion of this respect and admiration directly stems from his style of action and his stunt team’s willingness to put aside their personal safety for the exhilaration of the audience. Watching an action movie is entertaining, but witnessing something real and dangerous takes the action film to a whole new level. Whenever I love something as much as this, I’m hesitant to dispel the myth and mystery surrounding it in any way. Jackie Chan: My Stunts actually made me appreciate the skill and dedication of Jackie and his team more than I ever could have before, something I didn’t even think was possible!

Jackie Chan: My Stunts is exactly what it sounds like: 90 minutes of light documentary focusing on the stunt/fight work of Jackie. How he trains, how he devises scenes, his tricks of the trade… it’s all here. And it’s all fascinating. Unlike a lot of “fluffy” behind-the-scenes docs on American films (whether that’s DVD featurettes or legit docs), Jackie Chan: My Stunts is almost like a handbook for anyone looking to make low-budget action films. I wouldn’t recommend piling up boxes on top of an old mattress and jumping out a second-story window onto them, but it does make these kinds of feats seem doable and attainable through perseverance and practice. The team’s accomplishments in the stunt field are absolutely incredible, but Jackie Chan: My Stunts reminds us that the members are but trained professionals, not superhumans.

I’ve written a lot in my reviews about the falls taken by the team members throughout the various films, and Jackie Chan: My Stunts cuts together a huge montage of these moments. To see them within the context of a larger action scene is one thing, but to see 30 of the craziest stunt jumps and falls in rapid succession is an entirely different animal. You simply cannot watch this and be anything other than flat-out impressed with the team’s body of work. We also learn that there is a “Jackie Chan Stunt Team Alphabet” corresponding with a variety of falls and types of hits. Scenes are constructed from these building-block elements seamlessly, thanks to the performers’ dedication to their craft through tireless training. To see Jackie work with his team in his “stunt lab” provides priceless insight for any fan with an interest in choreography. An entire segment on the rooftop fight in Who Am I? offers even more insight, as we watch Jackie devise ways to use the environment in real-time.

Jackie Chan: My Stunts also closes the mental gap between reality and filmmaking considerably by delving deep into the necessary rhythm of the performers and how the editing must also be in sync with this rhythm. Multiple scrapped takes are shown to illustrate how even a slight timing difference can be the difference between magic and malady. This is illustrated further with a great moment from the filming of Rush Hour where Jackie tells Brett Ratner how to edit the scene together, based on which take he decides to use. Distances between performers is also a key element, and the camera must also be one with the performers in order to capture the fight at just the right angle. I’ve always appreciated the intense skill involved with fight choreography, but I’ve never felt like I understood its varied complexities as much as I do after watching Jackie Chan: My Stunts.

If you’re a Jackie Chan fan, this is an absolute must-see film. Not only is it informative and enlightening, it’s just about 90 minutes straight of stunts, fights and the like. A joy to watch.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is his next American film: Shanghai Noon! See ya then!

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