Skiptrace [絕地逃亡] (2016)
Starring Jackie Chan, Johnny Knoxville, Fan Bing-Bing, Eric Tsang, Eve Torres, Winston Chao Wen-Hsuan, Yeon Jung-Hoon, Kira Shi Shi, Michael Wong Man-Tak, Dylan Kuo Pin-Chao, Zhang Lan-Xin, Na Wei, Charlie Rawes, Mikhail Gorevoy, Sara Forsberg, Jai Day, Richard Ng
Directed by Renny Harlin
Expectations: Pretty low.
Skiptrace was released a couple of years ago, and if I was a competent film reviewer doing a Jackie Chan series I might have reviewed it back then. I chose not to for a simple reason: Skiptrace didn’t look great, in fact it looked like a film that I didn’t mind waiting to see whenever I reviewed my way up to it. That time has finally come, and I can’t say that I was wrong to wait. Skiptrace is as bad as I thought it would be, but somehow knowing exactly why it’s bad just makes it seem worse than before. I’m not a fan of the Shanghai Noon films, and that’s what this film most closely resembles, so I imagine if you like those you might like this one, too.
We begin in the past, where Bennie Chan (Jackie Chan) scales a dock structure to help his friend (Eric Tsang) with the giant bomb strapped to his chest. Eric Tsang, knowing he is beyond help, jumps into the water below and explodes, leaving Jackie with the guilt and the responsibility to care for Eric’s daughter, Samantha (Fan Bingbing). Meanwhile, Connor (Johnny Knoxville) is a scumbag hustler who happens to meet Samantha in a Macau casino. While there he sees a man murder a woman; the same man who Hong Kong policeman Bennie Chan has tried to convict since he killed Eric Tsang. Somewhere in there Connor and Bennie meet up and the chase is on, with Chinese drug runners and a group of Russians in hot pursuit. It’s hard to describe, but it doesn’t play so disjointed while you’re watching it.
That’s not to say it’s a well-written film, though. The real problem for me is that I do not share the film’s sense of humor — a huge portion of the film’s identity — so all the fun and joviality I’m supposed to be sharing with the movie and its characters is just completely flat. Even the relentless charm of Jackie had a hard time garnering my attention, which is pretty incredible considering that I love Jackie more than I can succinctly put into words. Perhaps it would play better on a second viewing like The Tuxedo, but I don’t really see myself willfully sitting down to watch Skiptrace anytime in the future. Beyond the humor, the road movie shenanigans are strung together well, and are helped considerably by the beautiful locations from all throughout China. The film is fast-paced and fun, but without the humor clicking it was still kind of a slog for me.
To be honest, I expected this from the movie, but I didn’t expect the action to be as lackluster as it is. There are many great elements in play — from cool stunts and inventive choreography to capable performers and intriguing locales — but the editing stringing everything together is pretty bad; nothing flows together well at all. Perhaps some of this is on the backs of the editors and director Renny Harlin cutting the Jackie Chan Stunt Team’s work into shreds, but there’s also a fair amount of blame on Jackie himself. Simply put, he’s older than he used to be, so things that could have been done in a single shot are now done in two or three. This is a much more American way to shoot action, and the editing reflects that. There’s also a fair amount of doubling and green-screen work going on for the dangerous stuff, furthering the need to edit and/or shoot without showing “Jackie’s” face. I honestly don’t mind this aspect much, I just wish they’d edit it better.
I don’t have a lot to say about Skiptrace; it’s the kind of movie I’d rather just move on from. As a road movie through China, it’s definitely worth a watch for the location shooting, and maybe you’ll get more out of it than I did. Who knows, maybe you’ll even enjoy the inexplicable Rolling in the Deep sing-along that occurs in Mongolia!
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is Ding Sheng’s Railroad Tigers, a film I am much more optimistic about than I was for Skiptrace! Let’s hope it’s not misplaced. See ya then!