Rush Hour (1998)

rushhour_1Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson, Tzi Ma, Ken Leung, Elizabeth Peña, Mark Rolston, Rex Linn, Julia Hsu, Chris Penn, Philip Baker Hall, John Hawkes

Directed by Brett Ratner

Expectations: Interested to revisit it.

threestar


And so begins my descent into madness — I mean, the American films of Jackie Chan. While I have always been happy that Jackie achieved global success, his transition to Hollywood definitely leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality filmmaking. For newcomers to his work, I suppose the flashes of fearless stunts and athleticism are welcome and shocking additions to the American action film, but to anyone who’s seen one of his Hong Kong films, it’s hard not to be somewhat disappointed with the watered-down Jackie Chan present in Rush Hour. That being said, Rush Hour is just about exactly what a “Jackie Chan comes to Hollywood” movie should be, providing the audience with an ample amount of action and lighthearted comedy.

Jackie Chan has often said that Hong Kong directors know action and American directors know story. Rush Hour isn’t the best showcase of this “knowledge of story” that Jackie speaks of, but there is a fundamental difference in the way Hollywood films are structured that is in evidence. If you look at a movie like Mr. Nice Guy, it’s easy to see how the story was built up around the action set-pieces in a way to string them together as seamlessly as possible. Lots of Hong Kong films feel similarly (but Jackie is wrong, there are plenty of Hong Kong directors who understand story!), whereas Rush Hour is clearly set up with the story as its foundation and the action arising where it can. It’s kind of a subtle distinction in Rush Hour, as the story is pretty thin. It’s a key difference, though, and consequently there aren’t any huge, extended action scenes in Rush Hour.

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Stephen reviews: Fist of the North Star (1995)

Starring Gary Daniels, Malcolm McDowell, Costas Mandylor, Downtown Julie Brown, Dante Basco, Nalona Herron, Melvin Van Peebles, Clint Howard, Chris Penn, Andre Rosey Brown, Isako Washio, Paulo Tocha

Directed by Tony Randel


Now what on Earth am I doing reviewing a live-action American film, you might ask. Well, if your memory reaches back a few weeks, you might remember my review of the anime Fist of the North Star, and this is the live-action adaptation of the series, though not specifically of that 1986 film. It claims to be the first Hollywood adaptation of an anime, and in the absence of any contrary evidence, I’m not going to argue.

The use of the word “Hollywood” implies an impressive big-budget production, but that really isn’t the case. Kill Bill this ain’t. You’re also probably questioning if a live-action American film could possibly capture the spirit of an anime, especially one as absurd as Fist of the North Star. Obviously you can’t expect to see a 20-foot-tall giant turn his skin into steel and trample an entire army. And since shit like that is the main draw of the anime title, you have to go into this version with some vastly different expectations.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Future Kick (1991)

Future Kick (1991)
AKA Kickboxer 2025

Starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Meg Foster, Chris Penn, Eb Lottimer, Al Ruscio, Jeff Pomerantz

Directed By Damian Klaus


Before Hollywood discovered the Hong Kong film industry in the late ’90s we had to settle for the local stuff like Future Kick. Back then martial arts films were pretty much advertised by how many kickboxing championships or karate tournaments the lead actor had won. Most of the time, these titles were completely fabricated or taken totally out of context, but we didn’t care. Remember those trailers for Bloodsport and Kickboxer heralding the coming of Van Damme to the US as if it was like a visit from the pope? They threw out all kinds of bullshit spiel like “…nine-time reigning karate champion of the world, Jean Claude Van Damme.” We loved it, but once Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx got its much belated release stateside, it pretty much opened the floodgates to a world of martial arts that America hadn’t seen since the heyday of Bruce Lee. Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and all of those slow white guys we once thought were awesome gradually disappeared from movie screens across America in favor of the new flavor.

Don “The Dragon” Wilson was one of those guys.

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