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Jackie Chan in Shinjuku Incident

dir. Derek Yee

Early in Jackie Chan in Shinjuku Incident (executive produced by Jackie Chan, starring Jackie Chan), a couple is randomly attacked by thugs and Jackie Chan jumps into the fray to intercede. But instead of the Buster Keaton-esque, hyperchoreographed fight scenes we've come to expect from Chan, he just waves a stick around, clumsily striking one of the attackers. They run away, but the scene is so painfully mundane, so unmagical, that it leaves the viewer perplexed until he finally realizes what's going on. It's finally happened: Jackie Chan wants to be taken seriously. After nearly 30 years, he's getting too old for the chop-socky, and he wants audiences to accept him on the merits of his acting ability. And what better showcase for his talents than a gritty crime drama?

But there's a huge problem with this scenario: When you take away the kung fu, Jackie Chan is meaningless. He's a good-natured, lovable human being with a bad haircut who can't act. He's basically Tony Danza. So when he tries to look disaffected even as he fucks what I assume to be a prostitute, the viewer is left wondering, "Why does Jackie Chan look so sad? Why isn't he performing some sort of acrobatic ballet with a stepladder and a fishing net?" It just doesn't work.

It doesn't help that Shinjuku is an awful movie even without this awful misstep on Chan's part. Chan plays Steelhead (?!), one of many illegal Chinese immigrants trying to eke out a living as a counterfeiter on the seedy streets of Tokyo. Of course, the immigrants bump heads with the local organized-crime bosses, and drama ensues. Chan's good-natured doofus of a friend, who just wants a simple life selling chestnuts on the street, is tortured by a hilariously eeeeevil yakuza boss, and then all bets are off. It's the kind of crime story that even Jimmy Cagney would've dismissed as a cliché back in 1933; let's hope Chan sees the dismal fruits of this new, dramatic direction for what they are. The world could not withstand the terrors of a Jackie Chan Holocaust drama. PAUL CONSTANT

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