SAME OLD STUNTS

Glob­ally rec­og­nized kung fu gi­ant Jackie Chan’s lat­est film Skip­trace has raked in 400 mil­lion yuan ($60 mil­lion) in its first week­end, to top the box-of­fice charts. But fans are call­ing it a hodge­podge of cliches. Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

From jump­ing off a 70-me­ter-high sky­scraper in the Nether­lands for Who Am I to se­ri­ously in­jur­ing his head in the for­mer Yu­goslavia for Ar­mour of God, Jackie Chan is never short of close-to-death sto­ries.

How­ever, the glob­ally rec­og­nized kung fu gi­ant now faces a new dan­ger: be­com­ing a cliche for his fans.

The 62-year-old’s lat­est film Skip­trace, which de­buted in China on Thurs­day, has re­ceived a dis­ap­point­ing score of 5.8 points out of 10 on douban.com, China’s largest movie re­view site.

Most of the com­ments on the site re­fer to the film a hodge­podge of cliches — a stereo­typed crime plot, stunts that look sim­i­lar to those from Chan’s pre­vi­ous movies, funny lines that don’t work and soft eroti­cism.

In­ter­est­ingly, even with the mixed re­views, the film has raked in 400 mil­lion yuan ($60 mil­lion) in its first week­end, to top the box-of­fice charts.

Do­mes­tic me­dia out­lets say that the dis­trib­u­tors have signed a spe­cial rev­enue-shar­ing con­tract with the film­mak­ers as they be­lieve the film will earn at least 1 bil­lion yuan.

In­dus­try sources at­tribute the com­mer­cial suc­cess of the film to the fact that few qual­ity films have been re­leased in this pe­riod.

In­spite of the crit­i­cism, Skip­trace, which has a Chi­nese hero helped by a for­eign part­ner, is seen as a re­flec­tion of Chan’s drive to boost China’s rep­u­ta­tion in the world.

“When I was pro­mot­ing The Karate Kid (2010), many for­eign­ers were wowed by China’s beauty,” says Chan in a re­cent in­ter­view in Bei­jing.

“But the (scenes) fea­tur­ing the Great Wall and the Wu­dang Moun­tains (in The Karate Kid) are just a small part of China’s di­verse land­scape. I want to show them more,” he says.

The film, which is about an un­likely pair of bud­dies, is in away a Chi­nese re­sponse to Mid­night Run, the 1988 Amer­i­can film star­ring Robert De Niro.

In the lat­est film, a re­tired Hong Kong cop, played by Chan, teams up with an Amer­i­can gam­bler, played by Johnny Knoxville, to take on a no­to­ri­ous Hong Kong crim­i­nal.

Their jour­ney, which spans the vast grass­lands of Mon­go­lia and the pic­turesque land­scapes of south­west­ern China, fi­nally con­cludes in Hong Kong.

Chi­nese cel­e­bra­tions, such as a mud-sprin­kling fes­ti­val and the fly­ing of Kong­ming lanterns in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion, are weaved into the film.

The Kong­ming lantern is a tiny hot-air bal­loon made of oil pa­per.

Speak­ing of what in­spired him to make the movie, Chan says that he first thought about mak­ing the movie around 25 years ago.

He first planned to cast Jet Li, a big name in mar­tial arts movies, to play the cop, while he would play the gam­bler.

But later, prob­a­bly keep­ing the English-speak­ing mar­ket in mind, he chose a Hol­ly­wood-fo­cused cast and crew.

In ad­di­tion to Knoxville, known for the MTV re­al­ity stunt show Jack­ass, the film is di­rected by Fin­land’s Renny Har­lin, who has made ac­tion flicks such as Die Hard 2.

Chan’s lat­est film­mak­ing model— where he throws to­gether a for­eign crew and a sexy Chi­nese ac­tress — has also been seen in his re­cent block­busters — Dragon Blade and CZ12.

Ad­mit­ting that the Sino-US pro­duc­tion is eye­ing the Western mar­ket, Chan says he also wants to show Hol­ly­wood how the Chi­nese film in­dus­try is grow­ing.

“I want for­eign­ers to see that we are be­com­ing more pro­fes­sional,” says the A-lis­ter, who strug­gled in Hol­ly­wood in the 1990s.

He says his crew fol­lows a strict work sched­ule, mir­ror­ing in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

Ex­plain­ing why he is fol­low­ing this moviemak­ing model, Chan says: “While Ital­ian di­rec­tor Bernardo Ber­tolucci made The Last Em­peror to in­tro­duce China’s his­tory (be­tween 1910 and 1950) to the world, and Dis­ney helped the world know Chi­nese hero­ine Hua Mu­lan through the an­i­mated film Mu­lan, I hope China can have its own pro­duc­tions to show­case our his­tory and cul­ture. It is more con­vinc­ing to share th­ese things through a for­eign crews’ eyes.” But questions re­main. In a dig­i­tal era where fight se­quences can be gen­er­ated us­ing com­puter graph­ics, will ac­tion stars lose their sig­nif­i­cance?

“It’s a dif­fi­cult time. Tech­nol­ogy can turn any ac­tor or ac­tress into a mar­tial arts vet­eran,” he says.

“Though the Chi­nese now find it im­pos­si­ble to beat Hol­ly­wood in mak­ing sci-fi movies, I be­lieve that they (Hol­ly­wood) can­not make ac­tion movies like the ones we do,” says Chan, re­veal­ing he is look­ing for new mar­tial arts tal­ents.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Jackie Chan’s lat­est film, Skip­trace, stars Amer­i­can ac­tor Johnny Knoxville. It has raked in 400 mil­lion yuan ($60 mil­lion) in its first week­end to top the box of­fice charts, al­though draw­ing mixed re­views.

Johnny Knoxville shows a board at the film’s news re­lease in Bei­jing. He is known for the MTV re­al­ity stunt show Jack­ass.

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