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.
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.
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.