Kaiju Shakedown: Jackie Chan's Trash
Jackie Chan is probably the world’s greatest action filmmaker, but he has made a lot of bad movies. Just as nothing can prepare you for seeing Jackie Chan at his best, seeing him at his worst is like having your face exposed to a blast of hard radiation that melts your skin, explodes your eyeballs, and causes all the love you have in your heart to crumble into ashes and die.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Crappie Chan Canon.
IN THE BEGINNING… was the desperation. Chan wanted to be a star so badly that he didn’t listen to his parents. They told him to never, ever get in that van with the tinted windows that slowly cruised past the playground where all the young actors hung out, the one with the hand-scrawled sign on the side that said “GEt in vaN – Be mOvie StarR.” Jackie got in the van and discovered Lo Wei, one of the worst directors in Hong Kong history.
New Fist of Fury
Lo Wei had previously gotten his hooks into Bruce Lee, and now he had them in Jackie and his big idea was to sell Jackie as a copy of a copy of a copy of Bruce Lee. Lo Wei forced him to remake Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury (“I’m terrible!” Jackie cheerfully remembers of his performance), then he made him star in Shaolin Wooden Men, featuring a nun who shows up to say “Kung fu is for health and self-protection” before demonstrating her snake style in a pit full of oil. Next came Magnificent Bodyguards with Jackie wearing an ugly wig and getting pelted with snakes. What’s with all the snakes? Jackie’s manager, Willie Chan, managed to get Jackie over to Golden Harvest where he didn’t have to co-star with any more snakes, but Lo Wei’s snakes were lonely and so he apparently sent triad gangsters to force Jackie to start shooting Fearless Hyena II, a movie that opens with Chan stuffing a fistful of snakes down his pants.
To escape acting with snakes, Jackie turned to actor-superstar-badass Jimmy Wang Yu to make the triads go away. In return, Jackie promised Jimmy that he’d star in two movies for him, as long as they didn’t include reptiles. What Jackie didn’t know was that these movies would be directed by Chu Yen-ping. Chu was a big deal in the Taiwan film industry, the director of the Shaolin Popey movies about baby martial artists, and he also acted clinically insane. The movie Chu wanted from Jackie? Fantasy Mission Force (83).
Fantasy Mission Force
Scene: World War II. Japanese Nazis attack Canada and take Abraham Lincoln hostage. Jimmy Wang Yu has to assemble a Dirty Dozen team for the rescue, including a hobo, an escape artist named Grease Lightning, two Scotsmen in kilts, and a gentleman who looks like Liberace cross-pollinated with Colonel Sanders and is married to a perma-permed Brigitte Lin who, after inexplicably blowing up her house with a bazooka, tags along for the ride. They spend the night in a haunted house and then kill everybody. For a movie starring three of the most bankable stars in Taiwan and Hong Kong (Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, and Jimmy Wang Yu) it’s remarkable how dedicated Fantasy Mission Force is to securing a place in Bad Movie Heaven.
The movies Jackie made on his first American outings didn’t even get into Bad Movie Purgatory. Playing a Japanese race-car driver in Cannonball Run 1 and 2 (81 & 84) he at least got to appear with legit stars like Farrah Fawcett and Dom DeLuise. In The Big Brawl (80) directed by Enter the Dragon’s Robert Clouse, he had to co-star with Kristine DeBell, who had just finished shooting the hardcore porno version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. At least she wasn’t a snake. Besides absolutely everything being wrong with Brawl, this limp mafia anti-romp set in the 1930’s features Hollywood stuntmen who move with all the grace of stoned elephants, and it’s crammed with interminable scenes of enormous white men falling into one another while a small Chinese man in the middle tries very hard not to cry as his action choreography is stomped to death. In the end, a bunch of pro wrestlers dressed as Native Americans, Australians (with boomerangs and furry vests), and Dracula bump bellies in the middle of a Texas street in front of a jeering crowd of extras who were probably paid in beer.
Who Am I?
Despite the fact that he would dress as an African tribesman and stand on top of a mountain shouting “Whooooooo Ammmmmmm Iiiiiiiiiii?” for his international amnesia drama, Who Am I? (99), it would be 2002 before Jackie Chan made another truly bad movie. But it was a movie so bad that it shunted Jackie into an alternate timeline in which he never escaped Lo Wei, and its Big Bang was The Tuxedo (02) starring Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage.
I’m not given to crass comments about an actress’s anatomy, but one look at the leering camerawork of The Tuxedo and you realize that JLH’s breasts were who the producers hired, and they simply tolerated the actress because she was attached to them. Supposedly a movie made for children, The Tuxedo is actually made for morons, opening with a close-up of a deer urinating in a river. By the time Jackie is sporting a soul patch and a Hooters T-shirt and Jennifer Love Hewitt is confessing that she’s constipated, that pissing deer is starting to look pretty classy.
Besides featuring a scene of Jackie lip-synching to James Brown while rubbing his butt in an actress’s face for an unforgivably long time, this movie also introduces the Theory of the Time-Traveling Love Interest. Scientists explain it like this: as Jackie Chan gets older, his co-stars must keep getting younger or he will die. Hewitt is a squirm-inducing 25 years younger than her on-screen partner, but fortunately they have so little chemistry that their love scenes mostly resemble tense hostage situations. And, as The Tuxedo ends, we’re introduced to another hallmark of the Crappie Chan film.
Jackie Chan movies always finish with outtakes over the end credits depicting exciting stunts gone wrong or the cast cracking each other up. But on a Crappie Chan movie there are barely any stunts and the actors are just there for their paychecks. A Crappie Chan movie features about 30 seconds of outtakes, and then the credits just keep on going as they thank an army of digital-effects artists. Case in point: on his next movie, The Medallion (03), the outtakes run for approximately 10 seconds, the credits run for five minutes, and it might be the worst movie he ever made.
The Medallion starts with Jackie joking to a dog that Chinese people eat dogs, then rapidly goes downhill from there. Larded with comedy tuba sound effects, it tells the tale of a magical little boy (played by an actor with all the charm of an old shoe) who has a medallion that is “The Holy Grail of Eastern Mythology.” That makes no sense. Neither does the rest of the movie. Interpol has its headquarters in Dublin; someone thought a montage of Jackie dancing to “Twist and Shout” would not cause migraines; Claire Forlani (Jackie Chan minus 18 years) limps around trying to look romantic; and someone forgot to pay Julian Sands enough to change his facial expressions. It all ends with Jackie, now with superpowers, flying off into the sky, arm in arm with Claire Forlani, hopefully to get sucked into the turbine of a passing 747 and spare us even the slightest possibility of a sequel.
The Myth (05) seemed like a step in the right direction. Slightly better than The Medallion but still not as much fun as getting run over by a truck, Jackie plays two roles: a modern-day treasure-hunter who lives on a houseboat, and a Qin general whose costume looks like someone snuck up behind him and stuck a bucket on his head. Apparently modern-day Jackie is a reincarnation of ancient Chinese Jackie (romantic co-star Kim Hee-Sun: Jackie Chan minus 23 years), but mostly a lot of women do interpretive dance for Jackie while he gazes at them, baffled. The Myth is not completely worthless as it features a giant crossbow that shoots horses with telephone-pole-sized bolts, and it ends with everyone dead (including the horses), leaving Jackie all alone. But it’s still a movie in which Jackie Chan goes to India and a monkey pushes him off a cliff.
Some folks would say that Jackie’s CZ12 (12) should be on this list, but it is so boring that I was unconscious for most of it. In any case, in the interest of hitting the bottom of the barrel, this list must end with The Spy Next Door (10). If you ever wanted to see a low budget Syfy original movie with none of the special effects, or Jackie sharing screen time with Billy Ray Cyrus, Amber Valletta, and George Lopez, this one’s for you. Casting Jackie as a spy-turned-undercover-dad, the filmmakers are under the gruesome misapprehension that their child actors are cute rather than unpleasant. A 13-year-old girl makes sexy with a 20-year-old man, a 4-year-old joylessly intones her lines as if they were taught to her with a cattle prod, and you actually see the light die in the eyes of a 10-year-old whose mother is probably being held at gunpoint just outside of camera range. The only thing you can say in its defense (and for Jackie’s sake) is that at least none of them are snakes.
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
… Lee Hae-jun, whose film Castaway on the Moon became a word-of-mouth hit and is still one of the best Korean romantic comedies ever made, has announced that he’s now shooting his next movie. My Dictator is about an actor hired by the KCIA (South Korea’s spy agency) to impersonate North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.
… Yoshihiro Nakamura is one of the smartest directors working in Japan, and you only need to watch his award-winning Fish Story, A Boy and His Samurai, or Golden Slumbers to see for yourself. His movies are carefully constructed, heartfelt, humane, and genuinely surprising and now he’s turned out his latest, The Snow White Murder Case, which is being widely acclaimed.
… Who can kidnap a child? Peter Chan can. His new movie is Dear Child about child kidnappings in China and a group of parents who vow to get their kids back. Starring Zhao Wei and Huang Bo, it’ll cost a lot of money, play at a lot of cinemas, and probably make a lot of people cry.
… Korea’s King of Washboard Abs, Lee Byung-hun, has been cast in the next Terminator film, Terminator: Genesis. That would be Terminator 5, if anyone’s counting. No details about his role yet, except his character will probably find reasons to take off his shirt a lot.
… Bong Joon-ho has always wanted to make a black-and-white movie, but the only way he could do it was to color-time his movie Mother to make it black-and-white. It turns out that Bong himself and David Bordwell like it better this way.
… Remember last week when I said that China had granted another import license, so there was a company besides China Film Group that could distribute foreign movies? Wrong. Now, SARFT, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television says they have never heard of this company and they never granted an additional import license. Someone ought to tell the stockholders.
Topics in Focus
… SARFT also just announced that they will be handing down new content guidelines for sites that stream American and British shows to Chinese audiences, like The Walking Dead, Masters of Sex, and American Horror Story. These shows are too gross for Chinese audiences, they claim. Chinese netizens responded with comments like: “In the future, after watching daily news show Xinwen Lianbo, we’ll watch Topics in Focus [another CCTV news program], and after watching Topics in Focus, we’ll order a KFC family bucket meal to watch Japanese devils torn apart by hand, and after Japanese devils are torn apart, we’ll then watch CCTV Night News. Fuck, just thinking about this makes me feel so happy!” Chinese netizens have achieved 100% sarcasm.
…If you don’t know what Crunchyroll is, you should. Streaming Japanese drama and anime to American audiences, it recently teamed up with Japan’s Fuji TV to offer Fuji shows within just a few days of their airing in Japan. This is the future of television.
… Because it depicts Noah, a Biblical figure and a prophet, which violates Islamic law, Indonesia and Malaysia have banned Russell Crowe’s rainy-day movie, Noah. “We don’t want a film that could provoke controversies and negative reactions,” an Indonesian official says. Where were these watchdogs when The Spy Next Door premiered?
… What’s eating up the charts in Korea? Crayon Pop’s new single is big in Korea! It’s already racking up the YouTube views, Gangnam Style, and now they’re opening for Lady Gaga on her next tour.
… Jackie Chan had his 60th birthday party and he cried because he misses all those snakes. Fortunately, a team of assistants was on hand to mop up all his tears.