Jackie Chan's USA film debut
Jackie Chan's film, "Rumble in the Bronx", was originally released in 1994 with enormous success in Asia, and was actually rated the number one film ever in mainland China. This wasn't Jackie Chan's first attempt to move beyond his cult status. Jackie was briefly reguarded as Bruce Lee's successor in the mid 1970s, but his films "The Big Brawl" and "The Protector" didn't quite hit the mark. Jackie Chan was not Bruce Lee. He was equally (some even say more) skilled in the martial arts, but he had a much broader comedic persona that these films had failed to place emphasis upon.
In the early 1990s, Hong Kong action movies managed to gain attention in the U.S. film market. Jackie Chan, along with Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li, became the heroes of both the late adolescent males who responded to their powerful image and also to intellectuals that loved Hong Kong's effortless genre with its brilliant action sequences. This vast audience included film industry giants such as Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, and Sylvester Stallone.
While the huge interest in Hong Kong films provided a possible springboard for Chan into the U.S. mainstream, there were still many obstacles to overcome. Still, Jackie Chan's films had constantly outperformed their American counterparts in all of the Asian markets, making Jackie bankable elsewhere.
There was one special aspect of Jackie that distinguished him from the rest of the pack and could provide his ticket into the American mainstream: he actually does all of his own stunts. If you have seen the trailer for "Rumble in the Bronx", you can see that this was actually the strategy being used; the movie was being sold as the work of a madman who literally risked his life to bring pleasure to his fans, a human touch that was unthinkable with heavily protected, "commodities" like Schwarzeneggar or Stallone.
If you have seen and enjoyed Jackie's performances, you won't be disappointed by "Rumble in the Bronx". Jackie plays a typical role, the naive, but principled ordinary guy who is forced against his will into fighting for his life. The film opens with Jackie, a Hong Kong cop who travels to New York for his Uncle's wedding. Jackie's dislocation is more than physical, as he's astounded to meet his new "aunt," an overweight black woman. Jackie's Uncle sells his grocery store to Elaine (HK superstar Anita Mui) without telling her it's a target for a local biker gang. Jackie agrees to help her with the store after the sale.
Things quickly get out of hand when Jackie attacks members of the gang for stealing. They avenge themselves by cornering him in an alley and hitting him with empty beer bottles leaving Jackie a bloody mess.
The gang isn't exactly sober, and they forget to kill Jackie when they start bickering. This prepares us for Jackie and the gang teaming up against the real villain, a suave mafioso and his big buff enforcers. Elaine's store gets wrecked again due to Jackie's absence and it is eventually destroyed. However,Jackie ends up with the mafioso's stolen diamonds before the inevitable climax.
The average plot is simply a vehicle for the heavily choreographed fight sequences, but it is still worth watching. There is an extraordinary scene that will shock even seasoned Jackie Chan watchers and make them at least partly hide their eyes. Jackie jumps several stories across a very wide space from the top of one building onto an extremely small fire-escape. There are other, more familiar sequences, with the trapped Jackie using every object around him against his attackers. This includes everything from pool cues, garbage cans, pinball machines, and even refrigerators. Jackie's muscular strength and pliability give the scenes an amazing quality, reinforced by the fact that there's no need for cutaway shots or stunt doubles. Every time Jackie is knocked against a wall or hit in the head with a bat, the audience is feeling the pain.
There is an extended finale and the filmmakers feature an object not usually seen in Hong Kong action films: a huge hovercraft that pops up out of the water and onto the streets of New York City (actually Vancouver). This monstrous vehicle flattens cars and people with equal force and for a perfect metaphor of his career, Jackie grabs a tiny sports car and races alongside the beast ripping holes in it.
Jackie Chan definitely has not seen the stardom he deserves. That's why I created the Jackie Chan Movie List. My favorite part of all of his movies are the outtakes of failed stunts at the end, including his injuries. Jackie is a true legend, and he definitely puts his body where his mouth is.