Jackie Chan is almost as good as his martial arts fans - as well as some
high-brow film critics - think he is. In "First Strike" his stunt
work is superb, but the movie is... well, stunted. Jackie Chan is still
stuck with writers who make him look goofy. Don't tell me that's part of
the genre. Hong Kong cinema has been around long enough and in the hands
of filmmakers smart enough to know better. We don't need to treat them
like cute Third Worlders in the movie game.
The opening sequence is a visual paean to Hong Kong, a splendid city in
its last days. It's made to look like a place worth saving from the Commies.
Meanwhile (now that peace has broken out between Democracy and whatever
that other stuff now is), Jackie plays a Hong Kong cop hired by the CIA
to cooperate with the SFB, heir to the KGB, to track down a nuclear warhead.
It's well-known that Jackie Chan can use just about anything to defend the
free world. In one of his best sequences ever, he grabs a ladder and does
things with it that the entire world of Modern Dance would envy.
In an aquarium, Jackie runs into sharks (both earth- and sea-dwelling kinds)
and does his complete repertoire with water. He swims, floats, entertains
those in the restaurant through the aquarium windows; then when the glass
breaks, he uses the flood, the gushing water, the spraying force in a grandly
choreographed water-ballet action sequence. It's so amazing, the synapses
in your little movie-obsessed mind start relating Jackie Chan to Charlie
Chaplin and Buster Keaton and then -
- and then we go back to the plot. Ouch. Has the movie industry in Hong
Kong not seen a movie since 1950? At first it's sort of cute that the
dubbing is so bad, nobody's lips come anywhere near the formation of the
words you're hearing. As it goes on, it becomes like so many goldfish with
nothing to say, no matter what sounds back them up.
Consider the story where actors say:
"Let the Ukrainians take care of things."
"Package for Alexander Nefsky!"
"They forced me to become a double agent to save Natasha."
"Give the warhead to the police right away."
"Just for money you killed my father - I'll never forgive you for that."
"When I first started with the CIA, I had much ambition."
Although Jackie Chan keeps claiming to be making his first American-style
movie, he's got a way to go. Along the way to Hollywood, he may lose some
fans, but he's not in danger of losing what he does best - wild-ass martial-arts
comedy. It's worth coming back to see his second strike.