Chinese Zodiac (2012)
Director: Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Oliver Platt, Laura Weissbecker
Plot: A man searches the world for a set of mystic artifacts - 12 bronze heads of the animals from the Chinese zodiac.
Genre: Action / Adventure
Rating: PG for some violence.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Jackie Chan is my favourite Asian superhero. I grew up on a diet of action films, and I would never miss a JC movie when the opportunity comes. From Police Story (1985) to Rumble in the Bronx (1995) to Who Am I (1998), I have seen quite a number of his pre-Hollywood works and I could possibly describe some of the his best death-defying stunts in detail.
However, that is beyond the scope of this review. What is in the scope of this review is answering the following question: How does this JC movie compare to his earlier movies, and is it worth buying a ticket to?
Chinese Zodiac, or CZ12 as it is called here in Singapore, is a JC vehicle that reminds us of his considerable talent, even at 58 years of age. Going back to his roots as an action star, Chinese Zodiac delivers on the action count as JC performs the kind of stunts that remain invigorating to watch, even as they are derivative.
In an extended fight sequence in an underground bunker, he squares off with tens of men and has an exciting one-on-one fistfight with a 'frenemy' on a couch. This is a sequence that will not look out of place in a 1980s JC movie.
However, we are also reminded that we live in a digital age. Such is the countless CG effects used in Chinese Zodiac. It kinda mars the experience, because we are not used to seeing a non-Hollywood JC film with so much effects. Still, there are moments in stored that will please even the most ardent of JC fans.
Notice I kept using the initials 'JC'. That is because Jackie Chan is a brand name. His character in the film is also called JC. In some way, Chinese Zodiac is like a meta-film. It is aware that an action legend is in the picture.
Strip away its action, including a ridiculous set-piece set in some jungle in a faraway island, and Chinese Zodiac becomes nothing. Maybe it becomes a skeleton, but without a spot of flesh. The story is wafer-thin, the development of characters is non-existent, and it might win a small award for the most number of cringe-worthy lines in a single film this year.
But I think the filmmakers don't really care, neither should we. Just buy a ticket and enjoy the movie for as much as it is worth, for this may be Chan's last true action film. Well, he is set to appear in The Expendables 3 (2014), but that is not the same.
Chinese Zodiac has an abundance of flaws, but at least the action delivers as we would expect from Chan. In the movie, JC attempts to retrieve the animal heads that were stolen by the marauding French from a palace in China some centuries ago. Not that anyone cares.
When you ask someone about a JC movie, you don't ask about its story. You ask whether the action is good. Yes, it is quite good. Well, not quite excellent. But it is quite good.
Verdict: Forgive the wafer-thin story and cringe-worthy dialogue, and you will get an action film that is one of Jackie Chan's best in a long while.
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