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Stunts Fronts

Jackie Chan's causing a riot on the web:

How about some stills, Quicktime movies, descriptions and the like at the Rumble in the Bronx homepage?

The Hong Kong Movies Homepage is an excellent reference tool for fans of Hong Kong movies.

This unofficial Jackie Chan page includes many links to other sites about the action hero.

And don't' forget, San Jose's Towne Theater shows Hong Kong action movies every Monday and Tuesday--here's the schedule.

    Unlike the Jack the Dwarf-Killers of modern cinema, Chan takes on all comers, but he doesn't traffic in the essential sadism that makes too many Hollywood action pictures so depressing. Asked in an interview about the difference between his mayhem-filled movies and the American product, Chan winces. "I hate violence, but I love action."

    This time around, America is showing Chan a different face than during his last attempt to cross over, in the early 1980s, with Cannonball Run and The Big Brawl. "Everybody's going, 'Yeah, Jackie!' " he says. "Why, after 15 years, do people like my movies? In 15 years, I didn't change; I do the same thing. I told my manager, 'No, I can't get an American market, American movies are too big, and I'm small potatoes.' I thought if I go to America, I lose one month--I don't have too many months left at my age. He said, 'You should go back to learn something, at least.' This week, my English has improved a lot. Now I'm doing research."

    The thundering machismo of the American actioner is subverted by Chan's comic tone, which is one reason he may not have caught on. When Chan started out in the early 1970s, he was presented as a substitute for kung fu star Bruce Lee and forced by directors to imitate Lee's trademark scowls, despite his own penchant for comedy. Later, Chan made Snake in Eagles' Shadow and Drunken Master--ultra-low-budget physical comedies that showed off the star's remarkable form as a martial artist while avoiding the stylized, even corny, bad-assness of Lee.

    During the 1980s, Chan made a string of remarkably fast-paced action pictures with stunts that shame what has been done on this side of the Pacific since the silent-movie era.

    Like Buster Keaton, he has staged elaborate and dangerous gags. Like Douglas Fairbanks Sr., he has used his physical slightness to convey a sense of weightlessness when scrambling up walls and making gravity-defying leaps. A fearless performer, Chan has been injured, but he has created staggering car chases and fight scenes in such films as Police Story and Project A, Parts 1 and 2.

    A new scar from a stunt in Rumble in the Bronx shows that Chan hasn't given up his reckless ways. Chan was to be pelted with bottles, but he found out that it would take a week for the sugar-glass stunt bottles to be delivered. Grudging the time, he ordered the crew to dig up some real bottles, figuring that he was fast enough to dodge the flying broken glass.

    He was, more or less. "I just go, 'Let's do it!' Boom! Hospital! I get hurt, but it's okay--less money spent on the production; all of the money ends up in the movie."

    Though success in the American market has so far evaded him, Chan is quick to credit the American performers who inspired him, while saying that he has to put their work out of his mind when thinking up action sequences.

    "Everybody in the whole world copies American movies," he says. "Buster Keaton, he's my hero, and, of course, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. I like the rhythm of Fred Astaire dancing with the piano, with the light pole, with a chair. I just learned from that in my fight scenes."

    Chan is not reluctant to be leaving the Hong Kong film industry during the last year before takeover by the People's Republic in 1997. "I'm the head of the Hong Kong Director's Guild," he says. "I should say, 'Ah, things are getting better, John Woo's gone to Hollywood.' " (Woo just directed Broken Arrow.)

    "But how many Woos are there? How many Chans? We're dying! All those years my movies are on top, now only one movie can beat me, Jurassic Park. It's all on computer now. I think my career is finished; I know nothing, zip, about technology. I'm going to finish up a couple of movies, and then I retire."

    Chan has been making this threat for some time, but fortunately, he has a few movies left. His next film, Thunderbolt, has already been released in Hong Kong. The nearly finished CIA Story is the fourth chapter in Chan's Police Story series--filmed in Australia this time.

    Jackie Chan in the South Bronx is a fairly idiot-proof idea, but it has been bollixed at points in Rumble. The cast is dubbed in with the same care you'd expect in a Godzilla movie, and the kid in a wheelchair is the least lovable kid in a wheelchair in the history of cinema.

    The plot is Something About Diamonds: a gang scores a cache and then finds itself in the crosshairs of another gang. Meanwhile, Jackie is lured by two women: a good girl, Elaine (Anita Mui), who runs a grocery store, and a bad girl, Nancy (Francoise Yip), who dances in a cage at the gangster nightclub.

    The dubbing is an inconvenience, especially in a film that the most rabid Chan fans will have already seen on disc or bootleg. Coming on the heels of its fine portrayal of Washington, D.C., in The X Files, Vancouver's performance as the Bronx leaves something to be desired. It's easy to see the Strait of Georgia and the Canadian Rockies from an ostensible New York high-rise. This is not a movie with street credibility.

    Still, the stunts themselves achieve an audacity that no one alive can touch, and for those who have never seen what Chan can do, it's a great start. Most of all, it's the first of Chan's movies to be available in mainstream theaters; the hardest-working man in show biz deserves no less.

    Rumble in the Bronx (R; 90 min.), directed by Stanley Tong, written by Edward Tang and Fibe Ma, and starring Jackie Chan.

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From the Feb. 22-28, 1996 issue of Metro

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Copyright© 1996 Metro Publishing and Virtual Valley, Inc.

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