First Strike

Chan, Jackie Chan

Although New line is trying to build excitement for their latest Jackie Chan film by using the tag line “Fighting for America for the first time”, the hype is only partly correct. Jackie’s by now familiar Hong Kong cop character spends only the first act working for the CIA on a special assignment, tailing a suspect aboard a jet flight from Hong Kong to the Ukraine. The original title for this film was CIA Story – it’s also known as Police Story 4 and Jackie Chan’s First Strike. Whatever the title, this is yet another Chan adventure full of awesome stunts and fight choreography. While it’s not the red, white & blue outing that New Line is trying to draw a crowd with, I can’t object too much to their marketing strategy. Any method that gets Jackie’s features released in this country is a step in the right direction. And I can’t say it’s totally dishonest, as each new Chan film seems to be more international in scope and flavor.

This one takes him well beyond the aforementioned Ukraine, as circumstances take our hapless hero into Russia and Australia, too. After the briefest of plot introductions, it’s not long before Jackie is snowboarding down a mountain, pursued by gunmen aboard skis, snowmobiles and helicopters. See Jackie dunked unprotected in a frozen lake! See Jackie pursued across the face of a building by brutish assassins! See Jackie fight off thugs under shark infested waters, without an oxygen tank! While these stunt sequences are thrilling in their subtle (or not so subtle) but very real dangers, Jackie is still at his most exciting while working with his own team of stuntmen in an excellently staged battle using chairs, poles, tables and ladders to good effect.

There’s also plenty of comedy, mostly involving Jackie being forced to don a series of strange costumes – or none at all! Chan, who controls all of his films himself (with the able assistance of fellow stuntman Stanley Tong in most of his recent films), is just as able to raise a laugh or a tear as anything else – but it’s his unique ability to do so much while taking your breath away with one piece of action after another that’s made him one of the biggest movie stars ever.

Oh, by the way, the story is all about a spy forced into becoming an arms dealer while sacrificing his family honor. Not that anybody cares.

There’s a whole bunch of Jackie Chan features awaiting U.S. release – the next few years should bring Drunken Master 2, Thunderbolt, Crime Story, Operation Condor, Mr. Nice Guy and many others to our shores in American versions, with the best dubbing available (considering that Cantonese is one of the most difficult languages to match dialogue with, so far so good), all while Jackie is preparing his first Hollywood feature in over ten years. I urge everyone not to miss a single frame of it all.

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