Mr. Nice Guy

Rumble in Oz

Jackie Chan is back as a TV chef in Melbourne who gets deeper and deeper into troubler as a result of a good deed. When he sees gangsters attacking a TV journalist Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), he intervenes, but then becomes a target for the gangs himself when he ends up with her incriminating videotape.

It’s an old pulp writers’ formula: an innocent is mistakenly left with a McGuffin that two rival gangs are competing for. The same plot worked in Rumble in the Bronx, so they resurrect it here. In fact, there are enough recycled elements in the patchwork plot to make this sort of a Best of Jackie feature. Besides the street gang vs. mafiosa riff from Rumble, the finale again involves a large, unusual vehicle. There’s also an inter-racial trio of beauties in peril (ala Operation Condor), a fight in a construction site (ala Police Story 2), as well as the casting of Richard Norton as the quirky villain (Norton filled a similar role in City Hunter). Not to complain, though – the plot of the average Jackie Chan film is just a loose device on which to hang terrific fights, gags, and stunts.

This is New Line Cinema’s turn with Jackie, so the U.S. release is not as severely edited as those of rival Miramax. The slight editing does weaken the transitions and motivations in several scenes, however. Generally, the cuts function to soften the bad guys’ behavior a little – the original HK version (Yatgo yo han) contained several shots of particularly cruel violence that tend to distract from the overall comic tone (at least for Americans). Also dropped are bits that show that Jackie’s assistant Lakisha (Karen McLymont) has a crush on him, which makes her fierce protection of Jackie’s apartment against an invading Diana seem too extreme. And the exclusion of some scenes with Jackie and his girlfriend (Miki Lee) hurt the pace of the picture and weaken their bond. For those dorks who come to JC flicks just to laugh at the dubbing, there’s a new twist in this release. This is the first Chan movie to be filmed almost entirely in English, but for some reason most of the Anglo actors have been dubbed over. This makes sense in the case of the non-acting martial artists who may have trouble with their lines, but Richard Norton is a decent actor with over two dozen movies to his credit. Awkward bits of dialogue may mainly be attributed to director Sammo Hung’s unfamiliarity with English, and the dubbing doesn’t help any. Jackie’s “Big Brother” Sammo improved quite a bit with his subsequent USA-set feature Once Upon A Time in China and America.

Other changes for the U.S. version include a sharper picture and a more impressive sound mix – the  New Line and Miramax versions of JC’s work are always technically superior. Most dialogue scenes have been cropped tighter. Unlike previous releases, there is no new “hip hop” score tacked on, and Jackie’s theme song has been removed from the end credits (which unspool after his trademark “ouchtakes”).

Chan’s films usually fall into a category I like to call “circus movies”. The stories aren’t especially interesting, but they provide an opportunity for an ongoing parade of wonders. Jackie has nine amazing fight scenes, several chases, some inspired comedy scenes, and plenty of destruction of property to his credit here. Not the best Jackie Chan movie, but plenty of action.

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