Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rumble in the Bronx

The Action Mutant…
is slated to direct “Tussle at the Docks”. God, I hope this isn’t a gay porno.

Rumble in the Bronx

review by Joe Burrows

I remember watching an episode of the TV news mag 20/20 back in 1995, with an upcoming story about “the most famous action star you never heard of”. Of course, my ears immediately perked up as the video piece of Jackie Chan came up on the screen. Within 12 minutes, it went through the basics: the worldwide box office success, the two failed American film vehicles, how he does all of his own stunts, etc. By the end of the piece, I felt bad for not knowing about this guy in the first place! Then again, most of America didn’t know him either. At the 1995 MTV Movie Awards, Quentin Tarantino offered to be on the show, only if he could give Jackie the “MTV Lifetime Achievement Award”. About 75% of the audience was clueless but it didn’t seem to matter. Everyone was intrigued by this easy going Asian action guy with the limited grasp on English. And he happened to have a movie coming out soon, which would be his 3rd try to break into the American film scene. And, once again, Quentin Tarantino saved Christmas! Now, if he could only get Spike Lee to shut up about him.

The Plot, as it was:
Jackie plays Keung. Keung goes to America to visit his uncle (Bill Tung) for his wedding. Uncle Bill sells his corner grocery store and Keung sticks around for a while until things are settled with new owner Elaine (Anita Mui). Local gang terrorizes store. Keung kicks ass. The gang kicks Keung’s ass. Gang leader’s girl (Francoise Yip) falls for Keung. Keung kicks more ass. Lather, rinse, repeat. Oh, and there are diamond thieves and an annoying crippled kid in there as well. Um…Keung!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
I feel it’s fair to mention that Jackie Chan has enough charisma for 10 movies. It is fair to mention because this movie would most likely blow if anyone else was in the lead. Chan films are known for their lack of plot but Rumble in the Bronx hits low standards in plot, even for Chan. Not only that, there’s horrible dubbing, even more horrible editing and a goddamn “Scooby Doo ending” (you’ll see)! And there’s more: the film is set in New York but suspiciously looks like the skyline of Vancouver, British Columbia (as it was simply cheaper to film there, aside from a few NY interiors). The “story” is just an excuse for Chan to come to America and nearly kill himself for 90 minutes. Based on that logic, RitB does well by Chan’s fans. Since this was (most likely) Chan’s last chance at capturing the American audience’s attention, our hero throws in every jump, flip, stunt, chase and all around action set piece imaginable to grab us. It is pretty much wall to wall action, with very little let up or something that doesn’t make your jaw drop at least once. What made this work so well at the time was that Americans never saw anything like Jackie before. No one was used to seeing Van Damme or Arnold jumping off of roofs or nearly being unmanned by motorcycles because everyone knew a stuntman was in their place. Here, RitB goes out of its way for you to know that Chan is risking it all during every shot on screen. Sure, it’s more highlight reel than actual film but very rarely has an action movie guaranteed so much action and delivered.

Body Count/Violence: 5. An overly violent action spectacle was not in the works for Jackie to win over the Yanks. The deaths are few and not very graphic (four guys get blown up in their limos and one gang member get shoved head first into a wood chipper, though the results aren’t shown). The only other really violent scene is when Jackie is cut up by the liquor bottles. Everything else is pretty much Jackie’s crazy stunts (jumping off a parking garage roof onto a small balcony, riding a hovercraft, etc.) and insanely intricate fight scenes (the one at the gang’s quarters, where Chan uses all kinds of household appliances, is amazing). And don’t forget to stick around for the credits!

Sexuality/Nudity: Yip spends the majority of her screen time in some sort of skimpy outfit but nothing more than that. The gang member Angelo (Garvin Cross) moons Jackie, only to get spanked with a car antenna. By the way, Cross is so goofy as Angelo that I couldn’t help but to think he’d be a perfect fit as a ganger in Death Wish 3.

Language/Dialogue: It isn’t that strong, as it is actually overdubbed at times (“stuff” instead of “shit”, for example). There are three F bombs, which is enough for the R rating. Chan complained at the time that his films are meant for the family and that it shouldn’t have been rated R. Though I disagree in this instance, I can understand the confusion since so many PG-13 films are looked over by the MPAA to increase sales.

How bad was it?:
Most Chanophiles will admit this isn’t the film they would have picked to be Jackie’s breakthrough America film. Most critics were really kind to it though and if they weren’t, they still admitted Jackie was the sole aspect of the film to see. Ebert gave it ***/**** and pretty much informed everyone to sit back, enjoy the ride and not look for it to make sense.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
When Rumble in the Bronx left Hong Kong theaters (after debuting 1/21/95), it had grossed an insane $56.9 million, making it the top HK film of the year. An immense publicity campaign by New Line Cinema paid off, as it debuted in the U.S. on 2/23/96 with $9.9 million in the #1 spot that weekend. It lasted another month before being taken out, earning $32.4 million off of a $7.5 million budget and cementing Jackie Chan’s spot in American cinema.

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.

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