Friday, December 12, 2008

Mr. Nice Guy (1997 - Uncut Version)

The Action Mutant…
needs a stuntman for everyday life.

Mr. Nice Guy

review by Joe Burrows

Once again, another goodie from the unratedjoe file that features my favorite Action star…that uses weapons…but rarely a gun. My favorite to always use a gun is Bronson. Ok, this is just a way for me to get around having to choose between Charlie & the Chan man. I just can’t do it! (Note: This is a review of the 94 minute Hong Kong version, which is 6 minutes longer than the U.S. version)

The Plot, as it was:
Jackie is Jackie (seriously, Chan is the Tony Danza of Hong Kong), a TV show cook who aids news reporter Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick) as she is chased by the mob & street gangs. They all want a tape she shot of a drug deal gone bad, as if there’s ever a drug deal gone good in these things. Of course, her tape gets mixed up with a tape of Jackie’s cooking show & hijinks ensue. You think I overdid the plot synopsis? Three sentences seemed to be a bit much.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Though I seemingly say this with every Chan film I review, the storyline in Mr. Nice Guy is about as razor thin as one can get. Oddly enough, the movie is almost a step-by-step redux of Chan’s American groundbreaker Rumble in the Bronx (complete with annoying ice cream vendor guy & yellow vehicle used for climactic destruction)! The villains are as cutout as can be, the women are around to be “damsels in distress” and Jackie isn’t even a good cook (sorry, that sloppy dicing technique didn’t cut it for me)! There are convenient turns & unintentional laughs (wow, that incriminating video manages to have multiple camera angles…even though it was shot from one spot! Bitchin’ technology!). Any Chan vehicle is mainly memorable for its parts, not the sum of the whole and Mr. Nice Guy is no exception. In fact, those parts make for some of the craziest, most creative sequences of his cinematic career. Coupled with the sure hand of director & long time collaborator Sammo Hung (who has an amusing cameo as an abused bicyclist), Jackie is either fighting thugs in the back of a van in motion or hitmen in the back of a horse drawn carriage. Of course, Jackie is more than willing to let you know he’s in danger of dying several times during the film, whether he’s almost run over by a bulldozer or nearly unmanned by a band saw! Hardcore fans may be disappointed that there’s no climactic fight between their hero & Martial Arts stalwart Richard Norton (playing the over the top villain here) but that’s only a minor quibble amongst quite a few of them. Mr. Nice Guy may not be a classic in the pantheon of Chan but after 90+ minutes of seemingly non stop chase, it’s pretty easy to forget what its not & enjoy what it is.

Body Count/Violence: 6. As mentioned, Mr. Nice Guy is more of a chase film so not too many buy the farm in this one (a few shootings & stabbings, as well as someone being buried alive underneath a pile of gravel). Plenty of brawls with many weapons used, window crashing, car wrecks & explosions make up the bulk of the mayhem.

Sexuality/Nudity: Gabrielle Fitzpatrick…in her underwear…running in slow motion. This might be Sammo Hung’s best directorial moment ever. Well, this and the final fight in The Prodigal Son. They’re pretty close. There’s also a scene of a woman (Judy Green) in a bikini.

Language/Dialogue: Just a few mild profanities, if that.

How bad was it?:
In the States, the reviews were as mixed as ever for any Chan film that came after Bronx. Those that focused merely on the action & sight gags (Roger Ebert, being one of Chan’s frequent champions) maintained positive reviews, while those that looked at the flick’s more weaker aspects (plot, acting, etc.) tended to be less kind to it.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Golden Harvest launched Mr. Nice Guy as a Hong Kong Lunar Year release on 1/31/97. It did the usual spectacular returns that Chan’s movies do there, grossing $45.4 million HK in less than three months time. It went on to do considerably less business when it was released in America by New Line Cinema on 3/20/98, debuting in 6th place behind new competition Primary Colors & Wild Things with $5.3 million. It folded shortly afterwards with a total stateside gross of $12.7 million.

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

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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