Review: Ride On


Jackie Chan is maybe the most recognizable Chinese movie star that has ever lived. Fans of this website won’t need me to recap his cinematic feats (I’ve covered a ton over the years), but even Hollywood audiences are aware of his dynamic screen presence and penchant for jaw-dropping stunts. Sadly, age comes for us all and even Chan isn’t immune to the process of becoming older.

That’s what makes a film such as Ride On an interesting prospect. Its central premise of an aging stuntman trying to recapture his past glory speaks as a tribute to Chan’s legacy and all of the hard work that the Jackie Chan Stunt Team did throughout his 50+ year career. At the same time, this is maybe one of the most tone-deaf Chan films ever considering the political and personal beliefs of its leading man.

I’m at something of an impasse here, but let’s take a look at Ride On and see where its strengths and weaknesses lie.

RIDE ON Official Trailer | Starring Jackie Chan | On Digital, Blu-ray & DVD Oct. 24, 2023

Ride On
Director: Larry Yang
Release Date: April 7, 2023 (Worldwide)

Rating: NR

Ride On begins with protagonist Luo (Jackie Chan) living a peaceful life with his beautiful horse Red Hare (named after the legendary steed of Lu Bu from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms). While the two have formed a family with each other, Luo is barely making ends meet after his career as a stuntman has come to an end. He takes Red Hare to the movie studio to pose for photos and such, but it’s not enough to help him pay his debts. Debt collectors come to Luo one night seeking Red Hare as collateral for his unpaid debts, which leads to a classic Jackie Chan restaurant brawl.

This battle is surprisingly kinetic for Chan, a man approaching 70. It has shades of sequences seen in films such as Miracles but without nearly as many death-defying stunts. The point of the battle isn’t to showcase extreme action, however, but advance the plot a little. Patrons of the restaurant notice the agile old Luo and his incredible steed fighting back and it gets caught on camera. This sparks interest from a film studio in hiring the duo.

As if fate knew things were going too well for Luo, two lawyers from a holdings firm come to his home and serve him papers concerning Red Hare. It turns out that the horse was paid for with illicit funds from its original owner and that it will need to be seized by the bank to pay for its owner’s debts. Luo is stunned and unsure of what to do, so he reaches out to his estranged daughter Bao (Liu Haocun) for legal advice.

Ride On

© Well Go USA

On a simple level, the plot in Ride On is serviceable. It’s maybe overly sentimental, but there is a clear conflict that Chan’s character needs to overcome and you’ve got a double whammy of emotional investment with his horse and daughter. It’s the type of story that could fill a brisk 90-minute action romp and leave you feeling satisfied with your time. Sadly, the movie overcommits to the bit and drags things out to a ludicrous two hours and five minutes with layer after layer of melodramatic twists strewn about.

I think the issue comes down to the pacing of the film. A lot of emphasis is put on Luo’s stuntman days before shifting into interpersonal drama with his daughter. Once you begin to get invested in that, the film drops that for a bit and goes back to being a generic action flick. It never settles into a good rhythm, though that is possibly a mirror of its character’s difficulties with balancing his two lives.

As the film progresses, we learn the reason for Luo and Xao’s separation and it focuses squarely on his life as a stuntman. I won’t reveal much but suffice it to say, you can see that director Larry Yang was very much in awe of Jackie Chan’s real-life career. Billed as the main writer for Ride On, Yang attempts to build a drama around the struggles that overlooked stuntmen face when helping make those around them look good.

© Well Go USA

While some of that doesn’t apply to Chan as he became an international superstar, there was a period of his life in Hong Kong when nobody knew his name. When Bruce Lee was the biggest star in town, Chan was in the trenches taking hits and jumping through windows to make bigger stars look impressive. Lee even broke Chan’s nose in one shot of Enter the Dragon, so he knows the hardships of going unrecognized well.

While most of the marketing for Chan has led many to believe he does literally all of his stunts, Chan has never attempted to diminish the work of his stunt team. They are the lifeblood of all of Chan’s productions and Chan fought to make sure they were getting included in his films in more prominent roles. His example resulted in other prominent Hong Kong directors and action stars creating their own stunt teams, which is a net positive. At the same time, those guys don’t get the same billing or recognition as Chan.

There are no callouts in Ride On, but you can tell that this film is about honoring the contribution stuntmen have made to action cinema. It’s also one gigantic tribute to Jackie Chan as a star and all of the blood, sweat, and tears he has shed in the pursuit of entertainment. During bits when Xao is learning more about her father’s past, the film utilizes clips from Chan’s movies as stand-ins for his character and you can’t help but smile if you’re a fan of this stuff. The clocktower stunt from Project A, the mall brawl from Police Story, and the ridiculous rope ladder stunt from Police Story 3: Supercop are all featured. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye.

© Well Go USA

What doesn’t tug at the heartstrings is the relationship between Luo and Xao. I can’t really fault the acting as Ride On is actually one of Chan’s more accomplished performances on a dramatic level, but it’s more the implications that this film has when compared to Chan’s actual life. Most people know Chan for his achievements in film, but his actual person is that of a man that turned his back on Hong Kong and sided with the communist party in China.

While that is bad enough, Chan also has a daughter born out of wedlock from an affair in 1999 that he has abandoned. Named Etta Ng Chok Lam, Chan severed ties with her and her mother (former beauty queen Elaine Ng) once learning of his mistress’ pregnancy. In the intervening years, Chan has done nothing to support his daughter and watches on as she struggles to make ends meet. Etta was last spotted in Toronto, Canada lining up at a food shelter and is reportedly living on the streets with her wife.

You could make some claim of needing to separate the artist from the art, but it’s really hard to take a film about reconnecting with your estranged daughter seriously when its leading man wants nothing to do with his own daughter. By that measure, Ride On feels like some gross misunderstanding of who Jackie Chan really is.

© Well Go USA

I won’t diminish his contributions to cinema as Chan was one of the most important and groundbreaking stars of his day. Even to this day, the films Chan created in the 70s, 80s, and 90s hold up because of his utter commitment to spectacle and practicality. Something happened along the way, though, where Chan become more concerned with his image versus being an actual good person. Weirdly, that’s also the complete opposite of Luo in the movie.

The other major plot beat that Ride On tackles is the ego of action stars and for the majority of the film, Luo is too stubborn to step down. He constantly puts himself in danger because he’s stuck on the old-school way of creating movies. It’s no mistake that a horse is a central character because it’s symbolic of the old saying that one has to get “back in the saddle.” Eventually, Luo understands that he is pushing away his family and hurting Red Hare and is able to retire. He stops thinking about his image and decides to walk a better path.

I can only hope that Ride On is maybe some method of Chan trying to reach out to his daughter and mend the bridge that has been utterly devastated over the last 23 years. It could also be the final ride for Chan, with the film honoring his legacy and that of the stuntmen that helped him while understanding that times have changed. These people suffered so that newer generations could build safer and better ways to create the same effect.

© Well Go USA

If you put aside all of his personal and political baggage, Ride On really isn’t that bad of a movie. There is a moment early on where Luo accidentally puts his arm up Red Hare’s ass and we get a fart joke, but that’s really the worst of it. The rest of the comedy is basic but has proper setup and payoff. The action can be perfunctory, but it’s never framed poorly or choppily edited. Even the melodramatic ending gives Chan a chance to flex his acting chops enough that you might wind up crying a little.

As is tradition with Chan films, a blooper reel runs during the credits and we see that Chan is still performing stunts. At one point, the horse bucks Chan off of him and he lands squarely on his back. He gets up somehow unphased and it’s a wonder how a senior citizen can even take a tumble like that. It shows that Chan still has some life left in him, but you also have to wonder if he has learned any lesson from all of this.

I don’t expect Chan to leave the communist party behind and start making amends for all of the hurt he has caused. I’m also pretty certain he’s not going to help his daughter: he doesn’t even help his legitimate son Jaycee. I guess I’m just at a loss for how to really take what Ride On is trying to say. If this truly does lead to a new era where Chan betters himself, then Ride On really can’t be all that bad.




Ride On is a decent enough Jackie Chan film, but one that struggles to address the real-life issues of its leading man.

Peter Glagowski
Peter is an aspiring writer with a passion for gaming and fitness. If you can't find him in front of a game, you'll most likely find him pumping iron.