Roughly one year ago following the release of a promo video for Chinese Zodiac (CZ12), I did a list of the 12 best Jackie Chan fight scenes. The list ended at 1999’s Gorgeous. Now, with the premiere of Chinese Zodiac and the full release in China next week, I figure I’d use this coincidence of numbers to continue looking at Jackie Chan fights, this time from 2000 to the present date. The same restrictions from the previous list apply: only one fight per movie, and it all gets laid out chronologically.
This was a little tougher than I expected since Chan’s output over the last 12 years has included some real lows (e.g., The Tuxedo, The Medallion, The Spy Next Door) and a few departures from his usual action output (e.g., Shinjuku Incident, 1911). There’s very little in the last 12 years that would crack into Jackie’s career top 10, but that’s just a consequence of aging. If I remember right, Ric Meyers said something true about Jackie’s career in a DVD commentary for the first Drunken Master: no one can beat Jackie Chan but himself.
And yet I think there are interesting signs of what Chan can still do without the impact and danger of his classic fights. A lot of it has to do with something more fundamental to Jackie Chan’s fighting that pure power: style.
Shanghai Noon (2000) – Jackie Chan vs. Rongguang Yu
Even though Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights are high on hokiness, I think franchise could use a third installment. It’s unlikely now since it’ll be 10 years since the last film and there’s more interest in the Rush Hour franchise. I think they could have kept this series alive if they just dialed down the cheeseball factor a notch or two.
There are a couple fun fights in Shanghai Noon, like the bar fight, the Indian fight, and the horseshoe scene, but this brief fight against Rongguang Yu (the Iron Monkey himself) plays to the strengths of both performers and is a standout in the film. (That segment goes from around :40 to 3:05.) The eventual final fight of the film against Roger Yuan is okay, but it’s one of the fights during this period in Chan’s career that reveals how much of a rhythm-based fighter he is — there’s a time signature to his fights that his opponents need to share.
The Accidental Spy (2001) – Naked in the Marketplace
This one might be not safe for work, though I guess that may depend on your company’s policy concerning Jackie Chan’s bare ass.
The Accidental Spy is pretty darn fun, and includes a rematch with Brad Allen, a Jackie Chan stunt team member who went toe to toe with Jackie in Gorgeous. That rematch takes place in the backseat of a moving convertible, which is good more for the reckless endangerment than the choreography. Still, there’s this great comedic fight scene in a marketplace where Jackie loses his towel and fights to maintain what little dignity he has left.
Rush Hour 2 (2001) – The Massage Parlor
Even though I thought the third Rush Hour was kind of so-so and the first Rush Hour was fun but a little undercooked, I actually dig Rush Hour 2. There’s a good mix of Chris Tucker comedy and Jackie Chan action. The fights may not be as intricate as his Hong Kong output, but Jackie does some solid work, including some nice acrobatic escapes. He even gets Don Cheadle to throw down. It came down to me picking between the bamboo scaffold scene and this one in the massage parlor. It’s a bit of a draw, though I picked the parlor fight since I wasn’t able to find a complete video of the scaffold scene. Also, it’s two videos with butts in a row. Again, video might be not safe for work.
Shanghai Knights (2003) – The Marketplace Fight
Years and years ago when I wrote for my college paper, I went to the press junket for Shanghai Knights, and Jackie Chan seemed enthusiastic about the film. (According to the other journalists there, Jackie was bitter during the junket for The Tuxedo, opening one roundtable interview by saying something like, “Hi everybody, wasn’t that a crappy movie?”) Shanghai Knights is more akin to the classic Chan films of the 80s and early 90s. Some of that credit goes to director David Dobkin, who said he gave Jackie extra time to craft and shoot the action. This led to a great gag with a revolving door and a fun library/study fight.
Picking my favorite fight from this film was a little difficult. The last fights with Donnie Yen and Aidan Gillen are nice, and, interestingly, they both involve Jackie technically losing. (Major big-ups to Gillen’s swordplay in the final fight, living up to the swordsmanship of Basil Rathbone.) As much as I like both of those, I’ll actually have to go with the marketplace fight, which features Jackie doing crafty evasions that culminate in a tribute to Gene Kelly. (Seriously, Jackie Chan should remake It’s Always Fair Weather.)
Around the World in 80 Days (2004) – The Classic Use of a Bench
If Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights were hokey, then Around the World in 80 Days is far beyond hokey. It’s further tainted by a Rob Schneider appearance. Steve Coogan and Cécile de France probably keep this one off their resumes, and maybe Jackie does too. Had the movie hewn a bit closer to stuff like Blake Edwards’s The Great Race, I probably would winced much less. (I’ve always wondered how Jackie Chan would choreograph a pie fight.)
And yet I think there was a decent fight in the movie. Sammo Hung (as Wong Fei-hung) shows up with the other Ten Tigers of Canton too. While the cavalry does its work, Jackie Chan shows some classic bench fighting. The general fighting starts around the 2:30 mark, but the bench sequence starts at around 6:14. May I never have to watch this movie again otherwise.
The Twins Effect II (2004) – Jackie Chan vs. Donnie Yen Rematch
Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan’s rematch is pure Chinese fantasy movie zaniness, and I enjoy it unapologetically. (Though I will say, I do enjoy the uncut version of the Shanghai Knights fight, which was one of the deleted scenes on the DVD.) Twins Effect II isn’t near as good as the original Twins Effect, but this scene is pretty entertaining. It’s a bit heavy on the slow-mo, but it has its redeeming moments thanks to the athleticism of Donnie and Jackie and the anarchic creativity on display.
New Police Story (2004) – Jackie Chan vs. Andy On Round II
New Police Story is easily my favorite Jackie Chan movie of this 12-year stretch. There’s solid action, some surprising pathos, and I actually like the generational aspect going on in the film. Chan goes from guilt, humiliation, and depression to heroic redemption and clever courage. It’s a great heroic arc, and there are fine nods to the past of the Police Story franchise. Makes me wonder what Chan has in store for Police Story 2013, which he’s working on right now.
This final fist fight in New Police Story is a rematch from much earlier in the film. During an incredibly dark moment, Jackie gets beat up by Andy On while trying to save his fellow police officers who are dangling from the ceiling of a factory. It’s some of the most brutal bad guy stuff in any Jackie Chan film, and it marks our hero’s initial decline. This rematch takes place after Jackie’s got his mojo back, and he is plenty pissed at these sadistic young punks. Wonderfully done fight, and a great late-period Jackie Chan film.
The Myth (2005) – The Glue Trap Conveyor Belt
While I think The Myth as a whole underwhelms at the end, it’s still an all right movie with some really good fights. An early tussle against two guards leads to fine slapstick (and one insane heel kick to grab a spear), the period action set pieces are well staged, and the reincarnation fight against the Indian swordsman is nicely pulled off.
Yet it’s this glue trap fight that is my favorite by far. It’s the perfect set-up for a guy like Jackie since it involves creative play with the environment. Given the way Jackie designs his action scenes, I assume this was probably an idea he had on the backburner for a while.
Rob-B-Hood (2006) – The Fight to Save the Baby
Watching Rob-B-Hood, I was happy to see Yuen Biao again, who never really got the international recognition he deserved for some badass action over the decades. This film rounds out a relatively solid run in the mid-2000s for Jackie. (Okay, except for Around the World in 80 Days.) There’s a very cool stunt involving air conditioning units (see 1:50 to 3:00) and a well-done final fight to save a baby in cold storage (5:07 until the end).
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) – Jackie Chan vs. Jet Li
While I didn’t enjoy the framing narrative in The Forbidden Kingdom, there are plenty of fun moments in the movie. The biggie is this showdown between Jackie Chan and Jet Li, where both performers are able to shine. It’s surprising given that their respective fighting styles are pretty different. This observation goes beyond just drunken boxing vs. Shaolin or tiger vs. mantis. Jackie and Jet have different rhythms when they stage their fights, so it’s interesting to see how they play together. Yuen Woo-ping gets a lot of credit, and he probably knew how to choreograph a fight that plays to both actors’s abilities having worked with them multiple times in the past.
The Karate Kid (2010) – Jackie Chan Beats Up Children
I’m still surprised that I enjoyed the remake of The Karate Kid as much as I did. It doesn’t hold its own against the original, but there’s still some charm to it (despite its culturally off-kilter title.) By the end, that martial arts tournament turns into a goofy fighting game. All that’s missing are life bars, super gauges, and 60-hit combos. Though, to be honest, I think I like The Karate Kid solely for the fact that I got out of the movie what I wanted going in: a scene in which Jackie Chan beats the crap out of pint-sized bad guys.
1911 (2011) – A Brief Flash of Brilliance
Jackie’s getting older (he turns 59 next year) and admits that action is tougher for him these days. Part of this is what led to reports that he was going to retire from making action movies after Chinese Zodiac. He had to correct those reports: he was only retiring from the big, crazy action movies of his past.
I think looking at the brief 1911 fight (a surprising skirmish in a nationalistic historical drama) and considering the fights from earlier in Jackie Chan’s career, he can lose the big action and still be a great action star based on style and creativity alone. The way he uses props to his advantage and the clever solutions to bizarre set-ups lend themselves well to Chan’s sensibilities at any age. I guess what I’m saying is that he doesn’t need to jump onto hovercrafts if he can turn a guy’s rifle strap against him.
The final showdown in New Police Story is not a fight, but a quick draw involving disassembled guns. It’s clear that Jackie isn’t as fast or as tough as the young people he’s fighting. In fact, he’s not even as fast or as tough as the Jackie Chan seen in the previous Police Story films. And yet, he’s got experience and intelligence on his side.
Jackie’s solution to this showdown is great because it’s surprising, creative, and stylish — that’s the essence of Jackie Chan. That’s what wins the day, and it’s just a matter of distilling that sort of inventiveness moving forward. That might be how Jackie Chan can beat Jackie Chan.