Jackie Chan's First Strike
1996, PG-13, 88 min. Directed by Stanley Tong. Starring Jackie Chan, Jackson Lou, Annie Wu.
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Jan. 17, 1997
Jackie Chan’s Clean Break might be a more fitting title for this latest step in Chan’s outreach to an international audience. Though nominally the fourth installment in the long-running Police Story series, it marks the 42-year-old superstar’s sharpest deviation yet from the style and scale of his legendary Seventies and Eighties output. Quirky Hong Kong federal agent “Jackie” Chan Ka-kui returns here, still blending Seventies supercop bravado with the goofball vulnerability of the silent movie comics Jackie Chan the actor adores. Now, however, the silly, “endearing” elements are more dominant than ever. In between his trademark martial arts set-pieces, Jackie flees pursuing villains in a furry white snow-bunny hat, waddles around in a whale costume, and takes pratfalls like an incarnated Tex Avery cartoon figure. The plot, a half-assed James Bond satire/homage revolving around (but of course) a stolen nuclear weapon, seems even more disposable than usual, if that’s possible. On the upside, for small-bladdered viewers, this may be the first Jackie Chan movie in which one can make repeated bathroom runs with little fear of missing anything good. Almost every scene seems to go on too long, and in the absence of credible co-stars as Maggie Cheung or Yuen Biao, both of whom have contributed mightily to previous Police Story films, the supporting characters generate uniformly low wattage. Longtime fans who tout Chan as one of action cinema’s most exciting and innovative practitioners will find little support for their case here. Until it comes time for Jackie to start throwin’ down. Then, the heart of Jackie Chan’s cinema – the reckless yet precise invention and adrenaline-hammering energy of his trademark action sequences – beats as strong and hot as ever. If you’ve never seen a Chan movie before, the underwater melee midway through First Strike will easily justify your six-buck outlay. No way around it, though: this film is a letdown on many levels. But at this point, we may owe this one-of-a-kind auteur a little indulgence as he wrestles with the challenges of encroaching middle age and a new international audience. Chances are that faith will eventually be repaid many times over.