Rumble in the Bronx (Hong Faan Kui)
Screenplay : Edward Tang
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1996
Stars : Jackie Chan (Keung), Anita Mui (Elaine), Francoise Yip (Nancy), Bill Tung (Uncle Bill), Marc Akerstream (Tony), Garvin Cross (Angelo), Morgan Lam (Danny)
Even if you could overlook the lame slapstick comedy, the stilted, poorly dubbed dialogue, stolen diamonds that look like glass marbles, the producers' attempt to pass off a Canadian location crested with scenic mountains as the Bronx, and the fact that the only sympathy in the film comes from gangsters beating on a whiny kid in a wheelchair, "Rumble in the Bronx" would still be a bad movie.
Ever since his American debut in 1980 in "The Big Brawl," Hong Kong martial arts sensation Jackie Chan has been trying to cross over into American cinema. He's made over a hundred films in his lifetime, but his style of film just doesn't translate very well to the U.S. except for diehard fans of the genre.
The thin excuse for a plot revolves around Chan's character Cheung who has just come to New York to visit his soon-to-be-wed uncle. The uncle leaves for his honeymoon and Chan's character is left to help a new female owner run his uncle's market. Chan immediately gets into trouble with the local gang members who look like some bad leftovers from Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video. Woven into that is a subplot about the annoying kid in the wheelchair, his older sister, and how a bag of stolen diamonds ends up in their possession.
In the tradition of all bad screenplays, the characters are nothing more than cardboard cutouts. But for once, it's not the ethnic groups that are the stereotypes, but rather the white Americans. The Bronx gang members are all dumb Caucasians who spit dialogue like third graders trying to act tough. If anything, "Rumble in the Bronx" is a good example of a foreign film trying to look American and failing miserably. They throw in every American cliché in the book, but it looks as if the producers were modeling their style after something made in the late 80's. Apparently they haven't realized that the Adam Ant / Def Leppard look died about ten years ago.
Later in the film a Mafia boss and his cronies get in on the action. They look like a composite of every gangster from "The Godfather" to "Reservoir Dogs." The only thing that makes them different is they are given a slapstick appeal that makes them impossible to take seriously. Therefore, the bad guys aren't really very bad, and any motivation the audience has to see them defeated is lost.
This is probably the main reason why Chan's style of comedy-action has never managed to take root in the U.S. His brand of humor hasn't made it past the Three Stooges stage, yet he tries to combine that with the hard-edged violence of putting a human being through a wood chipper and stuffing the remains in garbage bags.
But all of this is secondary. If you pay $5.50 to see this movie, you want action, you want stunts, you want all it was hyped to be, and for the most part, it pays off. The action is amazing. When he's not trying to be an actor, Chan has an incredible screen presence. The fight scenes are more intricately choreographed than a ballet. The action sometimes borders on being ludicrous, but that's what makes it fun.
As promised, Chan does do his own stunts, and several of them are literally unbelievable. At one point he jumps across a twenty foot gap between two buildings and lands perfectly on a balcony that's about three feet in diameter. Unfortunately, much of the authenticity of the action is relinquished when the editors sped up some of the fight scenes. If the main draw of the film is the reality of the stunt-work, it should be consistent.
But if you do manage to stay through the entire movie, be sure to watch the credits. Chan was smart enough to include outtakes that show him in some of his lesser moments as he botches some of the stunts. One time he actually hurt his ankle so badly that he had to perform with a cast on his leg. You have to give him credit for that. Most overpaid American actors would have taken six paid weeks off in Malibu Beach before they got back in front of the camera.
Reprinted with permission The Baylor Lariat