Sunday, 9 November 2014

Rumble in the Bronx

In an attempt to finally crack the American market, Jackie Chan is transplanted to New York for some Crocodile Dundee culture clash. Viewed today Rumble in the Bronx is refreshing on several levels. Firstly, Chan makes very little attempt to modify his policeman persona for his new audience. Chan is portrayed as deeply, remorselessly, uncool. No attempt is made to disguise the fact that Chan is a middle-aged man either. He doesn't have any cool affectations or props and everything he wears is made out of stone washed denim. Neither is Chan particularly aggressive. When cornered by a pack of delinquent bikers Chan doesn't batter his way through. He flees, cowering in an alleyway.

Despite ditching on a convenience store job (and a more age appropriate pairing with Anita Mui) to romance Françoise Yip's lingerie model, Chan is positioned as a stable, responsible adult. His presence immediately straightens out his new squeeze and the petty criminals she runs with. Chan admonishes them for wasting their lives, making a heartfelt plea for peace. Contemporary kids must've rolled their eyes into the fucking ground. In that sense Chan is taking a similar tact to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop. Both films juggle action and social responsibility, transforming an action vehicle into a brochure for an after-school fitness programme. Masculinity is likewise equated with the ability to give back to your community.

As ever, Jackie Chan is an absolute joy to watch. His narcy, straight-laced character informs the psychological pace of film's action. Fights are tight and frenzied, with lots of inserts of smashing glass and bloody, alarming, escalation. Chan flings himself around mercilessly, demonstrating that he doesn't need any green screen assistance. He is the special effect. The star scrambles all over urban detritus, hijacking a series of exciting vehicles to crash into his enemies. Director Stanley Tong overcranks the action so that we can always recognise Jackie Chan within the danger. Time stalls so we can gaze at Chan's actual body tumbling towards something solid and indifferent. Flubs aren't concealed either. Deep in the third act a key stunt obviously goes very wrong. Chan's ankle bends and breaks as he lands on a speeding hovercraft. His character doesn't even flinch. He's too busy rolling towards a Mafia goon to even care.

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