Thursday, 18 December 2014

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - Battle Creek Brawl

Presumably the highest budgeted Bruceploitation film ever, Battle Creek Brawl sees Jackie Chan's natural charisma drowned out by Robert Clouse's static set-ups and Lalo Schifrin's twangy jazz score. Unlike in Hong Kong were Chan is able to burn through takes on a Kubrickian scale in pursuit of perfection, here the star is forced to settle for 'good enough'. This unpolished approach to action is something of a mixed blessing. At its best, Chan's moves acquire a scrappy desperation absent from his highly drilled Hong Kong work. At their worst, they read like fluffed takes.

As with Enter the Dragon, Clouse shoots his lead on a diagonal axis for vendetta fights. Chan pushes from the top right of the frame to the bottom left, stamping and snapping along the way. Unlike Dragon though, there's very little coverage. Clouse never uses the POV size-ups or injury inserts that made Dragon's climatic fight between Bruce Lee and Shih Kien so thrilling. When Jackie's uncle Mako gets an extreme close-up on his eye-line it feels like something from a completely different film. Brawl's not all bad. Jackie Chan and Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Comedy actress Kristine DeBell make a sweet couple, and, if nothing else, it allows viewers the opportunity to see Chan ducking and weaving around brawny, outlaw territory wrestlers.

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