Saturday, 20 December 2014

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - The Cannonball Run

The best thing that can be said about Hal Needham's The Cannonball Run is that a lot of the stunts look genuinely dangerous. Needham's team excel at making vehicles appear completely out of control. Cars and planes lurch uncontrollably before their pilots administer an expert, last minute correction. Unfortunately these visceral dangers are fleeting, the majority of Cannonball is spent in the company of boozy celebrity capering. Although Roger Moore is fun as a delusional lothario, Jackie Chan is wasted as an inexplicably Japanese racer who'd rather sneak a look at Golden Age pornos than drive his computerised Subaru.

Chan and his navigator (Hong Kong comedian Michael Hui) speak in a garbled mix of Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin, their scenes bracketed by racist musical riffs. These indelicacies become even more bizarre when you consider Golden Harvest bankrolled the film. Chan's moment in the sun comes late in the day, helping to fight off some sleazy bikers during a brief pause in the competition. Chan even stays to thrash a few more goons when the race resumes, ploughing through nobodies with energetic high-kicks. The most consistent barrier to enjoying The Cannonball Run though, apart from a deeply uncharismatic turn by Burt Reynolds, is that it doesn't really have any punchlines. There are comedic premises, we understand jokes are in play, but they never reach a satisfactory conclusion.

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