Thursday, 26 February 2015

Jackie Chan in the 1980s - My Lucky Stars

A truly bizarre film in which Jackie Chan is trapped in a pocket universe full of action and intrigue while Sammo Hung and pals hang out cracking jokes about gang rape. My Lucky Stars is Hung at his most widely uneven. An opening passage that ends in a Japanese amusement park is an incredible, seat-of-your-pants introduction that takes in muscle car crashing, Chan scrambling up a Ferris wheel, and Yuen Biao being kidnapped by a team of powder blue ninjas.

Hung uses split-focus diopters and Giallo angles to key us into a film and situation that My Lucky Stars isn't particularly interested in. The second Chan's investigation hits a brick wall we're whisked off to Hong Kong for boring mediums and ensemble bullying. As with Winners & Sinners, Hung spends his time in the company of a gang of lecherous convicts. Their target is Sibelle Hu, a rookie policewoman who sullenly complies with extended grab-ass conceits that stop Lucky Stars dead.

Winners suffered from a similar lascivious streak but Lucky Stars takes the drooling somewhere hostile and uncomfortable. Since this is a sequel an appreciative audience is taken for granted, character traits are dialled up into absurdity. Charlie Chin suffers the most. In Winners his character was conceited and pompous, a guy who's funny because he assumes he's dashing and cool. This time out he's just another set of fists to persecute Eric Tsang's whipping boy.

The pervs in Winners were kept in check by a jealous brother and, eventually, Sammo himself. Cherie Chung was in on the joke to a degree too, although she was definitely positioned as a possession. Unfortunately, Sibelle Hu has no-one looking out for her, so it follows she is treated contemptibly. She's never given anything to do and apparently falls in love with Hung moments after being told he wants to rape her. Hu's treated as a punchline, the joke's always on her.

Eventually Hung manages to tear himself away from degrading Ms Hu long enough to stage a virtuoso sequence set in Fuji-Q Highland's endless, neon ghost house. The aggressive mediocrity of the last hour fades away as we track a silent Jackie Chan through a series of violent, supernatural confrontations. Armed with a kodachi sword, a snubnosed revolver and a Fila tracksuit, Chan bops along a set dressed like a head-on collision between Tsui Hark's Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain and Nobuhiko Obayashi's House.

Chan arrives dressed as Akira Toriyama's Arale-chan, literalizing the shonen appeal felt in Wheels on Meals. In full costume, Chan fends off Samurai in Kabuki make-up, then finds himself pushed down a corridor seething with arcade game hazards. Finally, Chan battles two ghosts in an upside down sitting room. As this is a Sammo Hung film, Chan moves and strikes with an assured lethality. Underlings are run through, axe-murderers are blown away.

It's a wonderful example of action cinema, a moment-to-moment adventure narrative built out of a determined individual pressing deeper and deeper into somewhere illogical. Clashing tones are putty in Hung's hands. We skip merrily from carnival shocks to desperate brawling to silent movie mugging. It's just a shame that this light, expert touch didn't extend to the rest of My Lucky Stars.

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