Jackie Chan's 1997 Lunar New Year release, Mr. Nice Guy was extremely successful with Hong Kong movie patrons. Shot mostly in English, this is Jackie's third film made with North American audiences in mind. The movie opened last year in 3 versions; the international 'English' version, the Cantonese-dubbed version, and the Mandarin-dubbed version. My review copy is the Mandarin-dubbed LD version from which I know I missed all of the spoken English dialogue of the non-asian actors, relying on the 'notorious' subtitles to follow along.
As usual, Jackie gives his audience a full load of visual fireworks. Instead of doing it all himself on this film, Chan has brought in his life long friend and cohort Sammo Hung to handle the directing chores. Together they have created some sequences that are absolutely brilliant and rank among some of Jackie's best work. In a departure from the usual 'cop' role, Chan portrays the popular host of a TV cooking show, a chef with great martial arts skills. What a stretch[just kidding]! The role allows for some comedic fun with food and cooking utensils.
The film as a whole, though, is another matter. Sadly, some of the performers cast alongside Chan in supporting roles are painful to watch and they hurt the film. Richard Norton is so over-the-top in his role of Giancarlo, the drug lord, as to be unbelievable. This character's treatment of women throughout the story is reprehensible and way too calculated by the filmmakers. There are 4 female supporting roles and Norton's character slaps and punches all of them. Chan and Norton face off in a scene where Jackie's hands and feet are restrained by ropes that are held by Giancarlo's cronies.
Another problem with the film is the lack of plot and character developement. In a brief prologue, we meet Giancarlo as he slaps a woman, holds her head underwater and orders her killed. This woman was a spy for a rival gang of street thugs named the Wolves. Set in Melbourne, Australia, we see Jackie (Jackie's character is named Jackie) on his cooking show during the credit sequence. Somehow, the Wolves got $10 million worth of Giancarlo's drugs. During a meeting, the two sides start shooting and throwing hand grenades, one of which exposes Diana, a TV-tabloid reporter with her cameraman, spying on the crooks. Giancarlo sees them and wants them caught.
After the bumbling Wolves get the worst of the battle, Giancarlo's men take off after Diana and her videotape. During this chase, she stumbles into Jackie who, of course, comes to her aid. In the escape, Jackie ends up in possession of the hot videotape. From this point the film goes back and forth between Jackie fighting Giancarlo's gang and Jackie fighting the low-life Wolves.
Along the way we meet Jackie's girlfriend Miki, who arrives from Hong Kong for a visit. The Wolves kidnap her from Jackie and will trade her for the tape. From this point, about 45 minutes into the film, the best part of Mr. Nice Guy begins. Sammo's action direction of Jackie is always excellent and it is no different here. Blending dangerous set-ups, wide angle lenses, and tricky dolly shots with Jackie's many comedic and dramatic performing skills, the two old friends have created some incredible footage. The sequence in the construction site which will be forever known as "the blue door sequence" is brilliant, as well as the fight inside the Wolves van as it moves thru city streets. Watch for a cameo appearance by Sammo that is hilarious.
Besides the sub-par supporting players and the flaws in the screenplay by Edward Tang and Fibe Ma, Mr. Nice Guy has another couple of things in it that I found annoying. One of these is the obvious "product placement" that jumps off the screen. Hollywood productions are genius at this supposed to be subtle practice. But in this film I felt clubbed by Pepsi and Samsung products. Another annoying aspect of the film are the in-jokes and references to 1995's Rumble in the Bronx, i.e.; Emil Chau in another ice cream vending cameo, a wedding scene[?], and the "Are you okay?" jokes. The seemingly 'tacked-on' ending sequence of the film is lifted from Rumble as well.
After Jackie, with his hands restrained, beats Giancarlo, the drug lord orders him and his girlfriends killed at the "guest house" (actually a big construction site). Jackie manages to free himself and uses a giant yellow construction vehicle, like the big yellow hover craft in Rumble, to wreak havoc on Giancarlo's fancy house and help the bumbling police get their man. Suspension of disbelief indeed!
Frankly, I'm looking forward to the American release of this film. I'm curious to know what edits will be made and how the audio tracks(vocals and music) will be enhanced .Copyrightę1998 J. Crawford