I love martial arts films and I love Jackie Chan. When I saw he had a new English language film where he’s not a goofy former agent babysitting kids or stuck wearing a super neato tuxedo suit I was excited. The film looked like a great action drama about a father harassing an Irish deputy minister after his daughter is killed in a bombing. On top of all that the film is directed by Martin Campbell – who I once harassed during a press junket about his experiences working with Bill Paxton on Vertical Limit (I wasn’t really harassing. Martin and I had a wonderful chat.  Everyone was too excited about meeting Angelina to bother interrupting Martin and I.).

Not counting movies where Jackie provided a voice, the last time I saw a Jackie Chan movie in theaters was 2010’s The Karate Kid. Horrible title but I liked his performance (and even Jaden Smith). I like that Jackie is able to do dramatic performances where he’s not always being jokey. He can still show off his action skills but what does Jackie really have left to prove? Nothing. He’s done it all. So seeing him in a film like this where he still has some action but truly gets to emote? It’s exactly what I want to see in an English language film. I don’t need The Spy Next Door 2. Well…unless they get Billy Ray Cyrus back again.

Based on Stephen Leather’s book The Chinaman, Chan plays Quan. Quan is a single father with a teenage daughter. His life is simple. He owns a Chinese restaurant. He dotes over his daughter. Very early on a bomb goes off killing many including Quan’s daughter. The bombers take responsibility right away – calling themselves “The Authentic IRA”.

Police and officials spring into action. Everyone is on the phone with Irish Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) who also springs into action but in a different way. Hennessy may be an official but the man is also former IRA. So he calls up the brass of the IRA and wants to find out just who the bombers are (as they seem to be a well armed shadowy offshoot) so they can be taken care of. Hennessy uses the London bombing to try and get some Irish out of English prisons in exchange for figuring out who the bombers are.

That political intrigue is enough in itself. That whole plot can certainly be its own movie. But then you add in Quan.  Quan doesn’t care anymore. He doesn’t care about his life. He doesn’t care about his business or his employees. Quan only wants one thing: the names of the bombers. So Quan approaches the police. After he is rebuffed he goes to Hennessy. Hennessy tells him nothing but Quan is not taking no for an answer. So Quan decides that he will wreck havoc on Hennessy until he finds out who killed his daughter. The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game between Quan, Hennessy, Hennessy’s cronies, Hennessy’s former IRA cohorts, and this offshoot planning attack after attack.

The film has a very interesting dynamic and I can see why Jackie was attracted to it (he produced the film). Chan gets to show off his dramatic acting chops and does quite well when up against a veteran like Brosnan. The film isn’t solid all the way through and it wobbled a bit through the first two acts. Sometimes you are caught up in the intrigue, sometimes it just feels like a generic action film, and sometimes your eyes are forced to open wide. It’s a shame the film wasn’t just a bit more consistent.

Most of the other characters feel completely superfluous. I never learned their names nor did I really care. Orla Brady played Hennessy’s wife and I loved every time she was onscreen because she is GORGEOUS. Oh my God she is beautiful. In the film Hennessy is cheating on her and I’m like, “Dude – you have her at home and you are cheating on her?!?!?! HOW DUMB ARE YOU!?!?!??!” Hennessy has a nephew who is ex Special Forces who I guess just comes in to be a badass.  He also just felt generic. I’m not even going to bother looking up the character’s name or the actor’s name. I’ll just call him “Generic Special Forces IRA Guy.”

They explain why Quan is able to do all the things he is able to do and how he got all of these skills. I called bullshit on this multiple times during the film. Look….there is a term called “Mary Sue” and that applies to a female character who “is competent in too many areas, is physically attractive, and/or is viewed as admirable by other sympathetic characters.” It’s usually guys who will pick out these “Mary Sues'” and call bullshit on their skills. The male equivalent is called a “Gary Stu” or something but I’m sure that someone thought that up because it just sounds similar to Mary Sue. I’m going to call Quan a “male Mary Sue” (I like this term better). The character can just do everything, beat up everyone, and go anywhere. He may take a beating but he always comes up on top and knows how to do EVERYTHING. I like this movie. I like Chan in this movie. But I call bullshit on Quan being able to do EVERYTHING.

At the end of the day I’m glad Chan finally got an English language film where he didn’t have to be goofy. He showed off his acting and I really didn’t need him to throw a punch. His acting was enough for me. I really hope that this leads to more roles like this where it isn’t a sequel to Rush Hour or those Shanghai movies. HONESTLY I’d rather he get back together with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao to do some sort of Ocean’s Eleven film with Donnie Yen and Yuen Wah….but that’s probably a pipe dream. This film isn’t fantastic but I will say that it was quite worth watching.

RANK: B-

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