If you've seen Chan, you've seen them allBy Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
Directed by Sammo Hung
With Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Miki Lee, Karen McLymont
As a free reader service, we're offering a buy one/get one free feature! This piece features 2 (two) reviews of Mr. Nice Guy for our gentle patrons!
The first one is for people who have never seen a Jackie Chan movie before: What are you waiting for? Granted, this movie features the worst screenplay in recent memory (yes, worse than Switchback), with groan-inducing acting, appalling overplotting, lots of gratuitous violence, and so on. On the other hand, it stars Jackie Chan, and, as such, it features stuff that you've never seen on screen before and will never ever see in a movie without Chan. Be prepared to see amazing stunts (all performed by Jackie himself) and some of the best physical comedy since Buster Keaton played Sherlock Jr.. It's fun watching the total abandon with which he battle the countless opponents with tools as varied as wheelbarrows, concrete mixers, giant inflatable dinosaurs, monster trucks, and chili peppers.
Now, for the people who have seen Jackie Chan movies before, this one is a mixed bag; on average, perhaps the weakest of the recent American releases (Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop, First Strike, and Operation Condor). The plot is a rough rewrite of Rumble in the Bronx: Jackie gets his hands on a McGuffin and is pursued by a gang of punks and an army of black-suited criminals. Chan spends most of the time in one of three activities: chasing the bad guys, being chased by the bad guys, and fighting the bad guys.
The first half of the movie is quite off-putting - situations are cliched, the plot is beyond cliched, and the film induces more groans than wows. Acting is non-existent: Making Jackie's character a TV chef was a bad idea to begin with, since it's not really utilized, and it leaves him stranded without a firm grip on his character (although he can act, as he shows in his takes on James Bond in First Strike and Indiana Jones in Operation Condor). The initial promise of a capable female partner (investigative TV reporter Diana, played with some verve by Gabrielle Fitzpatrick) evaporates very soon, when Diana is reduced to running around in her underwear. By the end she is completely forgotten. What's worse, the violence (the non-Jackie-perpetrated kind) is disturbing and clashes with the lighter mood of the physical comedy. The fact that every third shot has some form of product placement (albeit some of which are quite creative) doesn't help much.
The movie picks up noticeably in the second half, when several things come together. One of the biggest is that the villainous drug dealer Giancarlo (Richard Norton) begins taking an important role. Norton is highly entertaining as a compulsively-clean and cowardly bully (his house is a marvel of interior decorating and is visually a treat as well). In addition, the action set-pieces become highly inventive and funny, causing both gasps of disbelief and fits of laughter. One sequence, set in a half-finished building of concrete walls and blue doors, is a gem.
If you haven't seen Supercop or Operation Condor, rent them - they are both better. But if you have, and think that Jackie already did everything that can possibly be done by a human, see Mr. Nice Guy and you'll change your mind.