Director: Jackie Chan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Kwon Sang-woo, Liao Fan, Helen Yao, Zhang Lanxin, Laura Weissbecker, Jonathan Lee, Oliver Platt
The adventures of Asian Hawk aka JC (Jackie Chan) continue in Chinese Zodiac, a globe-trotting adventure that sees our hero searching for legendary bronze heads depicting each of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. These relics have been lost for years and no amount of security, pirates, rival relic hunters, and faceless goons will stop Jackie and his team from recovering these priceless artifacts.
Jackie handles the brunt of the acting here, he’s a confident individual with much experience, similar to his real life persona. There is a bit of conflict with his character when confronted with the realization of his thievery, but you never doubt that he’ll do the right thing. It’s cliched to be true, but a necessary character trait for what is this type of film. Jackie does do physical comedy well, though he splits comedy with lovely ladies Yao Xing Tong and Laura Weissbecker. Their scenes are mostly slapstick and if you’ve seen female non-martial artists in his films before, you will know what to expect. Jackie’s team generally has little to do when not on a heist and a weak marriage subplot between Kwon Sang-woo and Zhang Wan Xin was kind of pointless. Indeed, I was surprised that Kwon had so little to do considering the hubbub that Korean media reported when he was cast. He has a short fight scene, and he does well, but it seems like he was just meant to add to the diversity of the cast; and was without his own, not inconsiderable, star power. Throw in a few cameos with Daniel Wu and Shu Qi to round out the Emperor family with an extended cameo by Oliver Platt as the EWG (Evil White Guy) and the cast is well-rounded but too large to fully develop.
Jackie also directs and shows what years in the industry have taught him. Hardly his first film directing effort, many people have no idea how involved he is in his projects. He has an eye for camera placement and his action choreography is exciting and entertaining as always. Standout scenes include a ridiculously long action sequence onboard a derelict ship and jungle, a very entertaining fight that is reminiscent of childhood ‘the floor is lava’ games, and a factory fight that harkens back to Thunderbolt’s garage fight and Dragon Forever’s plant sequence. There is a terrific lady fight between Caitlin Dechelle and Zhang Lan Xin that makes me wish for more female martial artists in film. While some scenes are certainly better than others (human luge), the film is light enough and with just the right amount of HK goofiness that genre fans should feel right at home.
The film is among the most expensive Chinese films ever made, and it is easy to see where the money went. Exotic locales, elaborate props, and even a brand new Mitsubishi to show off, the film is well put together. The film was converted to 3D for its theatrical release so I cannot comment on how that experience fared, but I find that effects work that emphasizes the ‘in your face’ aspect the medium tend to suffer in 2D and CZ12 is no exception. Most of the memorable action is practically done or with solid blue screen. Music is, unfortunately, mostly forgettable with BGM serving its purpose but not really leaving an impression. A musical highlight though is the theme song over the ending credits by Jackie himself. It was nostalgia inducing and very welcome.
In the end, Chinese Zodiac is a generally clean and entertaining film. I always look forward to any Jackie Chan film even though it is clear that he has lost a step or two these days. Regardless, he seems sprier than he’s appeared in years and his action scenes are more elaborate than ever. Despite some gaffs in visual effects and some humor that doesn’t quite hit the target, Chinese Zodiac is a fun film that should satisfy the popcorn viewer handily. With a lot of pizzazz, Chinese Zodiac has tons of action and fun to be had. Recommended.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Thunderbolt, Operation Condor, Temple of Doom