Jackie Chan's First Strike

on January 10, 1997 by Karen Achenbach
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   As the print ad asserts, Jackie Chan fights for America--America's boxoffice, that, is, and Jackie Chan wins. Director Stanley Tong, an ex-stuntman who continues to stunt-direct, has worked with Chan twice before, in 1992's "Police Story 3: Supercop" (released stateside last year as "Supercop" by Miramax) and 1995's "Rumble in the Bronx," the latter also from New Line. With "Jackie Chan's First Strike," released in Asia last year as "Police Story 4" and issued here with additional music and a trim by New Line, Tong and Chan have made their most accessible (i.e., Americanized) film to date. Though showing less of Chan's breathtaking ability than his fans are accustomed to, "First Strike" is a fast-paced actioner with spectacular stunts, a clear plotline and clever comedy throughout. Again the Hong Kong policeman, though this time compared to James Bond and called simply Jackie, Chan chases the mysterious Tsui (an effectively complex Jackson Lou) and a stolen nuclear warhead from the snows of the Ukraine to the balmy coast of Australia, allowing for stunt sequences with snowmobiles, helicopters, ocean highrises and aquarium sharks, all skillfully lensed by cinematographer Jingle Ma (who also shot "Rumble in the Bronx"). Sound is equally well crafted, intensifying the impact of snowmobiles crashing at lens, playing the international cast for laughs and having a shark belch underwater after consuming a villain.
   Chan, who invented comedy kung fu in 1978, has the innocence of Chaplin and more physical skill than Buster Keaton, as "First Strike" demonstrates. Wardrobe contributes via fabulous neon colors (even helping keep the plot lucid) and by changing Chan's attire nearly every scene; moviegoers are treated to Chan in koala bear briefs and Chan disrobing while singing "I Will Follow You." When Tsui says he has a terrible voice, it's an in-joke at the expense of Chan's successful recording career in Hong Kong. A few distinctly Chinese moments have survived: a white-uniformed army emerges from beneath snow to attack, and hundreds of umbrellas open during a Chinatown sequence, which includes the wildly reassuring sight of Chan on eight-foot stilts, kicking an attacker off a second-story balcony. There's even a John Woo moment--a surrender between essentially good-hearted adversaries and their subsequent salvation. Chan could use another Woo treatment--a slow-motion camera--so that hardcore fans could meditate on the magic he achieves. Starring Jackie Chan, Jackson Lou, Chen Chun Wu and Bill Tung. Directed by Stanley Tong. Written by Stanley Tong, Nick Tramontane, Greg Mellot and Elliot Tong. Produced by Barbie Tung. A New Line release. Action/comedy. Rated PG-13 for plentiful action/violence. Running time: 83 min
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