Last month at the Cannes Film Festival, international superstar Jackie Chan announced his retirement from his action movie career. If his 29-year-old son Jaycee, a Hong Kong-based actor and singer, plans to follow his father into the limelight, he'll have to convince the public that he's more than a pretty face with a famous father, and do so in a much better showcase of his talents than Double Trouble, an occasionally amusing but narratively nonsensical buddy cop action-comedy. Tepid reviews and lack of star power (sorry, Jaycee) will likely dampen box office performance.
Chan the Younger plays Jay, a highly trained security guard at a Taiwanese art museum. Two art thieves (Jessica C. and Shoko), dressed in the standard henchwoman/dominatrix uniforms, steal a pair of priceless scrolls from the museum, and hot-headed Jay, always too eager to play hero, chases after them. When one of the scrolls accidentally ends up on a tour bus, Jay partners with Ocean (Yu Xia), a mainlander from Beijing on vacation in Taipei, who happens to be both a security guard and a lost tourist trying to get on the same bus.
The first half of Double Trouble flies by quickly, largely thanks to the chemistry between Chan and Yu. Although the buddy cop genre makes their friendship an inevitability, the script holds out for as long as it possibly can before the impulsive, self-serious Jay and the goofy but pragmatic Ocean warm up to each other. They bond during a long action sequence involving a bus, a motorcycle and a jeep that's utterly predictable in its choreography, but wholly worthwhile for its comic energy. The pacing is so spry and brisk, in fact, that it's quite awhile before the plot's obvious logical gaps make themselves known.
Unfortunately, the second half of the script feels as if it were penned by a different—and inferior—writer. The tight structure of the film's first half sprawls into that of an aimless road movie, with the obligatory sideshow of weirdoes: an obese prostitute dressed like The Little Mermaid, an American Idol-obsessed tour guide appropriately named Idol (Chen Han-tien), a small-time gangster with clownishly permed hair (Chang Fei). Jay and Ocean crack a lot of jokes that are more random than funny—almost as if they were trying out gags from a sketch comedy show—and then the two stranger-pals take a detour into a cemetery where Jay explains that after the death of his partner on the job he can't risk working with someone again.
This heavy, ham-handed character development is never believable, and almost sinks a lightweight piece of fluff like Double Trouble. Although Chan got his start in film in dramas and romances (he avoided making action movies earlier in his career to escape comparisons with his father), he's far too wooden an actor to pull off his character's insecurity and self-loathing. Ironically, it's Jaycee Chan's co-star, Yu, who channels Chan Sr. in this film. A natural charmer with a round, affable face and hidden gravitas, Yu outshines his younger co-star in an underwritten supporting role that's silly but never buffoonish.
If movies existed in a vacuum, a mindless diversion like Double Trouble might not disappoint so much. But the inescapable specter of Chan the Elder makes the duller half of this film seem as artless as a kick to the crotch—which, incidentally, the protagonists receive several of over the course of the picture. But if the film fails to entertain, at least we can all be amused by the Oedipally tinged father-son stories about the Chans for years to come.
Distributor: China Lion
Cast: Jaycee Chan, Yu Xia, Xia Yu, Deng Jia Jia
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: David Chang
Genre: Action; Chinese-language, subtitled
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: June 8 ltd.