Film: “Skiptrace”; Cast: Jackie Chan, Johnny Knoxville, Fan Bingbing; Directed by Renny Harlin; Rating: *1/2
At 62, and with 40 years of superstardom under his black belt, shouldn’t Jackie Chan think of graduating away from the juvenile cinema that he did 10, five and two years ago? Chan insists on playing versions of ‘The Boy Who Won’t Be Man’ action-hero.
In “Skiptrace”, Chan refuses to beat up women repeatedly pleading it’s against his principle. Lest you believe that Chan thinks women are for breeding and not for bleeding, be warned that he shows no interest in sex. He never has.
Principle of ahimsa towards womankind goes for a toss (and a hurl) when a fiercely militant Siberian female assassin attacks Chan headlong. What can a poor man do if a woman is all over him?
Expectantly it is all over for the Siberian girl, who, incidentally, is the most interesting character in “Skiptrace”. Worryingly, there isn’t much of her beauty and her fist to feast on. Chan likes to keep his action free of sex.
The film begins with a spectacular shootout somewhere in China where our hero jumps from one wooden house to another as the structures come tumbling down one after another — almost like this film’s breathless but pointless narrative edifice which goes from stunt to stunt without achieving much in the way of a satisfactory closure.
“Skiptrace” is a series of action sequences strung together clumsily over a plot that seems to have been written in a sauna bath one lazy Sunday afternoon.
Chan, of course, gets lead billing in almost every scene. The American actor Johnny Knoxville partners with Chan in the tireless tomfoolery that takes them through a turgid terrain teeming with trite episodes appropriated from Spaghetti Westerns.
He mixes the traditional Kung Fu genre of Bruce Lee (where Chan started his career) with Spaghetti Westerns of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. There are constant allusions to love, loyalty, kindness, compassion — in brief, Oriental values packaged as exotica for Western audiences — but very little discipline or self-control is evidenced in the storytelling.
Interestingly, Chan has no love-interest as his character shows no interest in love except for a foster-daughter Samantha (Fan Bingbing) who epitomizes the spirit of Damsel In Distress as she gets into trouble with the Chinese mafia. Chan must protect his foster-daughter whose father’s wrist watch he wears as a lucky charm.
Renny Harlin — never known to be an intellectual thinker of celluloid — lets the narrative meander through a train of limpid tropes associated with Chan’s funny-fist-of-fury films. Sure, the 62-year-old superstar still kicks groins with procreative enthusiasm. But is this what he wants to do for the rest of his career?
Think, Mr Chan, think.