Film: “Skiptrace”, Director: Renny Harlin, Cast: Jackie Chan, Johnny Knoxville, Bingbing Fan, Eric Tsang, Eve Torres, Winston Chao; Rating: **1/2
Designed as a road-trip, action-adventure assembly, the film is a casual, worn-out pot-boiler that offers no novelty.
For those wondering what the title means, skip tracing is the process of locating a person’s whereabouts for any number of purposes.
And true to its title, director Renny Harlin’s latest offering is the journey of a by-the-book detective Benny Chan (Jackie Chan) as he trails an American conman, Connor Watts (Johnny Knoxville), in order to process the arrest of a notorious criminal known as The Matador.
Narrated in a non-linear manner, the film begins in Hong Kong with Benny failing to save his best friend and partner Yung (Tsang) from the trap laid out by a mysterious underworld don, The Matador.
But before dying, Yung makes Benny promise to take care of his young, motherless, daughter Samantha (Bingbing Fan).
Nine years later, Benny is still obsessed with trying to reveal the identity of the criminal and bring justice to his lost friend.
His investigation soon leads him to believe that the man he wants is actually a business tycoon Victor Wong (Winston Chao), but due to lack of evidence, he can’t pursue the matter further.
Meanwhile in Macau, an American conman and a gambler Connor Watts, is being chased by Russian mobsters.
Watts’ path crosses that of Benny’s and before he gets transported to Russia, he witnesses a murder in a hotel.
Soon, Watts is accused of the murder and Benny is accused of being his accomplice.
Samantha, who is working as an undercover agent at the lavish hotel hoping to find some connection between its owner, Wong and her father’s death, is taken hostage by the mobsters. And, Benny is forced to track down Watts in Russia and bring him back to Hong Kong.
The writing is truly the sore point. The script credited to Ben David Grabinski and Jay Longino, is jaded with lack lustre twists and turns. The plot riddled with plot-holes rambles on a casual pace in a fatigued manner. So do the performances of the leading duo.
With age catching up, Jackie Chan offers with much restraint, the same acrobatic stunts and chopping skills in action sequences, which he offered in his younger days. Unfortunately the craziness, the exuberance and the spirit are missing.
His chemistry with Johnny Knoxville is shallow and frivolous. There is no depth in their interactions. Their dialogues and one-liners are generally silly and splashy without any specific edge or comic bite.
The rest of the cast spontaneously add to the drama.
The film has some jarring edits especially when Watts calls up his purported girl-friend Natalie, seeking her father’s help. This abrupt cut is just one that starkly stands out.
The over-the-top action sequences which includes a major destruction of the set piece or the floating in the river scene, gives you a feeling of having seen it earlier, in many other films.
The only saving grace in the film are the beautiful landscapes and a song sequence in Mongolia that is beautifully captured by cinematographer Chan Chiying’s lens.
Overall, watch “Skiptrace” only if you are a Jackie Chan fan.