Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Zaki's Very First Review: Rumble in the Bronx

First published: March 22, 1996

Note: Dipping into the archives, I realized that last week marked twenty years since my very first film review was published, in my high school paper The North Current. Given how old this is, I don't make any apologies for how it reads or what I say, but yeah, I do kind of cringe a little. But regardless, in the interests of disclosure, feel free to read on.

"Where has this guy been?" I found myself wondering that question countless times throughout Rumble in the Bronx, starring Hong Kong martial arts sensation Jackie Chan.

I know that outside the U.S., especially in Asia, Chan is a legend whose popularity rivals that of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. What I'm thinking is, "Why has it taken this long for Chan to hit it big in the land of opportunity?"

With the stateside release of Rumble, Chan fills a void that has been left empty since the demise of hte late, great, Bruce Lee. Though many stars (such as Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme) have attempted to bring martial arts to the big screen in recent years, none have been able to capture that raw power and unfettered enthusiasm that Lee was able to convey. Until now.

Unlike the aforementioned Seagal and Van Damme, Jackie Chan has the amazing ability to act! In Rumble, Chan portrays a Chinese tourist who, though mild-mannered and likable, is actually a master of Kung Fu. Through extenuating circumstances, he winds up in the middle of a gang war, tries to stop a diamond heist, and among other things, does battle with a hovercraft on a rampage. Moving greased lightning, Chan employs his breathtaking karate technique and uses everything he can get his hands on, including bottles, skis, and even a pinball machine.

One trait which distinguishes Chan from your average action hero (aside from the fact that he's not afraid to run when faced with unbeatable odds) is that he does all of his own stunts. He don't need to stinkin' stunt man! In addition to starring in the film, Chan serves double duty as stunt coordinator (along with director Stanley Tong), and he defies death time after time with one hair-raising escape after another.

It is partly due to this reason that the imminent danger which is facing our hero seems so real; it is real! In a scene where Chan has his back to the wall in an alley while being pursued by assorted gangland thugs, he is assaulted by a barrage of bottles lobbed by his enemies, all breaking around him. There is a very perceptible look of terror on the actor's face as the shattering glass inches ever closer to their mark. Now that is one hell of a method actor!

In addition to his amazing Kung Fu skills, Jackie Chan also has a keen comic timing. Chan doesn't take himself too seriously, and isn't above a little clowning around. He also includes an outtake reel at the closing credits, showing some of the times where his stunts didn't quite hit the mark, including an instance where he broke his ankle. This good natured ribbing helps draw the audience in and along for the ride (and what a ride it is!).

There are a few mental preparations one has to make before viewing a movie like Rumble in the Bronx. One, don't expect the key to world peace or the cure to AIDS. If you're looking for a flick that'll keep you up night pondering its implications, go watch 12 Monkeys. The story is really nonexistent, as Chan wanders from one incident to the next with the barest of connecting threads to carry through to the end. The plot is really secondary to the spectacle, which is indeed spectacular.

The second preparation you to have to make is to ready yourself for the dubbing. Yes, that's right, this movie is dubbed. Owing to the fact that Rumble was released in China almost a year before hitting this side of the Pacific, it is dubbed into English. In Asia, Rumble became the highest grossing Chinese-made film ever. Surprisingly, the dubbing isn't as jarring as one might expect, and I grew used to it after a few initial moments of discomfort.

Rumble in the Bronx is the type of movie that you watch simply for the sheer enjoyment of it. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the blast! B+

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