Director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) is back directing a script by Jay Longino (Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation) and BenDavid Grabinski (Cost of Living (Short)). Not that any of that matters as what we’re really concerned about here is that Jackie Chan is back on the big screen.
Regular readers will know I’m a massive Jackie Chan fan and have been for many, many years. I do acknowledge that recently, particular with foreign movies (although it’s always been like this for him), is that the movies haven’t been very good. So could Harlin bring out the Chan we know and love with Skiptrace (aka Jue di tao wang)?
Skiptrace sees Chan, as Bennie Chan, a Hong Kong cop who’s partner dies in the opening scene after someone known only as the Matador has strapped a bomb to him. Chan then sets out on a revenge mission to find the Matador and he believes he knows who it is. Along the way he ends up grabbing a gambler, Connor Watts played by Johnny Knoxville (Jackass, Bad Grandpa), who is coincidentally linked to the whole thing.
Watts is having troubles of his own and being chased by Russians. Together they form an unlikely partnership to find out the truth behind the Matador. This sees them travelling to various locations around the world, for reasons that are pretty shaky, such as Russia and Mongolia.
I’m not sure I can write the next words, it is very difficult, but write them I must. This is a bad film. I know, I know, but I can’t just like any film because Jackie Chan is in it as much as I want to.
Let’s discuss the writing first of all. I mean they’ve done well to pad it out to a nearly two hour run time. It probably could have been over within an hour, hour and a half max. The dialogue is laboured, relying heavily on the slapstick humour Chan is so famous for but hasn’t done for years.
This brings us onto the directing. Actually Harlin does ok, it’s reminiscent of Smokin’ Aces with freeze frames introducing us to the characters and lots of swooping, fast shots. But it goes on a bit and doesn’t add anything other than the intros. The action scenes are short, very short, and they look slow. I know Chan is getting on a bit these days, I assume that would have something to do with it, but even when it’s slow the choreography seems almost childish.
What really lets the film down is the editing. I know, strange statement right, but my god if you notice editing it has to be really bad right? At times it feels like they couldn’t be bothered showing you the end of an action scene so we just jump to them running away.
It cuts and jumps all over the place which I think is supposed to keep things snappy and quick paced but the scenes it cuts from and to just don’t lend themselves to this sort of editing. You go from a quick scene to something slow and it jars and leaves you frustrated.
The film is light on laughs, which given the two leading actors is a hard thing to pull off. It’s light on action, even any kind of stunts that Knoxville is famous for are missing, instead his role reduced to one of bumbling American idiot. It’s hard to tell if Knoxville can’t pull it off or if he just isn’t given anything to work with, I’m going for the latter given things I’ve seen him in before and the rest of this film.
And Chan? Well. What can you say? He’s never had any luck with films outside of China really other than maybe Rush Hour and Karate Kid, perhaps Shanghai Knights. I hope The Foreigner brings some of the new Chan, the acting Chan, back.