Starring: Jackie Chan, Oliver Platt, Kwon Sang-woo
Director: Jackie Chan
Category: IIA (Putonghua, Cantonese, English and French)
Jackie Chan's recent roles have required noticeably less action and more acting. But if you think that's a tacit admission that his formula of slapstick and stunts had run its course, forget it. He's not quitting without one last kung fu kick at the genre.
Unfortunately, that effort is the sad and sorry CZ12, his 101st movie. Inspired by news about the auction of Chinese national treasures that Beijing wants returned, the silly adventure about recovering lost historic artefacts feels as fake as the zodiac bronzes used in the film.
Reprising the adventurer/thief role he first played in 1987's Armour of God, JC (the character's name) is hired to steal animal head relics that once were displayed in the Summer Palace in Beijing. Along the way, he encounters a greedy collector (Oliver Platt) forging fakes, bumbling and accident-prone French folks, some pirates, and a beautiful antique activist (Yao Xingtong) who gets him to grow a conscience. Not that any of this plot nonsense bears any relevance.
CZ12 lumbers like a cheap DVD knock-off of one of his old classics. It's no fault of Chan's ageing body that the film feels so plodding and awkward, but everything to do with his lack of finesse as a writer, director and more. According to the Guinness World Records, Chan holds 15 job credits, the most ever on a single film (including silly ones like gaffer and catering co-ordinator). Well, the results of his scattered attention shows.
CZ12 is like watching a former star athlete struggle in a meaningless game. Sure, there are occasional flashes, but it can't compare with the glory days. Instead, there's much vanity and demagogic agenda on show. The needlessly complicated narrative gives Chan excuses to use elaborate props and unusual settings for his stunts. The 58-year-old is still incredibly agile but there's no thrill in watching him climb another wall, spar with another martial arts champion, or even don a roller suit to luge down a mountain road.
Where the film starts to become agitating is when actors deliver lectures on the moral proprietary of countries to regain their pillaged antiques. Entire pages of pedantic dialogue sound like they were scripted by a government official. Kwon Sang-woo is wasted in a typical second-banana role, while Platt is lightweight as the film's heavy. Striving for global appeal, Chan also ends up with a multilingual mess as actors juggle Cantonese, Putonghua, English and French - often in a single scene. But the default dialect is Putonghua. Perhaps that's a hint of where Chan's loyalty now lies.
CZ12 opens today