Hero, superstar ... and a few nouns unsuitable for print. Jackie Chan has elicited more praise and censure than perhaps any Hong Kong celebrity. His is truly a success story, a tale of how hard work, physical grace, an engaging personality and loads of ambition transformed a stuntman into, perhaps, the city's best-known export. But, at 52, even Chan agrees that his kung fu isn't as kicking as the days when Police Story (1985) and Supercop (1992), to name just two, had audiences on the edge of their seats. In recent years, he's still managed to pull off the classic Chan mixture of self-deprecating laughs and death-defying thrills, but martial arts is an art best practised by the young. So where does that leave a star whose name is inseparable from kung fu? His career is at a crossroads not unlike the one he faced a decade ago, when dwindling box-office receipts and advancing age almost had him throw in the towel. Then along came Rush Hour (1998) and he became an 'overnight success' in the US. However, he never quite reclaimed the position he enjoyed in Hong Kong from Drunken Master (1978) and on through the 1980s and early 90s. It wasn't so much that he was showing his years as that his movies refused to acknowledge it. In Gorgeous (1999), for instance, close-ups of Chan doting on Shu Qi give the impression of a father proudly watching his daughter, rather than a duo destined to become lovers. The truth is, Hongkongers find it increasingly hard to accept him today as a 'super cop'. New Police Story (2004), an attempt to resuscitate the series, received only a lukewarm response. The Myth (2005) fell far short of reinventing Chan for the new century. It's not just a matter of growing older. The dwindling of Chan's local appeal has been affected by what the public views as a disconnect between his on- and off-screen character, particularly the 1999 revelation of an out-of-wedlock daughter and the subsequent debate about his acceptance of parental responsibility. His aura was further shaken by business partnerships that could be perceived as at odds with Chan's Mr Nice Guy image. Support for unpopular establishment leaders and policies also came to be seen as further evidence of a gulf between the 'real' Jackie and his populist persona. And the incidents kept on coming. In recent weeks, the blogs have been full of angry posts about the chasm between Chan's self-righteous stance against tabloid journalism and his rowdy behaviour at Jonathan Lee's concert, when an apparently drunken Chan reportedly exchanged insults on stage when the audience tried to boo him off. Although a future as producer-director is certainly a possibility, Chan has a lot to contend with if he's to breathe life into his status as a local hero. A great movie could do the trick, although it remains to be seen if Rob-B-Hood (above) will be that. However, publicity for this baby-centric film so far has had the unwelcome side effect of turning the spot- light once again on his own performance as parent.