Chinese Zodiac Blu-ray Review
It’s always sad when your heroes grow old and can’t do the things that they once did. People winced watching Willie Mays play the outfield for the Mets and misplay balls. Johnny Unitas was a shell of himself lumbering around with the Chargers. You hope that there is one last moment of glory to savor. Babe Ruth did just that by hitting 3 homeruns in the game for the Boston Braves. He shortly retired after that. Jackie Chan is at that stage now. He just turned 60 and his days as an action star are numbered. He realizes this and accepts his mortality. His 100th film, CHINESE ZODIAC, is a fun diversion that shows some of the old spark. It won’t rest among his best work, but it shows in spots that he’s still got it.
CHINESE ZODIAC is in the vein of the Indiana Jones. It is seen as a bit of a reboot of the Armour of God films. Jackie Chan plays JC, a world renowned thief who has a team working with him. His team includes David (Lioa Fan), Bonnie (Zhang Lanxin) and Simon (Kwon Sang-Woo). JC shows his skill right off by penetrating a heavily guarded facility. The topper of the sequence was Chan navigating the roads by body blading. It is one of the best stunts of the film.
After that mission was complete, JC and his team are tasked to find the remaining bronze heads of the Chinese zodiac. There were 12 in all that were made for the Emperor of China for his Old Summer Palace. During the Second Opium War, French and English forces destroyed much of the Palace and looted the bronze heads. Some of the heads had been discovered and were auctioned off for extraordinary prices. Their mission is commissioned by Lawrence Morgan (Oliver Platt), the unscrupulous head of the MP Corporation. He promises them one million euros for each head that they recover. And if they recover all of them, he was giving a bonus of ten times that amount.
So they are determined to find these bronze heads and cash in. He enlists the help of a Professor Guan (Qingxiang Wang) who has replicas of the twelve heads. JC scans these and sends them out to the forgery team in the MP Corporation. That is their specialty. Guan tells JC to meet with a woman named Coco (Xingtong Yao) who might have information on where two of the heads are located. All the time JC is posing as a reporter for National Geographic. Coco belongs to an organization that protests the selling of priceless relics like the bronze heads. She believes these are valuable pieces of Chinese history that need to be preserved.
The further adventures take the team to a mansion where two of the heads are located. Chan has a couple good stunts here. Chan clearly has slowed down quite a bit, but he can bring it in spurts. The stunts aren’t as frantic or even as dangerous. These are the tradeoffs you have to make with advancing age. A fun confrontation with dogs in a maze is pure enjoyment and Chan plays it to the hilt. A trip to a castle is next for JC who is joined by Coco at this time. She thinks he is on a noble mission to get these bronze heads and return them back to the state. JC had to fess up to her after she noticed him fleeing the mansion. Little does she know that he’s more of a mercenary than a do gooder for the state. That will cause an interesting conflict with his conscience later on. At the castle, the group is met by Catherine (Laura Weissbecker). She proceeds to tell the story of her great-great-grandfather who was on the ship “Indestructible”. He was part of the group that looted the Palace. Her ancestor disappeared though with the ship. The treasure hunt aspect of the film kicks in here in trying to locate the ship. There are some confrontations with some pirates and other people involved in the search.
You go to Jackie Chan films to see him perform his stunts along with the physical comedy that comes along with that. There is that to behold on the screen. As stated previously, Chan does move slower and there are more uses of wires. It didn’t dampen my enthusiasm of seeing him in an action film. Along with starring, Chan also directed and co-wrote the screenplay. I thought his direction was well done here. His screenplay however is a bit lightweight. The story should be more rollicking than it was. It is passable entertainment though. I loved that Chan used so many locations like Paris, Beijing, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vanuatu and Latvia. I especially enjoyed the Vanuatu location where Chan is next to an active volcano. It is breathtaking to see.
CHINESE ZODIAC is a decent and entertaining film in the Jackie Chan canon. It kept my interest enough throughout the proceedings. Be sure to watch the credits as Chan shows some of his stunts in the movie and also shows some of his old stunts. It really is amazing how he has survived some of these death defying things that he has done.
CHINESE ZODIAC BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: The picture was good throughout. There are no complaints for me there.
Audio: The film is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The Making of Chinese Zodiac (57:24): A very exhaustive and great feature detailing all aspects of the film. Chan takes the camera to all the various locations. He shows how stunts are done and the process behind them. He gives information on some of the casting involved. They show the various times Chan is injured during the film. This is very informative and is well worth watching.