Richard Harrington - Style section,, "The theatrical exaggeration common to Hong Kong films may come across as nothing more than bad acting."
'Rumble in the Bronx'
In the story, Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong tourist who has come to visit
his uncle in the South Bronx. He's also agreed to help
out at the local grocery store, which his uncle has just sold to
meek businesswoman Elaine. While Uncle and his new wife are away on their honeymoon,
Chan has to protect the store from the local toughs, a collection of
chic-leather motor-bikers straight out of Central Casting's Bad Guys
Division. There's more, involving a gang of ruthless gangsters and a
bag of jewels. -- Desson Howe
U.S. Meets Jackie, Oh!
By Desson Howe
It's not often you find a movie as exciting and awful as "Rumble in the Bronx." But the sole aim of this so-bad-it's-funny action picture is to introduce Jackie Chan to American audiences.
In that narrow sense, it's completely successful. To meet the Hong Kong performer—even in a turkey like this—is to be charmed and impressed.
Chan, a diminutive, 40-year-old actor, kung fu expert, acrobat and stuntman extraordinaire is the biggest star in Asia—and deservedly so. This is thanks to a string of superbly choreographed action flicks in which—instead of destroying his opponents with aerial kicks and brutal chops—he makes slapstick fools out of them.
He confounds his attackers with his incredible adroitness and split-second, resourceful use of available props and scenery. He might avoid a punch by somersaulting backward, or diving spectacularly behind, say, a conveniently protective piece of furniture. He might run along the top of a moving car, then leap onto a bus, or fly from one precarious building ledge to another. At the same time, he can out-punch and out-kick the best of his opponents. He's Peter Pan, Buster Keaton and Bruce Lee, all rolled into one.
In "Rumble in the Bronx," directed by Stanley Tong, Chan gets to demonstrate some of these skills, certainly enough to let us know what he's capable of. But this movie—distributed by New Line Cinema (the people who gave you Freddy Krueger) only shows you a fraction of what he can do.
In the story, Chan plays a Hong Kong tourist who has come to visit his uncle (Bill Tung) in the South Bronx. He's also agreed to help out at the local grocery store, which his uncle has just sold to meek businesswoman Elaine (Anita Mui).
While Uncle and his new wife are away on their honeymoon, Chan has to protect the store from the local toughs, a collection of chic-leather motor-bikers straight out of Central Casting's Bad Guys Division. There's more, involving a gang of ruthless gangsters and a bag of jewels, but you don't want to know, trust me.
The movie's bad qualities are legion. Even though "Rumble" was made in English, its lip synchronization is so bad it resembles one of those laughably dubbed, imported chop-socky flicks. The script is riddled with unintentional humor. After beating up a roomful of thugs, Chan lectures them on the foolishness of a life spent beating up people. Along comes gang-gal Nancy (Francoise Yip), who's developing a thing for Chan and starting to see the light.
"You know, he's right," Nancy tells her fellow punks. "Sometimes we go too far."
Going too far is Chan's trademark. An overgrown kid with a shy, infectious grin, he thrills adults and children alike, as he makes mincemeat of leather-jacketed strongmen (and women) on rooftops, in the store, and in alleys and pool halls. He pirouettes, leaps, dives, somersaults and Vaslav-Nijinskies his way around, leaving punks dazed and shaking their heads.
On the stunt front, he makes a leap from a bridge to a hovercraft in which he actually broke an ankle. (How it happened is documented in one of Chan's characteristic out-take epilogues.) "Rumble" shows that, if Chan teams with the right people next time, and when his ankle heals, his tremendous talents could be displayed to maximum advantage. If that should ever happen, get in line early. It's going to be a blast.
Contains profanity, guns and kung fu violence.
Kung Phooey: A Bronx Cheer
By Richard Harrington
Jackie Chan is the Gene Kelly of martial arts, the Buster Keaton of kung fu. He's the biggest movie star in Asia and one of the most popular in the entire world, but up until now he's been little more than a cult figure in the United States. After several missteps here over the past 15 years, Chan reenters the American market with "Rumble in the Bronx." While Chan as an action hero is both impressive and likable, neither of those qualities attaches to this martial arts comedy.
Originally released last year in Asia and in Chinatown theaters across America, "Rumble in the Bronx" is already second only to "Jurassic Park" in total grosses in that market. This new U.S. version is a risk-free afterthought. Some rock-and-roll has been added to the soundtrack, and the film has been redubbed—clumsily—in English (the dubbing is actually better in "Babe"). Sometimes the accents are so thick and impenetrable, subtitles would be useful. And Vancouver does a terrible impersonation of the South Bronx, which is where Hong Kong policeman Keung (Chan) goes to visit his uncle, who has just sold his grocery there and is about to embark on a honeymoon with his African American wife.
Keung hangs around to help the new young proprietor (meek Anita Mui), but when he kicks a mini-bike-riding gang out of the store (precipitating a lot of product displacement), he also kicks off a turf battle that veers between laughable and loathsome. Having warned the gang, "Don't ever make trouble here or I'll beat you up each time!" Keung keeps his word through several encounters in which he battles oppressive odds by improvising with such found objects as skis, refrigerators, shopping carts and pinball machines.
The fighting Chan is truly marvelous, moving with the grace of a gymnast and the frenetic energy of a cartoon figure. Chan is also the only star crazy enough to do his own stunts: He leaps from tall buildings, water-skis without skis, dives under trucks and generally provokes gasps at his sheer audacity. Hint: Stick around for the credits, which feature painful outtakes of Chan's failures.
"Rumble in the Bronx" is on less steady ground as comedic fare: Chan delivers punches much better than he does punch lines, though there's a goofy, endearing charm about him. It doesn't help that the script is a muddle: Keung is supposedly looking out for the grocery as well as an endangered family unit that includes a wheelchair-bound youngster and his gorgeous biker sister (Francoise Yip, apparently undecided as to whether she's a good girl or a bad girl). There's also a silly subplot involving a diamond heist, mobsters and hit men who seem to have been trained by Penn & Teller.
American audiences may be a little queasy at the limited African American stereotypes. As for the multicultural gang that can barely get its lines straight, its members look like the cast of "Happy Days" trying to remake "The Warriors." And the theatrical exaggeration common to Hong Kong films may come across as nothing more than bad acting.
Director Stanley Tong, who has a long history with Chan, fares best in the action sequences and in a hilarious, absurdist finale involving a gigantic Hovercraft chase on the waterways and streets of "The Bronx." With his mop-top cut and silly grin, Chan cuts an amiable figure, but while this film may confirm his skills and appeal to those already familiar with his better work, it's not likely to convert anyone else.
Rumble in the Bronx is rated R for violence and language.