Jackie Chan: No poor man’s hero

| Maria Gomez |

Rumble in the Bronx, 1995

Rumble in the Bronx screens with Sherlock Jr. at the Trylon from Friday, September 24 to Sunday, September 26. For tickets and more information, scroll to the bottom of this page.

At a certain age, most of us have had the experience where you sit back, take a look around, and wonder, What have I done with my life? Jackie Chan has undoubtedly had no such thought. Having begun acting as a small child in Hong Kong, Kong-sang Chan (aka Jackie Chan), has made more than 130 martial arts films in addition to choreographing stunts in more than 75 of those films. He has fought against the mad skills of famous fighter, Bruce Lee but more infamously, Chan is known for being his own stunt man (This is one reason why many of his films were not filmed in the US -the insurance would be astronomical!). Most of us could not imagine literally risking our lives every day. When asked why he does it, Chan simply stated, “It’s what audiences expect from me.” [1] To further appease the masses, Chan often includes outtakes at the end of many of his films that show his fallible side, highlighting stunts gone bad and cast bloopers. This is just one example of Chan’s humility and ability to laugh at himself, while still being a professional entertainer.

Enter the Dragon, 1973

By the time Chan released the 1995 film Rumble in the Bronx, he had been making movies and taking his life in his own hands for more than 25 years, which gave him all the time he needed to hone his skills. It also gave him the freedom to once again, show his goofy side to audiences through a character who is just another guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here, in Rumble, he is dutiful nephew Keung, who wanted to come to America, see his uncle get married, and maybe help out with the family business for a spell. But then, as the title suggests, things get a little out of control.
            For me, one thing noticeable right away is the campiness of the acting which always makes me giggle a little. Watching the police interact with Chan and other characters suggests the influence of golden era cop shows like Adam-12 and Dragnet. You cannot beat Rumble‘s flat dialogue, lack of facial expression, and cheesy lines, which could be attributed to the English dubbing in the film, but only adds to the film’s comedy. As the plot progresses, I find myself eagerly waiting for Chan to start chopping and kicking-and when he does, it is hard to keep up! Right away, you can appreciate how complicated choreographing the fight scenes can be, especially when Chan is pitted against an entire gang. One of the elements I really appreciate about Chan’s heroes goes back to the earlier point of their fallibility; they get beat up, they don’t land every kick, and they definitely don’t win every fight; he makes them human.
            Chan’s later fight scenes show his real talent in turning common appliances into tools of destruction. You’ll never look at a refrigerator or shopping cart the same way again, not to mention his use of a windbreaker. His ability to choreograph his stunts and fight scenes so beautifully speaks to his dedication as a filmmaker, with a subtle hint of perfectionism. In the finale, Chan, who reportedly does not know how to swim, finds himself being dragged by a hovercraft on the water, utilizing his tennis shoes as his water skis. According to the outtakes, as a testament to his dedication, Chan accomplishes this stunt with a rubber shoe covering a cast, as an earlier stunt mishap had resulted in a broken foot.
            Truly, Chan is one of the most talented stunt coordinators in the history of film. It’s no wonder that he has been compared to the comedic likes of Keaton, Lloyd, and Chaplin. Not just his timing, but also Chan’s ability to be charming, empathetic, and vulnerable give his heroes a human quality that audiences have connected with for 5 decades. Chan has proved himself to be all this, as well as an innovative martial arts master, which makes him both endearing and not to be trifled with.


[1] Celebretainment, “Jackie Chan thinks his audience ‘expect’ him to do his own stunts,” Associated Press, August 17, 2017, https://apnews.com/article/1f4b876da24b4a04885eb58822034cfc.

Edited by Greg Hunter

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