Daily New Review

Chan Gets a Kick Out of Bond-age

by: Dave Kehr

In 'Strike,' the nimble action hero is shaken, not stirred

"I FEEL JUST LIKE James Bond;" observes Jackie Chan midway through the spy romp "Jackie Chan's First Strike," which opens today. "But there aren't any gorgeous girls around."
   That statement isn't quite true -- Chan's co-star is Chen Chun Wu, playing the comely, scuba-diving sister of a CIA agent turned arms dealer -- but it does sum up the innocent, almost pre-adolescent tone of this highly enjoyable Hong Kong production.
   Though Jackie casts a few longing glances at Chen, the only caresses he exchanges in "First Strike" are with a koala bear -- a creature that apparently comes as standard equipment in Australian hotel rooms.
   Directed by former stunt man Stanley Tong, "First Strike" is an action movie as FAO Schwarz might have staged it The characters are scruffy kids; bullets may stop bad guys but don't blow holes in them, and there are always marvelous toys within reach -- snowmobites, helicopters, sportscars, yachts.
   Yet, it's clear that the technological toys are there for a reason: to compensate for the aging Chan's inability to perform the amazing stunts of his 1980s classics.
   Long-time Chan fans will be disappointed by the film's lack of martial-arts sequences. There's only one sustained fight, though it shows off the 42-year-old star's still magically graceful, inventively comic form to great advantage as he battles a roomful of tong henchmen armed with broom handles. Using just those innocent objects that come to hand -- in this ease, a ladder and a folding table -- Jackie defeats multitudes through speed, dexterity and superior intelligence.
   Where American action films now celebrate the hero's loss of self-control, Chan's fight scenes have always been about skill, containment and knowing when to stop. Chan defuses anger through his comically exaggerated expression of pain when he strikes an opponent or receives an unexpected blow.
   The story of "First Strike" is a series of instantly forgotten contrivances that propels Jackie, as a Hong Kong cop on special assignment with the Russian state police, from set piece to set piece, including a snowboard chase in a Ukrainian resort, a pursuit on stilts through Brisbane's Chinatown (with Jackie performing a two-story scissors kick) and an underwater battle at a marine park, with killer sharks circling the combatants. The film has been slightly edited from its Cantonese version and completely redubbed, with Chan reading his own lines in engagingly faulty English.
   "First Strike" is diluted Jackie, but still a treat.

(PG-13: Cartoon violence,largely bloodless)

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