REVIEW: Skiptrace (2016)

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2016, Lionsgate/Saban Films/Cider Mills Films/Dasym Entertainment/InterTitle Films/JC Group International/Talent International Media

Director:
Renny Harlin
Producers:
Jackie Chan
Charlie Coker
David Gerson
Esmond Ren
Damien Saccani
Wu Hongliang
Writers:
Jay Longino (story and screenplay)
BenDavid Grabinski (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Chan Chi-Ying
Editing:
Derek Hui
Judd H. Maslansky
David Moritz

Cast:
Jackie Chan (Bennie Chan)
Johnny Knoxville (Connor Watts)
Fan Bingbing (Samantha Bai)
Eric Tsang (Yung)
Eve Torres-Gracie (Dasha)
Winston Chao (Victor Wong)
Youn Jung-Hoon (Handsome Willie)
Shi Shi (Leslie)
Michael Wong (Captain Tang)
Chao Kuo-Pin (Esmond)
Zhang Lanxin (Ting Ting)

Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville star in this road trip buddy action film that has the cliché mismatched partners but somehow it still works well.

For nine years, Hong Kong police detective Bennie Chan has been looking for a criminal mastermind known as The Matador, who is responsible for the death of his partner, Yung. Making a promise to Yung, Bennie has been taking care of Yung’s daughter Samantha, who has been working at a top casino in Macau run by millionaire Victor Wong. When fast-talking gambler Connor Watts attempts to use his con game to coerce Samantha in getting a VIP suite, an escape from Russian mobsters he owes a debt to finds him witnessing a murder by Wong. Having no choice, Connor agrees to go to Russia.

When Samantha is now wanted by Victor and his right hand man Willie, she convinces Bennie to find Connor, who can help her out of this predicament. As Bennie heads to Russia, he is able to help Connor escape but tells him he must take him back to Hong Kong so he can save Samantha. It soon becomes the road trip from hell as Bennie and Connor must go from Russia back to Hong Kong by any means necessary, even if the two cannot stand each other at all. However, when all else fails, this is one duo that must rely on each other to stay alive.

Jackie Chan is definitely an action film icon and that should be noted on numerous occasions. However, it seems like Hollywood tends to think Chan, whose career has spanned five decades, cannot carry a film by himself. With the exception of perhaps The Spy Next Door, in which he carried the film basically by himself was a family film that ultimately tanked, it seems like producers feel Chan needs to team up with someone. Pardon the rant, but it makes for a valid point where as there have been both success (Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon) and well, not so good (The Tuxedo). Thankfully, Chan does have a viable partner in this film.

The partner in mind here is Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, who replaced Seann William Scott to play the fast talking con man gambler Connor Watts. Whereas Chan’s Bennie Chan is a man full of revenge as well as living by his code of honor, Connor is the exact opposite. Connor tends to do anything to get himself out of situations, making constant enemies with both Russian mobsters and the villains of this film, a rich millionaire philanthropist and his gang. This is one partnership that just goes back and forth and thankfully, is the saving grace of the film because both Chan and Knoxville are able to work well together and both can do the physical portions of the film.

The problem ultimately with the film is that well, there are some fun bits but the film just feels like a cliched buddy action comedy. It’s basically, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. However, while Knoxville and Chan work well together, there are quite a few fun bits as mentioned. Look for Chan to lead a Mongolian tribe in a musical rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and look for Knoxville singing the first two lines of a Jackie Chan song when they need to escape. Another fun role has to be that of Dasha, played by former WWE star Eve Torres-Gracie. In a hilarious scene, right after Connor refers to Dasha as a “Siberian Terminator”, after Dasha is knocked out, this particular bit is executed in such a funny way that you might be able to help but laugh.

Jackie Chan Stunt Team leader Wu Gang, responsible for the action in the remake of The Karate Kid, utilizes Chan and knows that Chan is aging and adapts to bringing a trademark style of stunts and fights for him. It does help that Chan also makes good use of not only his veteran stunt team members from Asia, but even brings in some of his more recent foreign stunt team members to play Russian mobsters to help with Torres-Gracie. Even look for Chinese Zodiac superkicker Zhang Lanxin in a villain role who finally gets to strut her stuff during the last act, which provides an ample twist to the plot as it connects virtually everything. In addition, look out for a very pivotal cameo from another Hong Kong legend, Richard Ng, as a bus passenger and there is a reason why this cameo is deemed pivotal to the story.

Skiptrace feels like a hit and miss type of buddy comedy, only because it seems cliched. However, Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville do work well together and there are some fun bits, but as the saying goes, “you’ve seen one Chan buddy comedy, you’ve seen them all” basically.

WFG RATING: B-

The film is available on Video on Demand right now. Check your cable company for availability.

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