Jackie Chan returned to one of his most iconic roles a full two decades later in this film, which earned him a Guinness World Record for most credits in a film!
JC is one of the most foremost experts in finding and collecting rare artifacts. He has a team consisting of tech expert David, and estranged couple Simon and Bonnie. The MP Corporation, led by Lawrence Morgan, has offered to pay JC to find the remainders of twelve bronze statue heads representing the signs of the Chinese Zodiac. Meeting a Chinese professor who had successfully replicated the heads for research purposes, JC heads to Paris to meet the professor’s friend Coco, who may know the location of two of the missing bronze heads.
The group soon meet Catherine, a French aristocrat whose great-great grandfather was involved in the Second Opium War, where the original heads were first discovered. With Catherine and Coco joining the team, the team finds itself under constant pressure and dealing with many obstacles including a band of pirates, Catherine’s guards, and even a rival artifact collector named Vulture, who has also been hired by Lawrence and his company to retrieve the heads. It’s a race against time and money. Will JC and the team be successful in their mission?
It all started with 1986’s Armour of God, the film that will be forever known as the film that almost killed iconic film legend Jackie Chan. Overcoming the odds, the film was a massive hit and it was followed by 1991’s Operation Condor. Now nearly two decades later, Jackie Chan has returned to the role of adventurer the Asian Hawk, now known simply as JC, rather than Jackie. This is a welcome back to the role and genre for Chan, who had been coming off a resurging trend of finally tackling different roles with films like The Shinjuku Incident, Little Big Soldier, and Shaolin.
One major factor in the franchise is that Chan is once again, not alone. However, where the first film had him team up with a comic foil in Alan Tam and a strong female in Maria Delores Forner, the issue with Operation Condor lied in the fact that Chan’s partners were complete comic foils. Learning somewhat from that mistake, Chan mixes it up again with both comic foils and strong fighters. The comic foils include Yao Xingtong as Chinese expert Coco and French actress Laura Weissbecker in the role of Catherine, an aristocrat who is connected to the bronze heads. As for JC’s main team, some comic relief comes in the form of David Liao, whose character of tech expert David is just as excited about being a dad for the first time practically as much as the mission at hand.
However, unlike David, JC’s other two cohorts are more involved in action but in an interesting twist, we learn that the two, Simon and Bonnie, are actually a married couple whose bond is becoming broken. That doesn’t take away the fact that the couple will join JC in the action. Korean actor Kwon Sang-Woo joins Chan on a fight aboard a boat in Paris against some of Catherine’s guards while Chinese taekwondo champion Zoe Zhang makes a heck of a debut as the high kicking Bonnie. Her fight scene against American martial arts champion Caitlin Dechelle is one of the highlights of the film.
As for the action, despite some minimal wirework, those who have enjoyed Chan’s classic brand of comedy-kung fu will most likely enjoy the action here. A fight scene involving a battle between JC and his team against a band of pirates led by former K-Pop star Steve Yoo has its share of hilarious effects. In addition, Chan’s fight scene against Vulture, played by French-born martial artist Alaa Safi, has quite an interesting twist to things before an epic fight scene in which Chan takes on a band of goons led by current stunt team member Max Huang and German wushu champion David Torok coinciding with the aforementioned Zhang-Dechelle throwdown. None of that perhaps compares to the epic finale, which was influenced by of all people, Tom Cruise and his determination to perform highly dangerous stunts in his Mission: Impossible films. This leads to Chan shooting an epic four-minute stunt sequence on a real volcano in Vanuatu.
The film’s major accolades include the fact that Chan has done fifteen jobs for the film! Doing the jobs of writer, director, lead actor, producer, executive producer, cinematographer, art director, unit production manager, catering coordinator, stunt coordinator, gaffer, composer, theme tune vocalist, props and stuntman, Chan won the Guiness World Record for most credits in a single film, beating out Robert Rodriguez. And there are some great cameos from the likes of Shu Qi, Daniel Wu, and a major surprise in the film’s final moments. One that is completely unexpected but ends of a super high note!
Chinese Zodiac is a wild ride and welcome return to Chan’s Indiana Jones-inspired persona, with some fun action sequences and some nice twists and turns along the way. Plus the film’s final moments are very surprising!
WFG RATING: B+
Emperor Motion Pictures presents a Jackie and JJ Productions Ltd. film. Director: Jackie Chan. Producers: Stanley Tong, Barbie Tung, Jackie Chan, Albert Lee, Zhang Dajun, Esmond Ren, and Wang Zhonglei. Writers: Edward Tang, Jackie Chan, Stanley Tong, and Frankie Chan. Cinematography: Horace Wong, Ng Man-Ching, Ben Nott, Jackie Chan, Yip Siu-Ching, and John Ng. Editing: Yau Chi-Wai.
Cast: Jackie Chan, Kwon Sang-Woo, Yao Xingtong, Zoe Zhang, David Liao, Laura Weissbecker, Oliver Platt, Vincent Sze, Alaa Safi, Caitlin Dechelle, Wilson Chen, Rosario Amadeo, Jonathan Lee, Michelle Bai, Wang Qingxiang, Daniel Wu, Shu Qi, Steve Yoo, Ken Lo, Pierre Boudard, Tomer Oz.