Sunday, 21 November 2010



I love watching Jackie Chan movies. Even in the mid-range movies, the man's cheery disregard for health and safety is a constant joy, and the endlessly inventive combat scenes and knockabout are invariably dazzling, not just in the meticulous choreography but the use of every single prop, wall or piece of furniture that's precisly positioned for the next elegant move. Yes, some of the humour is incredibly broad and some doesn't travel well at all. Yes, the plots can be absurd and silly. But when they're showcasing Chan's abilities with elaborate stunts or fight sequences, Nothing Else Matters.

In the case of The Accidental Spy, it has to be said that the narrative material is particularly thin. Chan is an ordinary salesman at a sports goods store when he is invited to Korea, where an old man is dying in hospital and believes Chan might be his long-lost son. But the old man's bequests lead Chan on a hunt for a new modified strain of super-addictive opium: a drug also sought by evil gangsters and the CIA. What does the phrase "Wait For Me" mean? Who is the mysterious young woman and whose side is she on?

This is more in the comedic than the crunchily violent vein, with the action scenes played more as cheerful and harmless knockabout than thudding bloodshed. One extended sequence features Chan fleeing a sauna wearing just a (quickly lost) towel, and then having to fight off several goons while preserving his modesty in the Istanbul markets. It is, as always, meticulously timed and performed. The big climactic chase sequence, with Chan stuck in a speeding, burning, out-of-control truck, piles on the mayhem in the best HK action traditions: no fancy over-editing to disguise the fact that everything's moving at about twenty miles an hour, no dodgy CGI to artificially ramp up the tension. Part of the joy of Asian action movies is that they actually do the stunts for real rather than achieving all the effect in the cutting room six months later.

It would appear from comments on the IMDb that the Western version is substantially different from the original Asian one, with a replacement music score, substantial edits to the plot of the film and an English dub that doesn't always work. That's apparently down to Dimension Films and the Weinsteins, and frankly I wish they hadn't bothered: these movies are perfectly accessible and acceptable without tinkering at the behest of executives with an eye on the takings in the Mid-West. Let's face it, the nuances of plot and dialogue aren't the primary draw for a Jackie Chan espionage caper, and apparently most of the film was in English anyway. It's not prime Chan, the plot is on the weak side and the post-production interferences have probably done more harm than good. But the action material survives and still plays well. And ultimately that's what counts.


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