The release of Jackie Chan’s latest film, “Chinese Zodiac,” is accompanied by two official Guinness world records: most stunts by a living actor and most credits by one person in one movie.
Actually, the former should be no surprise — the guy does all his own stunts and he’s made more than 100 movies.
But the latter has Chan overtaking previous credit-hog champ Robert Rodriguez, who had held the record with 11. Chan broke it with 15.
It’s no surprise that Chan is credited with being the film’s star, director, co-writer, co-producer and stunt coordinator. But he’s also listed as part of the teams of cinematographers, lighting directors, production managers and prop handlers, as well as being the film’s art director, scoring musician, singer of the theme song, set production assistant and a stunt double.
That’s 14, you say? What’s No. 15? Wait for it: catering coordinator. That’s right, he even fed the crew!
If that’s not enough, according to the Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com), Chan also took on the role of a stunt actor but did it without a credit. (No sense getting piggish.)
All this and he turns 60 next month (April 7).
Actually, Chan was awarded the Guinness most-stunts and most-credits titles in December 2012 when “Chinese Zodiac” premiered in Shanghai. Did you hear about that at the time? I was unaware of it until I saw the acknowledgment in the end credits of the film.
Yes, Chan fans, “Chinese Zodiac” is finally here in the U.S. But not in theaters as previously promised.
Instead, it’s gone straight to video (Universal/Blu-ray/Digital, PG-13, $26.98, featurette; also on DVD, $19.98)
“Chinese Zodiac” is unquestionably a vanity project, and it is reportedly Chan’s final bid to give his legion of fans one more action-packed, stunt-filled comedy as he says adieu to the kind of slam-bang pictures he’s made for more than 30 years.
And he succeeded in doing just that at home. The film was a box-office behemoth in China, landing firmly at No. 3 on the country’s all-time chart.
As Chan approaches retirement age, who can blame him for wanting to turn to dramas and comedies that are less stunt-oriented?
As opposed to aging American action stars such as Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger (he’s American, right?), Chan does more than merely fire automatic weapons and drop bad puns.
In “Chinese Zodiac,” he climbs walls, jumps over chairs, rolls on skates under trucks and fights bad guys in ways that would challenge an actor half his age.
The film does boast some nice fight/stunt sequences, and despite being 58 during filming, Chan seems as limber and agile as ever. But he is obviously slowing down a bit and doesn’t seem to mind allowing the camera to show off some younger high-kicking protégés.
On the downside, the film has too many breaks for slapstick comedy sequences that will probably not play as well here as they did in China. I’ve written before about how difficult it is to translate Asian comedy to American audiences because it is often both broad and violent in a way that comes across to Westerners as silly and out of sync with the rest of the movie. (This U.S. release is dubbed in English and shortened by about 20 minutes from the Chinese version.)
But, hey, that’s what fast-forward buttons are for, right?
Still, Chan seems to be having fun in his third film as the character of Asian Hawk (after “Armour of God” and “Operation Condor,” two of his best 1980s/’90s films) in a plot about stealing back already stolen Chinese art relics. (With Oliver Platt as the chief villain.)
If you’re a Chan fan, you’ll no doubt enjoy it, even if we can’t pretend that it’s up there with his best movies. And if it prompts younger moviegoers to check out some of the action-comedies Chan made in his prime, so much the better.
As you watch, take note that it’s much easier to appreciate action sequences that are not obscured by the tiresome shaky-cam techniques used by so many American directors for chase/fight scenes.
Would that Chan could deliver tutorials to U.S. action directors.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com