Review: Skiptrace (Fantasia Review)
REVIEW: This is an interesting time for Jackie Chan. After having spent the last twenty-or-so years going back-and-forth between American and Hong Kong/Chinese movies, the icon, at sixty-two, has found himself in the enviable position of being one of the most bankable stars in the world. While his North American popularity is on the wane (his movies tend to go the VOD route with the upcoming THE FOREIGNER being a notable exception), in China hes bigger than ever and with that now one of the dominant box-office territories in the world, his homegrown movies carry big-budgets and huge revenues.
SKIPTRACE seems to be Chans attempt to merge his Chinese and American audiences, with him having brought-in Johnny Knoxville to be his co-star in whats basically a MIDNIGHT RUN rip-off with a hefty dose of RUSH HOUR and SHANGHAI NOON mixed-in. Hes also recruited former ace Hollywood director Renny Harlin to call the shots, although the finished product is far shoddier than the types of movies he made in his hey-day, a sad comedown for the man behind CLIFFHANGER and THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT.
While its already opened to massive numbers in Asia, SKIPTRACE will almost certainly go the route of his last east-west hybrid, DRAGON BLADE, in the U.S. Too corny to ever appeal to a cynical American audience, this play like a regurgitated version of older, better Chan movies, with Knoxville collecting a check as his co-star but doing little to enliven the proceedings (the younger Seann William Scott was originally cast in his part and would have been easier to accept in romantic clinches with co-star Bingbing Fan).
Running an oppressive two hours, SKIPTRACE is often shockingly inept for a movie that carries a huge price tag. The CGI is archaic, and especially notable in the many faked, green-screen stunts. While its understandable that Chan is no longer in the kind of shape needed to be able to survive the kind of madcap action he did in the eighties/nineties, there has to be a better alternative than this. Knoxvilles wise-guy routine is especially tiresome, with the writing too tepid to give him any of the edge he showed in JACKASS as this is family friendly fare for the mainland. As such, his one-liners are flat, and Chans actually funnier battling a D-cupped Russian henchwoman or watching a horse poo in the middle of the desert. Its not sophisticated, but Chan knows his audience and hes always been a master of the double-take.
While obnoxious and often quite awful, SKIPTRACE does have a few saving graces. One is the amazing location photography, with Harlin and company clearly having huge resources and able to get some striking footage of Mongolia (Chan gets a full-fledged musical number here doing a cover of Adeles Rolling in the Deep) and the Gobi desert. Its a shame the DP, Kwok-Hung Chan, died in an accident on-location, because his work is great. Chan also still does well in the fights, with him doing his trademark prop-fighting, and the outtakes proving the action isnt faked impressive for a man his age. Still, its a shame the villains are so low-key, with him never getting a proper baddie to do 1:1 battle with.
If SKIPTRACE had been cut down to a more manageable ninety minutes (which may indeed be what happens for the U.S Direct TV release), SKIPTRACE would have maybe been somewhat decent. As it is, this is another in a long line of recent lame Chan vehicules. Its not as bad as DRAGON BLADE, and it also doesnt suffer from the nationalistic fervor of CHINESE ZODIAC, but its still a far cry from vintage Jackie Chan, and you really have to go all the way back to 2004s NEW POLICE STORY for his last proper movie (although he was good in LITTLE BIG SOLDIER, SHAOLIN and THE MYTH had its moments). Sure, China loves him more than ever, but his hardcore action fans from the rest of the world (including Hong Kong) are getting short-changed.