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Review: Skiptrace (Fantasia Review)

Skiptrace (Fantasia Review)
07.27.2016
4 10

PLOT: To save his God-daughter, a Hong Kong cop (Jackie Chan) must deliver a fast-talking American gambler (Johnny Knoxville) to Macau, who’s been abducted by Russian goons.

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 he’s 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 Chan’s attempt to merge his Chinese and American audiences, with him having brought-in Johnny Knoxville to be his co-star in what’s basically a MIDNIGHT RUN rip-off with a hefty dose of RUSH HOUR and SHANGHAI NOON mixed-in. He’s 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 it’s 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 it’s 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. Knoxville’s 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 Chan’s actually funnier battling a D-cupped Russian henchwoman or watching a horse poo in the middle of the desert. It’s not sophisticated, but Chan knows his audience and he’s 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 Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’) and the Gobi desert. It’s 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 isn’t faked – impressive for a man his age. Still, it’s 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. It’s not as bad as DRAGON BLADE, and it also doesn’t suffer from the nationalistic fervor of CHINESE ZODIAC, but it’s still a far cry from vintage Jackie Chan, and you really have to go all the way back to 2004’s 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.

Source: JoBlo.com

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11:25PM on 08/05/2016
Sounds like this film would've been golden box office material back in the late 90's.
Sounds like this film would've been golden box office material back in the late 90's.
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2:04AM on 07/28/2016
Jackie Chan is really better than this. He has delivered some solid films in the past several years, like his part in Shaolin, Police Story 2012, and Little Big Soldier. Even CZ12 was a pretty decent action adventure. To see him continually make piss poor Hollywood tripe like this and Dragon Blade only makes me sad. And I really can't understand why he does it. For years, he's said he wants to get away from these kinds of movies and he even took certain steps to try and do that. Police Story
Jackie Chan is really better than this. He has delivered some solid films in the past several years, like his part in Shaolin, Police Story 2012, and Little Big Soldier. Even CZ12 was a pretty decent action adventure. To see him continually make piss poor Hollywood tripe like this and Dragon Blade only makes me sad. And I really can't understand why he does it. For years, he's said he wants to get away from these kinds of movies and he even took certain steps to try and do that. Police Story 2012 was mostly a drama with a few action scenes here and there, but none of them were the slick, stunt filled ones we're used to. I mean, he's in his 60's. I get that people expect Jackie to continue to do martial arts films, but he's such a huge star, he could stand to do some hardboiled dramatic thrillers without the action or even a straight up comedy. He's proved himself a good enough actor.
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4:36PM on 07/27/2016

Is it OK to say both Knoxville and Chan are past their prime as entertainers?

I grew up on Rumble in The Bronx, Mr Nice Guy, Who Am I, Drunken Master. Chan has made some AMAZING movies and action sequences. But I really wish he retired from Hollywood a while ago (he still makes some good movies in China). Shit like Karemake Kid, this movie and Spy Next Door have just been lackluster and generic.

If you want to see awesome Chan in recent movies, stick with Police Story '13 and New Police Story. Or even his return to Armor of the Gods/Operation Condor style Chinese
I grew up on Rumble in The Bronx, Mr Nice Guy, Who Am I, Drunken Master. Chan has made some AMAZING movies and action sequences. But I really wish he retired from Hollywood a while ago (he still makes some good movies in China). Shit like Karemake Kid, this movie and Spy Next Door have just been lackluster and generic.

If you want to see awesome Chan in recent movies, stick with Police Story '13 and New Police Story. Or even his return to Armor of the Gods/Operation Condor style Chinese Zodiac. 1911 was decent as well.
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9:53PM on 07/27/2016
Not really at all for Johnny. He's still just as popular in his comfort zones in Jackass. I'm sure they will eventually do another one. Jackie Chan on the other hand has really went down.l
Not really at all for Johnny. He's still just as popular in his comfort zones in Jackass. I'm sure they will eventually do another one. Jackie Chan on the other hand has really went down.l
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