Having been born in the late 80's, I grew up a 90's child. And throughout my youth, I would always hear murmurings of a particular Hong Kong action-hero whose worldwide stardom was slowly rising. That man- Jackie Chan.
Finally, he exploded across my home country of the US in 1995 with the release of this film- "Rumble in the Bronx", his first true widely released "hit" of sorts in the Western World, that gave him a greater deal of recognition and made him into a household name for movie and action fans. And thankfully, in the ensuing 20 years, he's continued to gain more and more recognition and admiration the world over.
I didn't see the film upon its initial release. But a few years later, after being wooed by his Hollywood work (particularly "Shanghai Noon", and to a lesser extent "Rush Hour"), I knew I just HAD to start looking into his filmography. And this was one of my first big experiences with Chan at his best. It's not a particularly strong film in terms of plot or character development. (In fact, the film's attempts to deliver those elements come off as laughable at times.) But that doesn't mean it's a bad film, because those are clearly not the main focus point for Chan or director Stanley Tong. No, this is a film about delivering intense action and wonderful broad humor. And this film excels at that, being an absolutely charming, wowing and dazzling example of a fun action film done right.
Chan stars as Keung, a Hong Kong cop who comes to visit the Bronx for his immigrant uncle Bill's (Bill Tung) upcoming wedding, while also helping Bill with the final transition of selling his supermarket to a quirky woman named Elain. (Anita Mui) He also befriends a young disabled boy named Danny (Morgan Lam) and runs afoul of a vicious street-gang, not knowing that Danny's sister Nancy (Françoise Yip) is associated with them. He is eventually pulled into a sort-of dual plot, as he fights against the ruthless street gang, before realizing he needs to help them in a struggle against a ruthless crime-lord known only as "White Tiger."
Though this may sound a little basic and cliché, it's not a problem. And it becomes clear early on that the plot and characters will take an almost immediate and prolonged back-seat to make way for the humor and action. And I was fine with it, to be honest. While it's easy to complain that many action movies suffer for lacking the elements of plot/character, it's usually because the film lacks charm, wit and excitement to make up for the loss of those elements. And that isn't the case here. Chan, Tong and the rest of the cast and crew supply such an immediate, constant "fun factor", and elevate the material through wonderful Chaplin/Keaton-esque humor and charm, broad characterizations that the audience is able to immediately connect with, and some of the best action of its decade. You simply won't care that the plot isn't the greatest, and that the characters can be very basic. You'll be having too much fun to notice!
It seems almost futile to even judge the performances and competence of the production, because it almost doesn't matter at all. What is meant to work (the laughs and thrills), works wonderfully, and that is able to make up for almost any production or writing-related shortcomings. (And as I said above, elements that don't work, like some of the character development, have an unintentional humor to them, which just adds even more to the entertainment value.)
But for what it's worth, I think the actors all do a fun job with the limited material they are given. There isn't a sore-thumb to be seen, except possibly from some of the villainous characters, who seem a bit too "over the top." Direction is strong enough for the material, and the blocking/composition is all quite decent.
If I had any complaints, it'd be this: While I will admit that I can more-than-forgive the lack of a decent plot, I do think this film would have benefited by having a slightly more-developed storyline. And I think it's uneven at times with it's tone, taking one or two bizarrely dark turns at key moments that felt out-of-left-field. And I think it's R-rating is completely unnecessary, and even betrays the tone of the film itself. (This "feels" like a film that could appeal to all ages from 10-100... but the R-rating, mainly due to some unnecessary profanity, could limit this appeal.)
But despite those complaints, I have to admit that this is a personal favorite for me. It's got some of the best action of the 90's (the "big fight" in the film still holds up to this day and is more thrilling than most films you're likely to see), some absolutely gut- busting humor, and one of the most charming and thrilling action stars to ever live.
Thanks for giving us so many thrills and laughs, Jackie Chan!
I'm giving this a near-perfect 9 out of 10 for the wonderful fun- factor it provides.
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