Heroes of the East

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Heroes of the East

Film discussion and banter

    Thunderbolt (1995: Gordon Chan: Hong Kong)


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    Join date : 2011-02-16
    Location : Modesto, CA

    Thunderbolt (1995: Gordon Chan: Hong Kong) Empty Thunderbolt (1995: Gordon Chan: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch Tue Jan 05, 2016 4:51 pm

    Jackie Chan was not particularly happy with the results here and it is completely understandable. It was created as Jackie’s ode to racing analogous to Steve McQueen in Le Mans (1971). Chan had a contract as spokesman with Mitsubishi (which allowed him nice little goodies like have access to prototypes and even Jackie Chan Limited Edition EVO vehicles .) which you would see prominently in this film as well as many other films of his. But with his previous ankle injury in Rumble in the Bronx forcing him to be doubled by Chin Kar-lok in many of the action scenes and a runaway budget because of the expenses of filming in Japan where transport costs alone were quite high (they would finish the driving scenes in Malaysia) I am sure Chan was worried this was going to be an expensive failure and his own personal Howard the Duck (1986). At the time it was the most expensive Hong Kong film costing about 25 million US Dollars (near 200 million HK Dollars) with the demolished cars about 2 million of that. Opening day it took in a then record breaking 4 Million HK dollars and overall took in 45 million HK Dollars. While it was never going to make its money back from the Hong Kong market, if they had worked more on the script and had a better finale it might have had better success globally.

    Because of deadline issues involving this film, Sammo Hung was asked to choreograph the fight scenes. This was the first time Hung and Chan had worked together since the lovely (sarcasm) Island of Fire (1991). If you look at the credits you will notice several action choreographers, several car stunt coordinators, three script writers and Gordon Chan as director. But Gordon Chan lost or never really had control over this film and the movie feels too much like the American idiom “took many cooks in the kitchen.”

    The script is the rub. Jackie Chan stars as Jackie Foh a racecar driver, mechanic, detector of illegal street car modifications for the police and, of course, martial artist who is highly protective of his two sisters and somewhat of his dad (director Chor Yuen.) He runs afoul of Warner Cougar Kaugman (Thorsten Nickel) when he chases him an ultimately gets him caught by the police in an actually decent racing sequence. He helps get him arrested and later lies to cop Steve Cannon (Michael Wong) about seeing him hit a policeman. Cougar is not angry about being put away. He only wants to race him and beat him. To make sure he races him he escapes a high security jail, kidnaps Fohs two sisters, and puts his dad in the hospital while almost killing Jackie by ripping his makeshift house apart. This will lead to a showdown in Japan between the two. Obviously there is much more to the plot but there are so many loose angles, unneeded characters and boneheaded decisions that to chart it would make it look more convoluted than a chart explaining the sleep levels in Inception (2010).

    Besides the script woes there is also a powerhouse of acting between Michael Wong and Thorsten Nickel. Almost like a dream team of Marlon Brando and Charles Laughton. Wong shows the worst way to hold a pistol which reminds me of the Simpsons episode Trilogy of Error quote Hey Chief, can I hold my gun sideways? It looks so cool. Wong is also faster than bullets. He also pulls out a gun on an unarmed Jackie Foh. I have picked on Wong in past reviews, but he can be effective in such films as Beast Cops (1998: also by Gordon Chan.) However here the acting is atrocious from many of the actors. This can be forgiven if the plot was more coherent and not seemed like it was made from several screenplays put into a blender and then pasted together by a non-literate drunk or like a pop version of the Exquisite Corpse (see Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) or better yet watch something else.) Probably best to put away the logic detector when watching this. Also put away the critical detector as well, especially before the finale.

    The pachinko parlor fight scene is awesome and is rightfully the most well-known aspect of this movie. Ken Lo (Jackie Chans bodyguard at the time) is quite an accomplished kicker. While this does not top his work in Drunken Master II, he is always fun to watch. The wirework is effectively done here used mostly to emphasis severe blows and helping out with airborne combination kicks. Almost for this scene alone I can see why this film was nominated for Best Action Choreography for Hong Kong Film Awards though I am begging to feel that High Risk should have been nominated instead (Rumble in the Bronx would win). It won that category for the Golden Horse awards. Because of the previous ankle injury he is doubled much more than usual throughout the film in the fight scenes. It could have done without the prolonged shaky slow motion that plagues the rest of the film. But the inventiveness and that beautiful climatic scene of spherical destruction elevates this to one of the best choreographed fight scenes of the year and most likely a scene you will want to replay several times.

    This is not a good film and one of Jackie Chans worst of the 1990s. It has a porous script (Thorsten Nickel stated he never even saw a script) and a hilarious use of a deux ex machina, bad acting, not a particularly good soundtrack for the film with an occasional soft piano that feels like it belongs in a 1970s Hollywood comedic drama, a ponderous pace, and a poorly editing and undercranked racing finale that felt more Benny Hill than Days of Thunder that should have been the highlight of the movie.* Why add a comedic romantic aspect to what is supposed to be a serious race? The movies redeeming values is an excellent pachinko parlor fight scene, one good fight scene within the garage and one bodacious house destruction scene giving new meaning to phrase mobile home. Unfortunately there is not much more though unless you like Michael Wong and I know you do.

    I have the New Line Home Entertainment R1 Enhanced DVD. There is an English dub and a Cantonese dub. The Cantonese dub is preferable because you will hear a combination of Japanese, English and Cantonese that was spoken during the filming. There are three subtitles: one Spanish, one for the English dub and one that is more appropriate for the Cantonese dub which avoids the phantom titles lines spoken only in the English dub but does not show any English spoken but still appears to be dubtitles. You can hear Jackie Chans real voice in the Cantonese dub where he speaks both English and Japanese as well, though he is not in the English dub. The menu only gives you one choice of English subtitles, but depending on which language you choose it seems to choose the correct pairing. This is a dual-sided disc which one side has the widescreen (2.35:1) and the other one has the full-screen.

    * Producer Chua Lam explained in an interview in Jackie Chan: Inside the Dragon: If you go to Japan to shoot, youll know why things cost so much. After shooting there for a few weeks, there were so many injuries and costs ran so high that we had to move to Malaysia to finish the scene. In slowing down the cars, we could shoot everything just once, and then speed it up for the finished product.

    Link: Archived note from Jackie Chan on Mitsubishi (2007)
    Link: Jackie Chan Special Edition Mitsubishi Evo's (Jan. 24 2012)
    Link: Thorsten Nickel interview (Hardcoregaming)
    Link: Wiki entry (car types got from here)

    I am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action (1998) by Jackie Chan, Jeff Yang: Jeff wrote that the budget for the film was around 2 Billion HK dollars when he meant 200 Million HK dollars. IMDB has this same mistake.
    At the Hong Kong Movies (1999) Paul Fonoroff: Fonoroff has a good review here. I think some of the faults are quite obvious so you will see some of these issues mentioned in my take and other reviews as well.
    Jackie Chan: Inside the Dragon (1997) by Clyde Gentry III: this book had the most reliable and most interesting information on the film I could find. It helped that he had new interviews specially for the book.
    The Essential Jackie Chan Sourcebook (1997) by Jeff Rovin and Kathy Tracy: I did not use the following for the review. This states that the original Gordon Chan script was supposed to be a small, intimate film about the lives of illegal race car drivers. Also writes that Carrie Ng was edited from the final cut. Gets the budget right which is written wrong in so many places regarding HK dollars.

    You can see the Jackie Chan Ralli Art jacket later on in the film with Kayama Yuzo wearing one.
    In an interesting coincidence (or is it) the relationship between the reporter and Jackie Chans character is similar in reporter and Jet Li character in High Risk which was released a month earlier.
    The Hong Kong governor in the film would be Chris Patten .

    Tags: Advan tires, Fanling Lodge, Jackie Chan singing (beginning and end), Malaysia, Mitsubishi GTO, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III, Nissan Skyline GTR R32, outtakes, Sendai Hi-Land Raceway, Yakuza.

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