You’d think we’d have run out of great Jackie Chan films to suggest by now. You’d be wrong.
The Chan train cannot be stopped. At 66 years old, Jackie refuses to relinquish the crown as the biggest action superstar in the world. This time he’s back to saving the day in Vanguard, working alongside director Stanley Tong. Jackie and Stanley have lit up the screen six times together previously, including some of the hits that made Chan a bankable star in America. Today we run down our three favorites from the pair.
See It Instead: Vanguard (2020)
Members of a covert security company try to protect an accountant from the world’s deadliest mercenary organization.
Vanguard had a bit of a rocky introduction to the American audiences this weekend, but the film has been making bank in its home market of China. As soon as this bird lands on streaming, you can bet we’ll be reviewing it in short order. Until then, let’s look back at some other gems from Tong and Chan’s long working history.
The Serious Pick: First Strike (1996)
When members of the Russian Mafia pose as KGB agents to steal a nuclear missile, the CIA calls on Detective Ka Kui Chan (Jackie Chan) to stop them.
While Rumble in the Bronx was the first hit to start Jackie’s invasion of the US box office, it was his second offering that felt like his true arrival. First Strike is what you get when you blend Chan’s outrageous stunts and comedic fight choreography with a James Bond movie. Helicopters explode, sports cars fly off of ramps, and Jackie even fights underwater like good old Roger Moore.
If you’re looking for a good introduction to Jackie Chan and have been raised on a diet of western-style action flicks, First Strike is the perfect film to begin with.
The Unconventional Pick: The Myth (2005)
Jack (Chan), a world-renowned archaeologist who has begun having mysterious dreams of a past life as a warrior in ancient China. When a fellow scientist enlists his help locating the mausoleum of China’s first emperor, the past collides violently with the present as Jack discovers his amazing visions are based in fact.
The Myth some times feels packed to bursting with different elements…which is no surprise when you learn that it was crafted to appeal to two new markets: Bollywood and Seoul. This sees Chan paired with Bollywood star Mallika Sherawat and Korean stars Kim Hee-sun and Choi Min-soo.
The movie tries (and mostly succeeds) to thread the cultural needle by taking elements popular in Chinese, Korean, and Indian cinema. You have a historical forbidden romance -complete with a ballad – popular in Korea at the time, large sections set in India showcasing Indian fashion and traditional martial arts, and a furious war epic reminiscent of Hero or Crouching Tiger.
The fractured story elements allow Chan to play to all of his strengths. As Jack, he’s the bumbling, accidental hero relying as much on pratfalls as kung fu. As general Ming Yi, he gets to concoct sprawling battle sequences that are surprisingly bloody for a Jackie Chan flick, and the end sequences features tons of balletic wire-fu battles. It’s three movies in one!
The Lighthearted Pick: Kung Fu Yoga (2017)
Jack (Jackie Chan), a world-renowned archaeology professor, and his team are on a grand quest to locate a lost ancient Indian treasure when they are ambushed by a team of mercenaries and left for dead. Using his vast knowledge of history and kung fu, Jack leads his team on a race around the world to beat the mercenaries to the treasure and save an ancient culture.
Hmm. Another film packed with Bollywood stars and featuring Jackie as an archeologist. I think Stanley Tong may have gone back to this well once too often.
To be honest, Kung Fu Yoga is not a great movie. It’s got some amazing stunt sequences and gorgeous set pieces – definitely leaning more heavily into Bollywood territory – but it’s kind of a mess tonally. It wants to be light and breezy but also action packed. With all the ancient artifact hookum, it comes off as a bad imitation of The Goonies, but with Jackie Chan glued on upside down.
So why pick Kung Fu Yoga at all? Besides the chance to see more incredible action from Jackie, it also was the inciting incident that led to Jackie Chan and Salman Khan to meet. I’ll watch an iffy Jackie Chan movie if it means I get to see my favorite Chinese action star hanging out with my favorite Indian action star.