The Karate Kid (2010) – Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith

7/10 — Jackie Chan makes a decent attempt at remaking the classic movie from 1984, with a twist. This time it’s set in China and it’s all about Chinese Kung Fu, not Japanese Karate.

Jackie Chan plays the teacher (Mr Han, the maintenance man) quite well, and Jaden Smith does a decent job as the student (Dre Parker, the new kid in town, being bullied). Supporting cast range from average to pretty good. Zhenwei Wang does a good job as Cheng, the leader of the bullies in this movie, and Yu Rongguang does a good job as Master Li, the aggressive teacher of the bullies.

The movie starts out like a boring drama, slowly setting the scene as Jaden’s character and his mum move to China. It starts to become interesting after 10 minutes, as Jaden’s character meets the maintenance man (played by Jackie Chan). But it doesn’t become really good until 40 minutes in, when Jackie sees Jaden getting beaten up and then reveals himself as Kung Fu expert. From here it’s mostly good action and entertainment, with the exception of an excessively long sobbing drama scene around 90 minutes in. The last 20 minutes are pretty good, as the tournament begins, closely following the format of the original classic but with a few stylistic twists. The very ending is very good, in-keeping with the original.

Overall, not a bad movie to watch if you’re bored and haven’t seen this before or at least in the last few years. I give it a 7/10 because it’s a bit hard to relate to the pre-pubescent lead actor. This movie is nothing to shout about, but it’s not bad entertainment value either. It’s hard to go wrong with Jackie Chan. If not for the boring start and the lengthy sobbing scene it might deserve a 7.5 to match the original classic.

The Protector (1985) – Jackie Chan

7/10 – This movie is mildly entertaining. One of Jackie Chan’s early English movies. If you’re a fan of Jackie Chan and are bored, this movie can be mildly enjoyable to watch. Also featuring Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace as the main antagonist who fights – they meet near the end, like a final boss scene. The plot is thin and the acting is nothing special, but Jackie brings his usual energy this film. As it’s one of his earlier movies, he’s still trying to establish himself so he’s very acrobatic in his fight scenes but they’re not so cleverly arranged as in the more recent higher-budget movies where he has more control and confidence, and for the same reason he’s a bit more serious, there’s less of the cheesy humour that he becomes known for in his later movies. There’s also more blasphemy (from Jackie) and more nudity (moderate female nudity) than you might expect, as well as depictions of drugs (packing, not consuming) and an ugly murder scene (with a utensil lodged in an eye). But there’s nothing terribly unsuitable for guided family viewing except for the most young or conservative of households who might prefer something more classy, less explicit or less ‘vice’ themed.

What’s incredible is Jackie was well aware of all the flaws I’ve mentioned, and had disagreements with the director over them. They reached a compromise where the director’s cut went out to American audiences but Jackie’s own personal edit was released in Cantonese for Hong Kong audiences. Jackie’s version had a deeper plot, more attention to detail in fight scenes (often completely re-shot for the Cantonese version), faster action scenes, less nudity and less blasphemy (Cantonese dubbing often completely changed the dialogue, not only removing curse words). But there’s no dubs or subs needed for the American version, as The Protector is an English-first movie with a 50-50 mix of American and Asian actors.

This was Jackie Chan’s 2nd attempt to breakthrough to the American market and was a mild success (both in Hong Kong and America) and an improvement on his first attempt (The Big Brawl, 1980) even while being so unhappy with the American director James Glickenhaus who, in an interview in 1985, assured the world that the American audience will never sit still for Jackie’s style of action!

Shanghai Noon (2000) – Jackie Chan

8/10 – High quality acting with an action-packed plot backed by decent budget, this Jackie Chan movie is one of his more comedic and adventurous ones – great for watching with people who like comedy and adventure movies. Good level of martial arts involved but not so much that only martial arts fans would like it. Shanghai Noon also has a high quality sequel – Shanghai Knights – with its own creative storyline – well worth watching in succession. Don’t be put off by the co-star’s Boris-Johnson-esque wig, he’s actually a likeable character that wins you over by the end.

The Foreigner (2017) – Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan

Thoroughly entertaining – one of Jackie’s slightly more gritty performances but great action for his usual fanbase just with the omission of the usual comedic edge. The only letdown is the strong vibe of modern imperialist propaganda that this movie stinks of. Still Jackie holds it down very well so it doesn’t upset the movie too much. Very strong performance by Pierce Brosnan too, as an Irish politician and former IRA leader who has to defend his farm-come-castle from an angry elderly chinaman who happens to be ex special forces – a role played flawlessly by Jackie Chan with the help of a great all-round movie production. Slightly minimal on plot beside the core story – hardly as much twists as The Matrix – but that’s fine, it focuses on one theme, a slowly developing scenario and does it very well.

We’ve previously seen how fantastic a movie can be when a top martial artist teams up with James Bond, as happened when Van Damme teamed up with Roger Moore in The Quest (1996). The Foreigner is no exception to this trend – Jackie Chan makes a great team with Pierce Brosnan here, and this time they are adversaries.

Martial arts wise, there’s a good amount of combat but this movie is more about the story. Action wise, it’s not James Bond, but it’s got a good amount of action throughout. Script wise, it’s a simple story, well executed. Cast wise, there are several strong characters in this movie.