PG-13 (martial arts action, some violent content, brief nudity): 107 min.
Chinese Zodiac supposedly is Jackie Chan’s last action movie and certainly its epilogue — a compilation of some of his best stunts from the last 30 years while the end-credits roll — would seem to be proof. It’s a breathtaking collection of the fearlessness that made Chan a star, first in Asia and later in Hollywood.
That makes it doubly sad then that Chinese Zodiac, directed/co-written by Chan and a sequel of sorts to the 1991 film Armour of God 2: Operation Condor, is such an unimpressive send-off. Lackluster, slow and with only hints of the combo of kineticism, kung fu and comedy that was part of Chan’s appeal in the first place, Chinese Zodiac doesn’t do justice to the actor’s filmic heritage.
Part of that is understandable. Chan turns 60 next year and though he still seems to have the body of a man half his age, there’s no way he can create the sort of crazily hyper chase-and-fight choreography he did a generation ago. On top of that, his heart just doesn’t seem to be in it anymore.
The story, such as it is, doesn’t matter much. Chan is Asian Hawk, aka JC, part of a criminal team that steals and sells ancient Chinese treasures. He changes his mind when he realizes how much damage these guys are doing to China’s history and turns against his boss, played by Oliver Platt.
Yet aside from an opening chase — in which Chan, wearing a roller bodysuit that turns him into a human-size roller skate, careens down a mountainous highway with soldiers in pursuit — and some of the closing half-hour, including a fight scene on a couch, Chinese Zodiac never takes off. Without much explosive action, the flat acting and generic scripts that are the hallmark of so many Chan films become even more obvious.
But if seeing Chinese Zodiac’s final moments inspire viewers to go back to see Chan at his high-kicking best — in such films as Project A, Super Cop and Dragons Forever — then it’s not a waste.
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— Cary Darling