Dir: Benny Chan. HK-Chi. 2006. 135mins.
Jackie Chan returns to the broad Hong Kong comedyaction of earlier films like Meals On Wheels with the enjoyably ramshackle, fast-pacedbabysitting-crook yarn Rob-B-Hood.Laced with some classic stunts - a couple of them as inventive as anything Chanhas ever done - and action set-pieces, and canny in its casting of youth-appealtalent like Louis Koo and Cherrie In, the film has abroader, more family-based audience target than previous Benny Chan-Jackie Chancollaborations such as Who Am I' and New Police Story.
Chan started becoming aglobal franchise with the low- budget, high-revenue Rumble In The Bronx in 1995, and hit paydirt with the two RushHour films in which he paired up with comedian Chris Tucker. But the stunthero's core market is still in Asia, from India across to Japan, and it's inHong Kong and mainland China that Chan has been doing his most interestingrecent work, like his drunken, depressive police officer from New Police Story, or the self-centred chancer on the wrong side of the law that he plays here.
Fans there should respondstrongly to this latest romp - which opens in mainland China on Sept 29 afterits Venice premiere screening as part of the Midnight section - though asalways many will consume the film on DVD rather than in theatres. With itsrelatively lo-fi effects, the $17m Rob-B-Hood is not a calculated Westerncrossover vehicle like Stephen Chow's KungFu Hustle, but it should play at the wider end of Chan's 'purist' market inEurope and the Americas, appealing to those HK action buffs who refuse to haveanything to do with the Chan of ShanghaiKnights or Around the World In 80Days. Sales so far include Minerva for Italy, Splendid for Germany and ShowEast for South Korea.
The baby bottle and the gunwhich appear in the film's neat logo - reproduced on credits, posters andmarketing materials - works as well as any tagline to signal the film's comicpremise. There are shades of Vin Diesel in The Pacifier in the tough-guy-looks-after-babymix, though here there's a lot more verve and a lot less schmaltz: you'd neverbe able to get away with some of these flying- baby stunts in Hollywood.
Thongs (Chan) and hispartner Octopus (Koo) steal from the rich in order tofinance their own high-maintenance lifestyles: Thongs wastes all of his bootyon illegal gambling, while serial womaniser Octopus has a string of glamorous girlfriendsto service. Their jobs are set up by The Landlord (Michael Hui),the timorous, bespectacled CEO and safe-cracker of this partnership in crime.
Thongs is in debt to a sadistic local loan-shark, The Landlordhas his safe cleaned out, and when they are offered a huge sum of money for acareer-crowning break-in, they leap at the chance. Thongs and Octopus are lessenthusiastic, though, when they discover that the heist involves kidnapping ababy.
Crashing their getaway minivanat the end of a car chase, Thongs and Octopus are forced to take the baby homeand look after it. Cue some obvious but reasonably amusing comic business, inwhich the two (who are taken for a gay couple) go to baby-care classes, learnhow to change nappies, and keep baby entertained. A bond of course develops -and when they are forced to finish the transaction and deliver baby to thewealthy recluse who commissioned the kidnapping, the crime duo are forced tochoose between money and ethics.
Chan is a little more portlyand less agile these days, and he runs away from the baddies more than he usedto, but the effect of this is to humanise his stunts and make them somehow morebelievable. There are still plenty of tasty action set-pieces to keep the fanshappy: one of the most entertaining - not least because of its imaginative useof a typical high-rise Hong Kong exterior - involves Chan leaping from oneair-conditioning unit to the next all the way down the outside of an apartmentblock.
There's good buddy chemistrybetween Koo and Chan, and although some sloppily-shotbridging scenes betray the hectic schedules of Hong Kong cinema, the key actionsequences look just fine.
JCE Movies Limited
Huayi Brothers Film Investment Co Ltd
China Film Co-Production Corp
Emperor Motion Pictures