Mr. Nice Guy

* 1/2*

Mr. Nice Guy is the latest Jackie Chan film, so you should know what to expect. A weak plot, terrible dialogue, very little acting ability, but some jaw-dropping action sequences that nearly make the rest of it worthwhile. However, Mr. Nice Guy lacks the sparkle of Jackie's best efforts, and its weaknesses are more glaring than ever.

Jackie Chan plays, who else, Jackie. This time out, he's a famous chef who hosts an Australian cooking show. Not that it ever makes a difference in the plot. There are only two scenes of him cooking. For the rest of the film, somehow he mutates into Jackie Chan, Supercop. It never does explain why his character has such superb martial arts skills...perhaps he was in the same cooking class as Steven Seagal in Under Siege?

A TV newswoman, Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), covertly tapes a drug deal involving kingpin Giancarlo (Richard Norton) and a local gang of toughs, The Demons. Although she only has one camcorder, somehow the result is full of close-ups and multiple angles...hmmm, shades of Broadcast News??? Anyway, the goons discover Diana, and will do anything to recover the tape. Here lies another crucial flaw in the story: doesn't anyone realize you can copy a tape? Oh well, no one ever said Jackie Chan movies had to make sense.

As luck would have it, Diana runs across Jackie, and, wouldn't you know it, Jackie accidentally ends up with the tape. This leads to countless chase and/or fight scenes which look like they could have been lifted from Rumble in the Bronx or nearly any other Jackie Chan movie.

In a move apparently designed to woo American (and other English-speaking) audiences, the film uses English as its primary language. However, that doesn't mean an end to the atrocious dubbing that has afflicted Jackie's recent Americanized releases. Strangely, many of the characters speaking English are overdubbed with English, and poorly too. Whether this is just a very bad case of looping, an effort to minimize accents, or a simple case of nostalgia, it does achieve the same level of distraction present in all of Jackie's dubbed films.

The plot in Mr. Nice Guy is negligible, merely an excuse to have Jackie on the run from various goons. But even though plots have always been second to the action in Jackie's films, it seems odd that the filmmakers have stuck us with this tired retread. Look, if you have Jackie Chan playing a chef, why not use that to your advantage? Watching Jackie doing his stuff in a kitchen, beating the bad guys with foodstuffs sounds like the perfect setup for innumerable comic stunts.

The action is a mixed bag here. There's really only one no holds barred fight scenes that have become the trademark of Jackie's films. It takes place in the arbitrary location of a construction site, apparently for the sole reason that there are lots of nifty things lying around that can be useful ala Jackie Chan. The action in the film is neither Jackie's best nor worst, but you long for some more inspiration in the scenes.

The film's gratuitous use of slow motion is distracting. Once or twice, it may be useful to highlight a spectacular stunt sequence. But to slo-mo Jackie running? Either this is a nod to the Six-Million Dollar Man, or a pathetic attempt to disguise the fact that Jackie may be slowing down.

If you've seen all of Jackie's films and are in need of another fix, go ahead and see Mr. Nice Guy. However, if you're just in the mood for some good action, you'd be better off hitting the video store for some of his better work, such as Supercop.

[PG-13 - pervasive action violence, some sensuality and drug content] (New Line)


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