Friday night and here I am. A big bag of crisps and a tall drink of cold soda in hand, ass planted firmly on the couch. All I need is a movie to watch while I enjoy said snack and beverage. Something light, without too much drama. Not a lot of complex plot points that challenge my already tired brain, but with plenty of things that go boom.
Enter Jackie Chan’s latest creation: Chinese Zodiac (Armour of God III). Jackie stares at me defiantly from the boxart. Daring me to watch the movie. Challenge accepted mr. Chan! Your kung fu antics will surely go well with my soda and crisps.
As the movie opens, Jackie is trying to escape from a Russian military facility where he has stolen something. We never get to see what or why, we just get to see him escape the Russian soldiers using a special skate suit. The suit is made from rollerblades and skateboards, and Jackie barrels down the hill luge style. Hijinks ensue, and extreme stunts are performed. Rollerblading between and under trucks, disabling bikes whilst rolling, grinding on edges precariously close to a cliff,… You get the idea. The stunts are incredible and I’m already halfway through my crisps when the plot gets revealed.
Jackie is the mastermind of a small band of criminals who steal valuable works of art for collectors who can afford their fee. They’ve been contacted by the MP Corporation to recover the 12 Chinese zodiac heads, ancient heads of statues that were plundered from China by invading forces from the west ages ago. Along the way they get involved with history student Coco who thinks they are stealing the statues to return them to the Chinese government. Jackie and friends will have to choose between fortune or heritage.
There. That’s not complicated, is it? Pretty straightforward plotline when you read it. But that’s where you’re wrong. You see, somewhere along writing this plotline, I suspect mr. Chan of thinking “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and then adding that thought to the plot. Several times! The band of thieves continuously travel from one corner of the globe to the other, changing their skillset at a whim. One moment they’re master thieves, breaking into a vault of a rich art collector in France. Then they’re spies with cool gadgets… spying and stuff. Next thing you know, they’re in some tropical jungle hunting for treasure in the wreckage of an old ship and fighting pirates. There’s enough material crammed into the 123 minute runtime to make at least 2 sequels!
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even begun mentioning the various subplots. Most of those are only very briefly glimpsed (probably because they were edited out for time) but each and everyone of them gets resolved during the movie’s final minute.
-Estranged wife shows up to forgive mr. Chan even though she was only mentioned three short times during the movie?
-Bickering female castmembers become best friends? Check.
-Teammates who used to be a couple and fight to this day over the custody of their only daughter suddenly realise they still love each other and reunite making the kid very happy? Check.
-Teammate suddenly gets a text that his wife (who was never mentioned up until now) has gone into labour and comes back to show off newborn infant and radiant wife just 20 seconds later (seriously!)?
Even when the credits start rolling the footage just keeps coming. We get treated to bloopers and behind the scenes footage, and on top of that, we also get a special message from mr. Chan to his fans. And mr. Chan talking about performing stunts. And a compilation reel of his best stunts throughout the years. It just keeps going and going…
By the time the movie is over, I’m not so sure what has happened. This started out as a nice action movie with great stunts, but turned into “the movie that has everything”. Plot twists, pirates, explosions, kung fu, catchy oneliners, jokes, drama, romance, slapstick, more explosions, treasure, spies, Russians, female assassins, couch fight, kidnappings, exploding explosions, bitter rivalries, skydiving fights, French châteaus, robberies, … Whatever action movie cliché you can think of, Chinese Zodiac has it.
Did I enjoy the movie? You know, I actually kinda did. But the amount of plot and content gave me a headache. Or maybe that’s because I drank my soda too fast.