Universal // 2012 // 110 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 31st, 2014
Twelve heads. Five continents. One man.
Jackie Chan (Rush Hour) puts on multiple hats for this light-hearted action-adventure film including star, writer, producer, director and cinematographer. Caterer, probably, too.
Chan is Asian Hawk, which is either the dopiest or greatest name ever devised. He's a world-renowned adventurer/thief, who finds himself thrust in the middle of a treasure hunt that has ramifications for China's cultural heritage. The target: a collection of antique Chinese zodiac busts, worth multiple millions of dollars.
Hawk's pursuit of these valuables shuttles him through a series of daring action scenes including a Doberman chase through a hedge maze, a slide down a highway in some crazy full-body rollerblade suit and a death-defying logride (in addition to crazy, trademark Jackie Chan fight scenes). But at some point, Hawk will have to weigh his own ambition against his country's morale. And that journey will lead him to an experience many of us will face: skydive fighting on the precipice of an active volcano.
I will be the first to admit Jackie Chan is an unparalleled legend of the screen -- but I was never the biggest fan of his movies. While his death-defying stunts are a sight to be hold, the films themselves always struck me as too goofy, rendering his potential mortal wounds in the service of eye-popping stunts weaker, since the supporting plots were such gasbags. In the end, watching a Jackie Chan movie was similar to watching a stunt exhibition, and not a whole lot else.
Chinese Zodiac, up or down, fits perfectly into the Chan mold of fun time moviemaking. This isn't a serious film, steeped in slapstick moments. Even the villainy is tongue-in-cheek, fronted by Oliver Platt as the cheeky antiquities dealer who is revealed to be in the forgery business. He's a goofball through and through (he even laments the fact that some of his lesser thugs resort to kidnapping) and goes as far as mugging to the camera.
But he's just following the lead of everyone, first and foremost Mr. Chan himself. If you didn't know you were in for a romp, the opening scene hammered that point home. Here, Hawk zips around an Eastern European military bus in the aforementioned body roller blade outfit; it makes no sense why he would wear such a thing for a stealth heist (or why he does so in broad daylight) other than it offers some truly zany (CGI-enhanced) stunt sequences.
With the tone set, Chinese Zodiac moves forward nicely, save for a sag in the idle that relies too much on plot exposition that no once cars about. Hawk and his crew globetrot from mansions to Indy-like jungle complexes to hidden lairs, tailed by Jackie Chan's inventive stunt set-ups. My favorite stuff remains Chan's hand-to-hand combat bits, expertly choreographed and a fantastic showcase of the man's athletic talents. The two-tier fight scene in the forgers' hideout is infectiously entertaining and sports some nice comic beats.
The Blu-ray: a clean 2.39:1, 1080p transfer, so rich in resolution it's easy to pinpoint all the corporate logos that show up over the course of the film, supported by an active DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix. An hour-long making-of documentary is the lone extra, aside from digital and UltraViolet copies of the film
What we're left with is, well, a typical Jackie Chan movie: fast, light, semi-coherent, and decent fun. If that sounds like a good time to you (and it should!) take Chinese Zodiac for a spin.
Not Guilty. KA-POW!
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Digital Copy
* UltraViolet Download