The Big Brawl a.k.a. Battle Creek Brawl (1980): Breakdown by Kain424
In an alternate 1930s America, where Chinese men can become wealthy doctors and date Caucasian women without it causing a stir, Jackie Chan must enter a fighting tournament to win back his brother’s kidnapped mail-order wife. Also, there’s a roller derby for some reason.
Here lies an interesting little film, made back when the Kung Fu craze began by Bruce Lee was finally dying down. Jackie Chan had become a rather big star in his native China, and was now set to move to the international scene. The director, and much of the crew, from Enter The Dragon was hired by Warner Brothers to make it all happen. Unfortunately, Jackie Chan was not Bruce Lee.
Even in China, Chan’s films floundered when they attempted to match the serious tone of Lee’s movies. Lee’s films were less about style than drama and power. Chan, who had worked with Lee in both Fist Of Fury and Enter The Dragon, made lighter films, full of comic relief. Instead of the flexed power of Lee, Chan was fast, acrobatic, and rhythmic. So to watch The Big Brawl is an interesting experience, both fun and sad.
The biggest flaw in this film is not, however, that the film makers want Chan to be Lee, but that the comedy is simply underdone. In a film that is apparently aware of Jackie’s comic ability, there are many jokes that just go nowhere. For instance, when Kwan’s brother’s wife is switched with a bubblegum-chewing prostitute, you’d expect all sorts of fun hijinks, but it is never mentioned again. This sort of thing goes on and on throughout the film, making it more boring than better. All that’s left is the fighting, and even that gets bungled.
Most of Chan’s opponents are huge musclemen, very strong but very slow. Chan essentially runs circles around them, and in classic comic fashion. And when I say classic, I mean very classic. Think Three Stooges and Buster Keaton meets Speedy Gonzáles (also from Warner Bros.) and you’ll have a clue what I mean. Almost all of the fights feature a frustratingly awkward slowness on the one side, and a ridiculous speed (if somewhat reserved at times) on the other. It can get painful to watch at times.
So how much you enjoy this film, set in the 1930s but featuring a 70s-style roller derby, will depend greatly on how you can handle the Three Stooges and, well, Jackie Chan on a bad day.
[HOW BAD-ASS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER?]
Jackie Chan is Jerry Kwan
Chan plays Kwan as a sort of happy-go-lucky guy, as he normally plays his characters, with little flare other than his relationship with Kirsten DeBell’s character. He’s sort of a goofball, but is being trained by his uncle, Mako, (yeah, I know he’s Japanese, but whatever) to become a bad-ass.
Jerry’s not about being strong, but instead, a sort of durable, speeding, rollerskating kick-artist. It works when he’s fighting, but nothing about him is intimidating to even the weakest of the goons whom he opposes. Bad-ass or not? I’d say not.
[THE BODY COUNT: 1]
Jackie’s fiercest opponent, to give you another idea of the tone of this film, is a guy called Billy Kiss. This is apparently a nick-name, because Billy likes to kiss his opponents after beating them and hugging them to submission. One hug goes too far and kills a guy, and it’s mentioned that this has happened in the past.
Still, that’s one kill.
[MOST SATISFYING ASS-KICKING]
Though I enjoy the end fight between Jerry and Billy Kiss, I enjoy the fight in the theater much more. Jackie is finally able to let loose, and with lightning speed, takes out several 30s goons with his Mako-trained kung fu skills. It borders on Bruce Lee imitation, but it’s still pretty cool.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
It’s about as gay as a film can be that begins and ends with a man kissing another man. As I mentioned above, the fiercest enemy in this film is a huge guy who hugs and kisses his opponents. If that’s not enough for you, then this film also features more bears than a zoo, but with way less clothing. Prepare for a lot of man-meat when watching this one, folks. And bring a handkerchief.
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
The women in this film are completely there for the sake of it. They are sexual objects and pawns, providing very little to the story. Sure, the whole point of Jackie entering in the fight contest is to get his brother’s MAIL-ORDER BRIDE back, but once the fight is over, so is the movie. Do they get her back? No one cares.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
My favorite moment is the chase scene between Billy Kiss and Jerry Kwan. Billy chases Jerry through a crowd of fight spectators, with Kwan cartoonishly popping up in different disguises throughout. This is all done in a single crane shot, showcasing Jackie Chan’s incredible speed. Just try following him!
[flashvideo filename=videos/BigBrawlFunny.wmv.FLV /]
My favorite line actually belongs to this old, batty lady that’s in the film for only a couple scenes. Still, she’s so goofy that she winds up being hilarious. One 30s gangster, talking about how he could find Chan’s character, get this retort from grandma:
“You couldn’t find a whore on Russ Street.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Speed beats power. And don’t feed the bears.
[THE GIST OF JACKIE: 5 outta 5]
[X] Breaks Into Someplace Or Escapes By Way Of Acrobatics
[X] Has An Annoying Tag-Along Companion
[X] Makes The ‘OW!’ Face And/Or Rubs A Soar Spot
[X] Performs A Ridiculously Dangerous Stunt
[X] Uses A Random Object To Defend Himself
[THE CHECKLIST: 10 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[ ] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[ ] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting [Jackie Chan]
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[ ] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[ ] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
Battle Creek Bear Hug
The Big Brawl © Warner Bros., Golden Harvest & 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment