Jackie Chan has had an interesting time trying to connect to Western audiences over the years. Sure, during the late 70s and early 80s many could see him in dubbed versions of Shaolin Wooden Men, New Fist Of Fury, etc. But Chan and his producer friends were always eager to cross the ocean in between and make a splash in Hollywood. In 1980, Golden Harvest’s Raymond Chow was able to strike a deal with Warner Bros.’s Fred Weintraub, and Chan made his first attempt at breaking into the West with The Big Brawl. And while the movie did in fact generate a decent amount of box office revenue, it wasn’t seen as a huge success on either side of the ocean. Chan wouldn’t make it big in the United States for another fifteen years.
It’s been over two decades since Rumble In The Bronx established Chan as the action-comedy maestro we know him as Stateside, but in the meantime Jackie was already moving toward more dramatic roles back in China. Peppered among the laughs, Jackie had films like 1993’s Crime Story, a great deal of Who Am I?, and the impressively dark Shinjuku Incident. Not content to play a standard hero, Chan attempted to play against type in Rob-B-Hood, and gave a standout performance in his 2010 return to Western cinemas in The Karate Kid remake. It seems after five decades of success in the medium, Chan wants a different kind of credibility.
“I really want to be like an Asian Robert DeNiro who can do all kinds of things – comedy, drama, heavy roles,” he told the press at Cannes in 2013. “I want to let audiences knows that I am an actor who can fight. I am not an action star who can act.”
One of the things that’s always hampered Chan in this endeavor is his unwillingness to work with big name directors in the West. Ever since his early days, Chan has preferred to be the dominant voice when it comes to his brand. And to be fair, no one does it better. But this has had the unfortunate consequence of making Chan appear to be a one-trick pony.
At the beginning of last year, Jackie joined with GoldenEye and Casino Royale director, Martin Campbell, to make an action film in the mold of Taken or John Wick. An aging action star uses an old skillset to bring justice in a corrupt, chaotic world. In The Foreigner, Jackie plays a restaurant owner and former military professional out for revenge against terrorists. And in all honesty, it looks like Jackie as we’ve never seen him before:
I’m impressed. Campbell certainly seems to be bringing the goods and it’s definitely interesting see Chan as something of an anti-hero. And how fun is it to see Brosnan up in there? This could be great. I guess we’ll see how this all works out in October.