Saturday, September 2, 2017

Only now does it occur to me... GORGEOUS

Only now does it occur to me... that Jackie Chan has some opinions about Jean-Claude Van Damme.

First off, GORGEOUS is a one of Jackie's lesser-known ventures, and for good reason. When a movie, A. stars Jackie Chan and Tony Leung and B., is written, choreographed, and produced by Jackie Chan––a viewer might assume they were in the proximity of greatness. However, this particular film was made near the apex of Jackie's international stardom (in 1999, fresh off of '98's RUSH HOUR), and I believe he was in the, shall we say––"George Lucas/PHANTOM MENACE phase" of his creative output, in that no one was willing say "no" to his more questionable ideas. Consequently, what we have here is a part children's movie/part romantic comedy that is––for the most part––about CGI dolphins, fashion, recycling, a semi-creepy April/September romance, and questionable gay stereotypes.

One of the CGI dolphins in question.

Tony Leung is doing his best, it's true.

In that description, I've probably made it seem a little more fun than it actually is, but rest assured that for the majority of its runtime, GORGEOUS is dull and uncomfortable. [For context, my favorite '90s Jackie Chan films are RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER, and SUPERCOP. I have genuine love for WHO AM I?, SUPERCOP 2, CRIME STORY, and TWIN DRAGONS. And despite everything, I do enjoy RUSH HOUR.]

In any event, I come to you today, not to rip on Jackie Chan (whose filmography has brought me endless joy) but to interpret two glorious action sequences which appear in the latter half of the film.

First, I'll set the scene. Within the film, Jackie Chan plays a recycled paper magnate named "Jackie Chan," who is pursuing a young lady half his age (Qi Shu of THE TRANSPORTER)

which leads to many groan-inducing romantic scenarios, but it does inspire a few genuine laughs, like when a man follows Qi around with an electric fan to give her perpetually wind-blown hair:

and when Jackie is overwhelmed by the size of his snifter glass:

This is a highlight.

In any event, Jackie's also been navigating a volatile friendship with his childhood best bud, who is now a gangster. Because Jackie keeps getting the best of him (and humiliating his hired thugs), the gangster decides to import some outside talent from Europe:

When the fighter arrives, he's played by a Jackie Chan-ensemble stuntman named Bradley James Allan, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Jean-Claude Van Damme, in appearance, physique, and fighting style:

(not to be confused with Daniel Bernhardt, the original Jean-Faux Van Damme)

As if this were not immediately obvious, the gangster quickly cracks a JCVD-reference about his new Euro muscle:

I'm surprised they didn't say he was a master at "bloodsport."
And they proceed to make fun of him for being short

and I was certain that Jackie had included him to send him to some ignominious fate and thus get in some gentle JCVD ribbing, á la the Schwarzenegger vs. Stallone "feud"...but then it's Jean-Faux Van Damme II who defeats Jackie in their boxing/kickboxing duel. The entire exchange is very good-natured––more Roddy Piper vs. Keith David in THEY LIVE than JCVD vs. Bolo Yeung in BLOODSPORT, for instance.

This leads to a training montage and a subsequent rematch at Jackie's recycled paper factory. This is when Bradley James Allan truly gets his chance to shine. In a movie that is largely devoted to dolphin fondling, clichéd jokes, and first dates, this final action setpiece is a mini-masterpiece of kinetic martial arts insanity. The speed at which Jackie and Bradley ply their craft is jaw-dropping––and the stylistic similarities to JCVD action scenes are plain:

Jackie puts his own spin on it, however, and by the end the duel has evolved into a ballroom dance-fight with balletic lifts and other slapstick absurdities:

Whereupon they proceed to punch and kick each other silly until they go cross-eyed in a tableau even Jerry Lewis might deem unsubtle:

but they depart as friends.

Much like, apparently, in real life:

 And here I had no idea. While I've since learned that they've both appeared in KUNG FU PANDA sequels, here's hoping that one day they actually make a movie together...


Mike Bradley said...

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Sean Gill said...

Why, thank you, Mike!