The bod’s still in shape, and the looks are still boyish, but 40-something Jackie Chan takes it a tad more gently in “Rumble in the Bronx,” an enjoyable comedy-actioner whose ooh-aah moments are mostly confined to the last few reels. This N.Y.-set update of Bruce Lee’s “Return of the Dragon” lacks the sheer oomph of Chan’s best pics, and doesn’t have the feel of a breakthrough title for the star in Western theatrical markets, as U.S. distrib New Line clearly hopes it will be. Homevid still looks like its best bet.
Pic broke records at the Hong Kong box office during Chinese New Year in January ’95, and did socko business throughout the rest of East Asia, including mainland China. Movie also played North America’s Chinatown circuit at the same time, as well as featuring in a 10-pic Chan retro at Gotham’s Cinema Village. This New Line version has been recut and looped for wide U.S. release in English.
While Bruce Lee’s 1972 classic (aka “The Way of the Dragon”) had the superstar visiting Rome and defending a Chinese woman’s restaurant against lotsa nasty foreigners, “Rumble” has Chan visiting New York and defending a Chinese woman’s supermarket against lotsa multiethnics.
Though East-West differences are played down in the ’90s-conscious script, the movie is still basically about a little Chinese guy standing up for decent values against Western street-trash.
Chan is H.K. cop Keung, who comes to N.Y. for the wedding of Uncle Bill (vet Bill Tung), who’s selling his business after 20 years. The store is bought by the glamorous Elaine (singer-actress Anita Mui), who can’t wait to get rid of it when a gang of local bikers gets heavy after she refuses to pay protection money.
In between the various set-tos and chases between Chan and the gang (including one in which he’s a target in a bottle-throwing contest), there’s a subplot about some stolen diamonds ending up in the wheelchair of a crippled Chinese kid, Danny, whom Chan befriends. Kid’s sister, Nancy, is also a biker moll who works at a girly bar.
For most of the first hour, Chan is reactive, relying on stunts and chases rather than heavy-duty slugging. When the first real fight set piece comes, though, in the gang’s stolen goods-packed lair, it’s a peach, mixing comedic and athletic invention in vintage measure.
But without a classic villain with whom Chan can have a last-reel showdown, pic climaxes instead with visual showpieces (like the supermarket being demolished and a Hovercraft run amok on the streets) that lack a human dimension. Though Chan wins his usual stripes for death-defying stunts (one of which put him temporarily in a wheelchair), the movie ends on a dramatically unsatisfying note.
As in Chan’s previous (and much superior) starrer, “Drunken Master II,” Mui makes a standout comic partner, especially in a classic moment when she finally loses her temper amid the wreckage of her store. Other roles are OK within their limits, and the violence (apart from thebottle sequence) is restrained.
Gothamites will be surprised to see their city surrounded by beautiful mountains and bays that look uncommonly like Vancouver. Aside from a few establishing shots, whole pic was shot in B.C. Tech credits are good, and there’s the usual montage of outtakes and shots of Chan injured under the final crawl.