Latest Jackie Chan caper "Rob-B-Hood" plays to the jovial action star's strengths while saddling him with a helpless-men-and-a-baby formula long past its sell-by date. Slated for late a September opening, family fare pic should do respectable biz in locally, though offshore revenues will depend on DVD sales.

Latest Jackie Chan caper “Rob-B-Hood” plays to the jovial action star’s strengths while saddling him with a helpless-men-and-a-baby formula long past its sell-by date. Mildly fun ride has none of the darkness of “New Police Story,” his previous pairing with helmer Benny Chan, instead banking on Jackie’s tried-and-true comic charm in a standard baby kidnapping farce enlivened by just enough action sequences to keep hoary diaper scenes from soiling the playpen. Slated for late a September opening, family fare pic should do respectable biz in locally, though offshore revenues will depend on DVD sales.

Compulsive gambler Thongs (Jackie Chan) and ladies’ man Octopus (Louis Koo, “Election”) will steal anything to support their addictions to gambling and the good life. Opening is the best scene in the film, as the two switch from stealing medicine to rescuing a baby (Matthew Medvedev) plucked from the arms of his mother (Cherrie In) by her despairing ex-b.f. Max (Terence Yin). Inspired by the possibilities afforded in a soaring hospital atrium, helmer Chan puts together a thrillingly choreographed display.

Thongs and Octopus usually get their assignments from their landlord (comic thesp Michael Hui), now set to retire with a safe full of cash and a delusional wife (Teresa Carpio) clutching a baby doll as if it’s their real infant, who died years earlier. But when the landlord is robbed, he convinces his reluctant associates to take on a kidnapping job expected to land them a huge amount of dough.

The target is the same baby the boys rescued earlier. Thongs and Octopus wind up looking after the kid, resulting in the usual gags that appeal to auds for whom the mere sight of a gurgling infant elicits smiles. By the time the dynamic duo is forced to hand over the bundle of joy to Max’s Triad boss father (Chen Baoguo), they’ve developed a bond too paternalistic to permit any dastardly shenanigans.

Final action in an amusement park has its death-defying moments, but nothing in the two-hour-plus pic matches the energy and creativity of the initial hospital sequence, and wait time between cutesy baby scenes and adrenalin-filled chases is too drawn out. Martial arts choreography is generally strong, though occasional CGI feels overly slowed down.

Chan and Koo make a successful team, obviously enjoying each other’s playfulness, and they’re different enough to preclude any danger of rivalry. Women are given short shrift, from Gao Yuanyuan’s bland part as a nurse to Charlene Choi’s wasted role as Octopus’ long-ignored wife.

At his best, Benny Chan’s usual d.p. Anthony Pun (occasionally credited as Poon) displays a masterful ease with complicated spatial constructions, obviously enjoying the expansive possibilities of scope. Music incorporates a variety of styles, including hip-hop, to keep things moving.

Rob-B-Hood

Hong Kong-China

Production

A JCE Movies presentation, in association with JCE Movies (Hong Kong)/Huayi Brothers Film Investment Co. (China), with the assistance of China Film Co-Production Corp., of a Jackie Chan production. (International sales: Emperor Motion Pictures, Hong Kong.) Produced by Benny Chan, Willie Chan, Solon So, Wang Zhonglei. Executive producers, Jackie Chan, Albert Yeung, Wang Zhongjun. Directed by Benny Chan. Screenplay, Jackie Chan, Benny Chan, Alan Yuen.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Anthony Pun; editor, Yau Chi-wai; music, Chan Fai-young@Hilarious; production designer, Choo Sung-pong; art director, Wong Ching-ching; costume designers, Thomas Chong, Cindy Cheung; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Kinson Tsang; stunt director, Jackie Chan; stunt choreographers, Li Chung-chi, JC Stunt Team; assistant director, Tong Ka-wai. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Sept. 8, 2006. Running time: 134 MIN.

With

Jackie Chan, Louis Koo, Michael Hui, Gao Yuanyuan, Chen Baoguo, Matthew Medvedev, Teresa Carpio, Charlene Choi, Yuen Biao, Conroy Chan, Andrew Lin, Terence Yin, Kenneth Low, Hiro Hayama, Chen Baoguo, Cherrie In, Lisa S. (Cantonese dialogue)
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