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Thunderbolt

Plot-light story has Chan as a Hong Kong mechanic who can tell the make and faults of a car simply by hearing it pass by. He and his crew, led by avuncular Uncle Tung (vet director Chor Yuen), are busy towing away illegally souped-up cars when hit man-cum-racing enthusiast Cougar (Thorsten Nickel) gives his private batmobile a nocturnal workout on the colony's highways.

With:
Chan Foh-to (Jackie) ... Jackie Chan Amy Ip ... Anita Yuen Steve Cannon ... Michael Wong Cougar ... Thorsten Nickel Uncle Tung ... Chor Yuen

Plot-light story has Chan as a Hong Kong mechanic who can tell the make and faults of a car simply by hearing it pass by. He and his crew, led by avuncular Uncle Tung (vet director Chor Yuen), are busy towing away illegally souped-up cars when hit man-cum-racing enthusiast Cougar (Thorsten Nickel) gives his private batmobile a nocturnal workout on the colony’s highways.

When Chan beats Cougar in an impromptu race, and the psycho is hauled in by Interpol agent Steve Cannon (Eurasian Michael Wong), the revenge scenario is set in motion. In a breathtakingly dangerous sequence (shot in blurred slo-mo) that ranks as a classic even by Chan’s standards, Cougar trashes Chan’s workplace and kidnaps his two sisters, challenging our hero to meet him on the racetrack in Japan.

TX: TX:A New Line release (in U.S.) of a Golden Harvest production. (International sales: Miramax Intl.) Produced by Leonard C.H. Ho. Executive producer, Chua Lam. TX:Directed by Gordon Chan. Screenplay, Chan, Chan Hing-ka, Kwok Wai-chung. Observing events from the sidelines is perky, micro-skirted news anchor Amy Ip (popular Anita Yuen, from “C’est la Vie, Mon Cheri”), who wants to turn the publicity-shy Chan into a local hero. She gets her chance by sinking her savings into financing a race car for Chan.

With Chan in more dramatic mode, and with an uncomplicated plot that is basically a long lead-up to a final confrontation with the villain, the pic makes far less use of the character comedy that drove “Rumble” and far more use of various ingenious fight sequences. Aside from the above-mentioned, there’s a snappily choreographed kickfest in a Japanese pachinko arcade, plus several smaller boutsthat show Chan, now in his early 40s, has lost none of his agility.

The fingerprints of two highly experienced action choreographers, both directors in their own rights, are clearly visible throughout the movie: Sammo Hung in the seriocomic fight sequences and Frankie Chan in the car stunts. The latter, especially, makes good use of the wide screen and shows a profligate disregard for autos.

Like Chan’s earlier “City Hunter,” the film is clearly tailored to his vast Japanese audience — from the second half set entirely in Japan to bevies of Nipponese babes urging Jackie to victory. In that respect, “Thunderbolt” doesn’t have quite the international appeal of pics such as “Rumble” or “First Strike.” And though she’s cute enough to eat, the elfin-faced Yuen isn’t given as meaty a role as, say, comedian Anita Mui in “Rumble.” Largely relegated to the sidelines , she establishes no special screen chemistry with the star.

Though largely unsmiling, Chan handles his chores with elan and is given the most stylish framework by young director Gordon Chan since the Kirk Wong-directed “Crime Story.” In sheer helming technique, “Thunderbolt” is streets ahead of the work by Chan’s regular action director, Stanley Tung, despite having no less than six cameramen credited.

Pic was reportedly the most expensive H.K. production ever, clocking in at almost $ 30 million, twice the cost of “Rumble.” On local release last August, it racked up a super but not record-breaking $ 6 million, lower than both “Rumble” and “First Strike.”

Thunderbolt

Production: Thunderbolt (PIKLIK FO) (Hong Kong -- Action -- Color)

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen) , Chan Kwong-yan, Lam Kwok-wah, Wong Wing-hang, Tseng Tsiu-keung, Lau Hung-chun, Kwan Chi-ching; editor, Peter Cheung; art direction, Ma Kwong-yung; costume design, Cheung Sai-kit; sound, in Dolby Stereo; post-production supervisor, Liang Chih-hua; stunt director, Sammo Hung; car stunts director, Frankie Chan; stunt coordinators, Jackie Chan's Stunt Team, Sammo Hung's Stunt Team. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Market), May 12, 1996. Running time: 108 min.

With: Chan Foh-to (Jackie) ... Jackie Chan Amy Ip ... Anita Yuen Steve Cannon ... Michael Wong Cougar ... Thorsten Nickel Uncle Tung ... Chor YuenWith: Yuzo Kazama, Mari Eguro, Sing Kuei-on, Yuen Kuei. (Cantonese, English and Japanese dialogue) Jackie Chan sheds much of his boyish charm in "Thunderbolt," a darker, more serious stuntfest than the U.S.-set "Rumble in the Bronx" and the Bond-like "First Strike," between which it was shot. A stylishly directed, straight-arrow actioner set in the world of racing cars, the movie is a tony ride for fight geeks and piston fanatics, though New Line may have a tougher time selling this less-humorous entry in North America.

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