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.”