The 67-year-old superstar remains as prolific as ever, churning out a movie a year since 2019, despite the pandemic. While the presence of his name on a marquee continues to sell tickets, a number of his latest works have been critical bombs. On the Chinese Douban review platform, viewers rated last year’s “Vanguard” with a 4.5 out of 10, 2019’s “Mystery of the Dragon Seal: Journey to China” 3.6 out of 10, and “The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang” a 3.8.
His latest could break the streak. In “Ride On,” Chan will play a down-and-out, washed-up martial artist named Lao Luo, who is very attached to his beloved horse. When he becomes mired in a dispute over debt, however, it seems that the horse may be taken away from him, leading him to ask for help from his daughter Xiaobao (Liu) and her boyfriend (Guo), who embark on a road trip together to resolve the crisis.
Currently scheduled to release in 2022, the film is written and directed by Yang Zi, who helmed the light-hearted pet-themed film “Adoring,” released last New Year’s Eve.
“Ride On” is produced by Alibaba Pictures, Beijing Hairun Pictures and HG Entertainment Film Company. The film’s Chinese title roughly translates to “Dragon Horse Spirit,” with the dragon referring to Chan’s martial arts history and the horse being his beloved mount.
Alongside Chan, it stars “Adoring” actor Guo Qilin (the 25-year-old son of Guo Degang, one of China’s most recognizable crosstalk comedians) and Liu Haocun, the new young muse of Zhang Yimou whose star has risen rapidly after appearing in his “One Second” and “Cliff Walkers.”
Liu’s acting chops have been widely praised, with Zhang himself calling her the next Zhou Dongyu and even comparisons of her to a young Gong Li. But she has run into a measure of trouble with her public image online for an incident involving her parents’ dance training school. After a young student there became partially paralyzed after a spinal injury at the school, Liu’s parents tussled in court with the girl’s family over compensation issues, inciting criticism of the family for fighting the payment.
While the issue was settled, online detractors remain critical of Liu for not, as a public figure, offering a public statement or apology about the incident, which received a large amount of local press.
The incident may be tabloid-esque, but in China’s recent political climate, any whiff of scandal around an entertainer can quickly spiral out into calls for boycotts and even the erasure of past works — leaving some online questioning the film’s casting choice and whether it could have an impact on its future box office prospects.
Last year, Chan’s “Vanguard” made $44 million in China.