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Jackie Chan is the Prisoner
starring: Jackie Chan, Leung Ka Fai, Samo Hung

by jeremy
June 10, 2001

Now that Jackie Chan is as big a star in the US as he is everywhere else in the world (or nearly), various US distributors are trying to cash in on any movie the man has ever made. This includes films from the 60's and 70's that Jackie was hardly in. Hitting video stores across the country is a "new" movie that bears the title Jackie Chan is The Prisoner. (The original Chinese title is Huo Dao, or Fire Island. I guess it was renamed in order to prevent it from being mistaken for something belonging in the gay porn section.) While Jackie Chan is one of the stars of this movie, he's hardly prominent enough to have his name in the title. I guess Jackie Chan is one of Several Prisoners just isn't a great title. Jackie is teamed up with Leung Ka Fai, Samo Hung, Andy Lau (Liu De Hua), Wang Yu, and Ko Chun-Hsiung, some of Hong Kong's and Taiwan's biggest action stars, who all waived their salaries to let their film studio, Golden Harvest, raise money for a special project. As a result, they all share more or less equal screen time.

I first saw this movie about 6 years ago when I was living abroad. I had picked it up at that time NOT because of Jackie Chan, actually, but because of Leung Ka Fai (Liang Jia Hui in Mandarin), also known as Tony Leung. Leung is probably known to Western audiences for his role in the steamy The Lover. He's long been one of my favorite Hong Kong stars and his role is slightly more prominent than the others in this movie.

(Note: Please don't confuse Leung Ka Fai with Leung Chiu Wai, as the makers of the Jackie Chan is the Prisoner DVD did. In Leung's filmography, one of the special features of the DVD, they listed movies that had starred Leung Chiu Wai, not Leung Ka Fai. The problem, I think, is that both of them are called Tony Leung in English. Still, how embarrassing is that?)

The story is loosely based on a real Taiwan prison and its most notorious warden. Leung plays a cop sent in to investigate corruption in the prison. Jackie plays a hotshot billiards pro who refuses to take a dive during a match, thus perturbing a big mob boss who's bet against him. In the course of an ensuing melee, someone is killed and Jackie is pinned with the murder and sent to prison. This prompts another mob boss, played by Andy Lau, to seek revenge. He gets himself thrown into prison to try to kill Jackie. Samo Hung plays a long-term prisoner who's raison d'etre anymore is to escape and visit his son.

The movie is standard Hong Kong action, which means its brutal and melancholy. Jackie is in a few fight scenes, but they are short and pretty uninspiring. Jackie and his co-stars also stab and shoot people in this movie, which is unusual for Chan. Normally he plays characters who only fight to defend themselves.

If you're a die-hard Chan and/or Hong Kong action fan, go ahead and rent this movie. You probably wouldn't listen if I said not to. Still, if you're new to Jackie Chan or have never seen a Chan film, this is not the place to start. You'll be disappointed.

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