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jackie chan, jennifer love hewitt, kung-fu

the Tuxedo
by jeremy    October 14, 2002

From my experience, people watch Jackie Chan films to see the following elements:

  1. Incredible and innovative martial arts action
  2. Dare-devil stunts carried out by Jackie himself
  3. Humor
Unfortunately, I don't think Hollywood or even Chan entirely understands this. Chan is nearing 50 and he has admitted that he cannot make his body do the kinds of things it used to do. As a result, Jackie wants to start making movies using more Hollywood special effects, so that while the action will still look incredible (he hopes), he won't need to put his life on the line for his most incredible stunts and action sequences.

"The Tuxedo," released nationwide on September 27, is the kind of movie Jackie may have had in mind. It was produced by Steven Spielberg (Dreamworks), a big fan of Chan's work, and utilizes the latest special effects technology to create much of the action. Hollywood special effects tend to minimize element 1 and altogether eliminate element 2. Having said that, "The Tuxedo" was a very enjoyable movie. I'm just not sure it was a very enjoyable "Jackie Chan movie."

The story is of Jimmy Tong, a New York City cab driver with a reputation for speed, who gets a job chauffeuring the billionaire super-spy Clark Devlin. When a bomb puts Devlin in the hospital, Tong fills in for him. To give Tong the necessary skills to do the job, he must don Devlin's super-deluxe tuxedo, a super-computer disguised as a silk suit. The tux gives Tong the ability to fight, shoot, defy gravity, even sing and dance like James Brown (this is a great scene wherein Chan must fill in for the Godfather of Soul as the "Last Emperor of Soul").

The new Devlin is assigned a partner, the rookie scientist-turned-spy Del Blaine, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. Together Blaine and Tong work to foil a plot by the baron of bottled water, Dietrich Banning, to poison the world's fresh water supply.

The movie is very funny. Apart from great Chan-inspired slapstick, there are plenty of funny lines and droll performances. Chan and Hewitt also have some nice chemistry and clearly enjoyed working together, though the end-of-the-film outtakes show that Hewitt may have enjoyed working with Chan too much (she seemed unable to stop laughing at the start of several scenes with Chan).

The action is a mixed bag. There are several fight sequences, but nothing stands out as extraordinary. Chan seemed to be the only martial artist on the set, which naturally limited what could be done. The stunts were also unimpressive, especially knowing that most of them (apart from the car chase scenes) were probably computer-generated effects.

I don't want Jackie to be jumping off of buildings without a net when he's 60 years old, but I am disappointed to see that he's started to make movies like this. Even the Rush Hour movies managed to crank out a couple of decent fight scenes. Jackie's still a world-class entertainer, but if "The Tuxedo" is what we have to look forward to from now on, Chan's best work is behind him.

as a general film: 3 out of 5
as a "Jackie Chan film": 2 out of 5

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