Jack Chan Film Guide: Overview - The Part-Time Critic

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Jack Chan Film Guide: Overview

*Last Updated 7/30/2022  

*If you want to skip straight to a film, click CTRL+F and type the name of the film

Jackie Chan's filmography is so vast and filled with varying quality that it can be difficult to know what to look for. If you'd like something easier to navigate, I made a more focused list of the Top Ten Essential Jackie Chan Films (Coming Soon!) that you might find more helpful. If you are just interested in Jackie's Chan's action scenes you can find a top ten article I wrote HERE and a guide to every other action scene HERE. This article is my attempt to provide a quick guide to it all. I've tried to include pretty much every significant film he has been in, but films with really small parts or cameos I have excluded here. I'll give each film a normal letter grade as a rating to give you an idea of its overall quality and then I will also give the film a special viewability rating to give you an indication of how watchable I think the film is. I hope you find this resource helpful. Here's the scale I'll be using:
Viewability Scale Ratings:
4: Essential Viewing for Chan Fans
3: Watchable but Faulty
2: Grit Your Teeth Until the Redeemable Moments
1: For Chan Completionists Only


- The 1970's -
Total Major Films: 7
Best of the Decade: The Fearless Hyena
Worst of the Decade: Dragon Fist


Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Released before Drunken Master, this film marked the first collaboration between Jackie Chan and director/choreographer Yuen Woo Ping (of Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame). It gained some popularity and put both men on the radar. It's a serviceable kung fu comedy with a stereotypical plotline: a follower of eagle style kung fu is traveling around looking to stamp out anyone who follows snake style. Jackie of course learns snake style from an old beggar (the same kind of situation as Drunken Master) and eventually combines it with a hybrid of cat style. It's all quite silly and basic for kung fu films of the 1970's, but Jackie would add a sense of acrobatics and comedy to Yeun's choreography that makes it all feel quite fresh. Not as good as Drunken Master, but still worthy of a watch. 

Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin (1978)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: This early traditional kung fu film from Jackie Chan was produced by Wei Lo, the producer/director behind many of Bruce Lee's biggest films. This film has one of those traditional martial arts demonstrations in its openings and I think it's nice to see Jackie Chan in one of these roles. For those who don't know, this martial arts demonstration tradition is a bit like western historical epics putting an entr'acte at the beginning of the film or a Bond film's gun barrel sequence. The plot here is simple, there are eight masters at Shaolin Temple who have combined their skills together into the Snake and Crane Arts. They wrote their techniques down in a book and have since disappeared. We then meet a young Jackie Chan (in an unusual wig) and learn that he somehow has acquired the book and is on a quest to find a mysterious figure for an untold reason. This is a simple setup for a lot of fight sequences as kung fu clans challenge him (and each other) for the book (5 different fights in the first thirty minutes alone). This simple setup proves to be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it stays simple and we get a lot of fights. On the other, we get far too many fights of varying quality that they often feel redundant with the story stretched far too thin. The finale sequence sees Jackie Chan take on the leader of the Black Dragon clan in the movies best fighting sequence. It's a showcase for Jackie and his skills and one of his better finale fights in these traditional kung fu films. This film is ripe for an action re-make as the plot is a great foundation, but it needs better writing, more efficient plotting, and some better characterization to bring out the interesting themes just ripe for exploration. 

Magnificent Bodyguards (1978)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: The trivia section of IMDB says this is the first Hong Kong movie to be filmed for 3-D cameras and it shows from the opening sequence. Jackie is fighting a bunch of goons who are all going at him with wooden poles. The poles allow the scene some depth of field and are often thrown directly at the camera (3-D!!!) or placed in the foreground to be impressive. It would be easy to think this would be a gimmick film with 3-D being used to sell a bad movie, but that would be an unwarranted assumption. In fact, this turns out to one of the more interesting plots and kung fu universes. Unfortunately, the final act fails to deliver (dramatically and in the action), but up until then, it's one of the better early kung fu film of Chan's career. The opening fight itself turns out to be Jackie Chan showing the goons that he would be a good hire for their boss as a bodyguard. Jackie plays Ting Chung, a prideful and cocky kung fu fighter, which can be a nice change for those used to seeing play nothing but the comedic underdog. The plot setup is fairly simple - a boss wants Chan to put together a bodyguard team (hence the title) to escort her sick brother to the capital city that requires a journey through a particularly dangerous stretch of terrain known as the mythical Stormy Mountains and is filled with kung fu bosses and bandits. The bodyguard team includes the Twin Swords (twin sisters wielding...you guessed it...swords), a deaf leather worker, and a guy named Tsang who carries a sword, can tear limbs (he destroys the Dart King!), and skins his victims. The journey through the mountains is varied and interesting as they come across different obstacles like native tribes pushing rocks on them in canyon passes, robbers faking the need of help only to turn on them, and ambushes in Buddhist temples. I won't spoil the actual ending, but suffice to say that the twist they go for is fairly underwhelming. Action wise, there's one pretty good sequence in a Buddhist temple, but the film gets bogged down in a bunch of smaller and less interesting sequences and then never quite delivers in the finale (a rarity for a Wei Lo film). Like Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin, it's a really interesting premise that ultimately gets wasted. At least the film gave us this incredible snake pit sequence with Jackie!
Drunken Master (1978)
Overall Grade: ?
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Spiritual Kung Fu (1978)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: The basic setup here is that prized secret fighting manual is stolen from the Shaolin Temple in order to learn the fight for a future tournament. Despite this seriousness, much of the film is given over to comedy bits that just don't work for me. The plot is scattered and Jackie Chan is absent from the story for large portions. Skip this one. It was filmed back to back with 1979's Dragon Fist. Those two films were shot and shelved due to studio issues, but when Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master became surprise hits, the studio released them. 

The Fearless Hyena (1979)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: 4
Commentary: The first film to be written and directed by Jackie Chan. He is taught his family's special kung fu style by his grandpa and told never to reveal it. You can probably guess that Chan ends up revealing it can't you? He needs a job and he gets one as the prize fighter of a kung fu school, but he's forced to wear disguises to try and hide his style. This setup allows for some interesting prize fight sequences as Chan tries to disguise his looks and style. Eventually though he is discovered and this draws in an old enemy of the family who wants to take Jackie out. The enemy kills his grandpa, but he's trained by another master in a several fun and entertaining lessons/tests. One of the tests is a little scene where the master and Jackie fight with chopsticks over food - it's so much more complicated than you can imagine and it's the inspiration for a similar scene in Kung Fu Panda. Eventually Jackie is ready and he faces off against the old master who killed his grandpa. It's a two stage fight where Jackie must first take out a trio of guards wielding glaives (Chinese guandaos). This stage is incredible. There's some wonky moments here, but there are some stunning weapons choreography beats here as well. The second stage is a "go for broke" fight where Jackie goes "fearless hyena" on him by running through a gambit of crazy emotions - overjoyed laughing, total relaxation, and also just pitiful crying. The idea here is that the emotions (like being drunk) can relax him, make him unpredictable, and play mind games with the opponent. Eventually, Jackie resorts back to a normal fight and we get a couple of excellent traditional hand to hand kung fu choreography. For those who wonder if Chan could pull off traditional kung fu with 15-20 moves before and edit only need watch this finale. This is a classic traditional style Kung Fu film right from the golden era. The key for me is that this lacks a lot of the groan worthy "comedy" sequences and plot convolutions. It is easy to watch with a likeable lead, a simple premise, fun training scenes, and a variety of unique and memorable fights. A traditional kung fu classic.

Dragon Fist (1979)
Overall Grade: D+
Viewability: 1
Commentary: Twenty-five minutes into the film and I'm struggling to follow what this film wants to accomplish. This is another Wei Lo directed and produced kung fu film from Jackie's early career and it's a bit of a mess. I'll say this for the Wei Lo films, they are always able to find nice locations, beautiful old buildings, and give at least a nice finale fight so there's that aspect to enjoy! The primary plot here is your standard kung fu revenge story about avenging the death of his master, but it gets really over-complicated really quick as it drops that plot to pursue several other strands about local clans and bosses. If you are interested in seeing Chan at his most Bruce Lee like though, with a generally serious and stern demeanor and a fighting style complete with quick strikes (within the normal dance like kung fu choreography) and a couple "whaaaa" sounds after them, then you'll probably enjoy the 'okay' action sequences here a bit more. Most of the film is throwaway material until you get to a series of fights in the finale when Jackie Chan is allowed to actually let go and do some awesome stuff. Not worth sitting through well over an hour of garbage to get to a fight you can find the equal of elsewhere. 


- The 1980's -
Total Major Films: 20
Best of the Decade: My Lucky Stars, Project A, Police Story, The Young Master
Worst of the Decade: The Fearless Hyena 2, Heart of Dragon

The Young Master (1980)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Coming out the year after The Fearless Hyena, this traditional style kung fu film was directed and co-written by Jackie Chan. The plot is a bit more complicated than The Fearless Hyena as it strays from the "get trained by an old master and then get revenge" template of Snake in the Eagles Shadow, Drunken Master, and The Fearless Hyena. Essentially, Chan is part of a martial arts school and he goes on a quest to find and restore his big brother who was kicked out. Along the way he gets into several fights and involved in lots of comedy sequences based on misunderstandings. There's several creative fights, the best being a wooden bench fight with Yuen Baio and a lengthy fight in a house featuring pipes, a sword, and the use of a skirt. A few things however keep it a notch below The Fearless Hyena. First, the humor here can sometimes be too much and a bit intolerable. Second, the finale fight sequence is a bit of a letdown as I feel its overly repetitive and not very creative. That said, this is one of the more watchable and enjoyable traditional kung fu films in Jackie's filmography and if that interests you, give it a chance. 

Battle Creek Brawl (1980)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: Jackie Chan's very first American made film. Chan has said he made this film and The Cannonball Run while he was in America exiled from Hong Kong temporarily due to some issues with contracts and the Triads. The film is directed by Robert Clouse, who directed Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee, takes place in 1930's Chicago area, and Jackie plays a young martial artist named Jerry who gets caught up in a street fighting tournament corrupted by gangsters. It's mediocre stuff, but it moves quickly and the fights are plenty. You can tell by the choreography there's still a little expectation for Chan to be like Bruce - but he gets a couple "Chan" like moves by the end. 

The Cannonball Run (1981)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: A big break for Jackie to get this small role in an ensemble comedy featuring Burt Reynolds. It is one of those laid back 'good od boy' comedies that plays like a mix between It's a Mad Mad Mad World and Smokey and the Bandit. The central plot is a cross-country race from New York to California with a cast of international celebrities filling out the racers, and a laid-back comical tone filled with stunts, gags, and lounge comedy (chauvinist/alcohol/insult/stereotypes humor). Jackie Chan is in one of his first U.S. productions here as a Japanese driver dependent on an electronically souped-up car. It’s a full on stereotype that sees him turn into a karate master in the film’s big group fight scene as well. His car fails because he turns on a porno tape while he is driving and gets distracted. Yeah, that’s the humor level; the depiction of the rich Arab entry is even more flat and one note. Still, at the end of the day, the film’s laid-back style and the charisma of the many stars does give the film a certain infectious optimism that is hard to not enjoy. It’s a tone that pervaded films of this era (think Smokey and the Bandit, The Blues Brothers, Animal House and Meatballs) and in one moment it makes me cringe and another smile and laugh. 

Dragon Lord (1982)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Fantasy Mission Force (1983)
Overall Grade: ?
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

The Fearless Hyena 2 (1983)
Overall Grade: D
Viewability: 1
Commentary: This film is another traditional kung fu story about a group called heaven and earth trying to cleanse the world of the Yin--Ying brotherhood. Apparently there was a lot of behind the scenes issues here with Jackie Chan departing the film and studio for another in the middle of filming causing footage from previous films and stunt doubles to be used to finish. The final product shows it - with longer than usual portions of gambling hijinks and comedy bits surrounded by choppy and short fights, most without Jackie (he has two actual ones in the film). 

Winners & Sinners (1983)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Project A (1983)
Overall Grade: A-
Viewability: 4
Commentary: Coming soon...

Cannonball Run II (1984)
Overall Grade: ?
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Wheels on Meals (1984)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Set in Spain, this comedy film features Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, and Sammo Hung getting caught up in some inheritance and gangster schemes. It's a pretty breezy and light film with Chan & Biao getting a chance to show off their egos a bit (and humble them in true Chan fashion as well!) in many "comedy" sequences. It's most known for the big action finale set in a castle and featuring the great one on one fight between Chana and Bennie "The Jet" Urquidez. 

My Lucky Stars (1985)
Overall Grade: B
Viewability: 4
Commentary: If you are just a viewer of Jackie's most popular films then it could be easy to miss out on a major aspect of his filmography: his collaborative work with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, collectively known as "The Three Brothers". They are called that because they each trained at the Peking Opera together and struck up a friendship. They then entered the Hong Kong film industry around the same time and would often collaborate with each other - whether that is star in each others films, make cameos, or work behind the scenes. Sammo Hung would go on to direct and choreograph many of Jackie's films. The story here is that Yuen Biao has been captured by a notorious Japanese gang and Jackie cannot recover him alone. Sammo Hung, a criminal genius and friend of Jackie's, is brought out of Hong Kong jail to assemble a team (more like a team of comedic misfits) to travel to Japan and help Chan recover Yuen. My Lucky Stars is a kind of all-star collaboration not just of the three brothers, but with many famous Asian martial artists and actors as well; even Bolo Yueng makes a cameo appearance! It's part two of a "Lucky Stars" trilogy that began with 1983's Winners & Sinners, continued with My Lucky Stars, and ended with Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars. The film is filled with examples of the popular style of humor - lots of arguments and spats within the group, jokes about the guys lusting over the female star (these are pretty embarassing and gross even if done in good humor), and misunderstanding hijinx. I'm not a big fan of this style of humor (thankfully it would be dropped from most of Chan's post Rumble in the Bronx work), but this movie is a pretty good introduction to when it works (there's a hilarious sequence where the guys try to mime their order since they don't speak Japanese) and when it fails. The deeper reason to see this film is not just the comedy collaboration, but the action collaboration. I only give this an honorable mention because Jackie's only in about 40 minutes or so, the first 10 and the last 30, pretty much for just the action sequences. The standout sequence here is a creative fight (there's nothing like it in Chan's canon) where Jackie finds himself in a Japanese haunted house/maze with genuine life threatening obstacles and ninjas coming out of nowhere. It's awesome and an example of what could happen when Jackie collaborated with other creatives. 

The Protector (1985)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: An American produced crime film starring Jackie Chan. Reportedly, Chan disliked this experience so much and felt like it focused too much on foul language, nudity, and violence that it inspired him to create Police Story - his own vision of a good modern police film. The truth is that it's not a bad film, it's just a mediocre crime film with an emphasis on gore, sex, and action. There's a grittiness to Hong Kong that is fresh to see in a Chan film, but its a mostly skippable sequence if not for seeing Jackie in some more grounded (yet still Chan influenced) sequences - like a stunt filled foot chase in the Hong Kong harbor and the main fight with the head goon. The director claims Jackie was okay with it and wanted a harder edge, but once his devoted fans disliked it he changed his tune. I think it's likely a bit of both. I think Chan likely wanted to try new things and after backlash decided he had a brand to protect. Anyways, if you like gritty R-rated cop stories you'll likely enjoy this one. 

Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985)
Overall Grade: ?
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Heart of Dragon (1985)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 2
Commentary: Jackie and Sammo's heart is in the right place here, but their attempt to tell the story of a cop (Jackie Chan) who quits his dreams to take care of his mentally disabled older brother just doesn't have the necessary delicacy or insight that this topics require. In other words, it's just not their lane. Don't worry, as with almost all his films, that's just the gimmick laid on top of another "and then get's mixed up with criminals" storyline to allow for plenty of action set pieces. The action here is fine (choreographed by Sammo and primarily Yuen Biao), but this troupe just doesn't have the cinematic skills to handle the topic of mental disability well. 

Police Story (1985)
Overall Grade: A-
Viewability: 4
Commentary: Coming soon...

Armour of God (1986)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: The first entry into Jackie Chan's "Asian Hawk" trilogy that has Jackie play some kind of combination between Indiana Jones and James Bond. The hunt for artifacts takes him all over the world, but rather than play the frumpy anti-action hero like Harrison Ford, Chan uses the opportunity to try and be cool with his own Bond like take on flashy cars (Mitsubishi of course), athletic yet stlyish outfits, and fancy ways of throwing gum in his mouth (only Jackie). I think the action here is superior to the much more talked about sequel Operation Condor and the comedy/romance are only one-tenth as annoying here as well. Pretty good stuff. 

Project A Part II (1987)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: The sequel to 1983's big comedy action hit is a bit disappointing as it feels like a lesser film in almost every way - most notably the loss of Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung. The plot is scattered, the comedy really hit or miss, and the action scenes (though hard hitting) don't feel as fully realized as you'd expect from a major Jackie film. 

Dragons Forever (1988)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 2
Commentary: The final film featuring the Peking Opera Brothers (Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Jackie Chan) is an odd film about competing law firms and a drug ring. Jackie is playing a kind of vain lawyer trying to woo a woman and their comedy sequences are really groan worthy. Sammo Hung plays a private detective hired to get close to another woman and falls in love, but it feels more like stalking than genuine love. Yuen Biao plays a kind of crazy person. Despite these odd roles and several misses at humor and romance, their is a charisma that makes it fairly easy to watch. The action sequences, including a fantastic finale are the gem here - but you can find better sequences without paying the price for the melodrama. 

Police Story 2 (1988)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Jackie Chan certainly tried to recapture the magic of his popular and critically acclaimed Police Story but he was never really able to recapture the lightning in a bottle of that film. The sequel to Police Story came out in 1988 (which is an eternity for a Hong Kong film) and while the action was at a very high level, it just never quite matched the story, the charm, and the stakes of the first film. Once the third entry came with Supercop in 1992 (another four years later), Jackie was a different person and he was morphing into an international style. 

Miracles: The Canton Godfather (1989)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: Jackie's attempt to adapt Frank Capra's Pocketful of Miracles to a story of a young street boy (Jackie) accidentally becoming head of a gang. The are at least three really great action sequences here, including an all-time great finale, but its all nestled in a story that doesn't engage dramatically and misses comedically. A great example of how poor Jackie's understanding and taste in storytelling can be as he seems to have considered this his attempt at a prestige dramatic comedy. 


- The 1990's -
Total Major Films: 20
Best of the Decade: First Strike, Legend of Drunken Master, Who Am I?
Worst of the Decade: City Hunter, The Prisoner, Twin Dragons

The Prisoner (1990)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 1
Commentary: Jackie reportedly worked on this prison film (along with several other Hong Kong stars) as part of a favor. He later sought to bury the film. It's not surprising as it's a pretty bad to mediocre prison crime film that features Chan in a side role only. Save this one for the Jackie Chan completionists. 

Operation Condor (1991)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 2
Commentary: The second entry into the "Asian Hawk" series where Jackie travels the globe looking for key artifacts - think of it as his own 'Indiana Jones' films. The search here is for Nazi gold and a slew of pretty good action sequences are undermined by some of the most difficult to endure sequences of attempted comedy based on "misunderstandings" and two of the most chauvinistically written female characters of all time. Seriously, the females do nothing but complain, scream, or get in the way and the comedy is groan inducing and occasionally offensive. This one is overrated and harder to watch than people let on.

Twin Dragons (1992)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 1
Commentary: Jackie plays twin brothers disconnected at birth - one a fighter and one a concert conductor. Their lives eventually get mixed up and most of the film is a series of mistaken identity sequences. This feels like an extended Jackie Chan ego trip with long drawn out comedy sequences that just don't work. Would rate the viewability higher but its best action scene is so heavily intercut with interminable comedy moments that it even ruins the only reason to watch it! Viewability: 1

Supercop (1992)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: The third entry into the 'Police Story' series is a decent action film that sees Jackie teaming up with the wonderful Michelle Yeoh. Its easy viewing as it lacks any major comedy or drama sequences that flop, but this one is one of the more overrated Chan films in my opinion. People often offer this as one of Jackie's best and I've re-watched it several times trying to see if I am missing something. The story of Jackie becoming an undercover cop (with Michelle Yeoh as a case officer) and helping a notorious criminal to escape so that he can infiltrate his circle has promise, but it never really feels all that engaging. It has a strong finale action sequence, but merely sub-par sequences up until then. 

City Hunter (1993)
Overall Grade: D+
Viewability: 1
CommentaryThis film is most known for its Street Fighter parody scene where Jackie Chan is dressed up as the character Chun Li. It's an odd scene, but it mostly works as a far out farce, and it's sad to say the best part of the movie. The rest of the film is a really poor attempt at an adaptation of the City Hunter comic into an action comedy with an emphasis on the comedy. Jackie plays here a vain, egotistical, woman hungry, detective charged with finding the daughter of a business man. The plot is a super flimsy setup to get Jackie on a cruise ship for a series of comedy bits, gags, and action scenes. Imagine Die Hard on a cruise ship, but really horny, and turned mostly into a bad romance comedy. The comedy here is really broad, sex crazed, and very niche. The speed and rapidity in which it throws jokes at the screen is like an Abrams/Zucker parody comedy, but if all the jokes were bad ones. The humor infects most of the action as well and I don't get the style of humor here - my guess is that you won't either. 

Crime Story (1993)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 2
Commentary: Between Crime Story and City Hunter, 1993 saw Jackie Chan switching things up a bit (yet still staying in the same sand box). This film was apparently meant for Jet Li who passed on it and was picked up by Jackie. While still yet another police story about solving a major crime, Jackie is working with a different director and set of writers here. The story is loosely based on the real life kidnapping of Chinese billionaire Teddy Wang and brings up issues like PTSD as an officer - not something Chan's known for exploring! It's a grittier crime story than usual, a lot more corruption than usual, and more focused on actual evidence/witness gathering than full on action set pieces. The film is willing to push the boundaries on sex, language, and violence more than Jackie's usual fare - although Chan did tone it down a bunch in the editing room. There's not a huge difference here, but I think it's noticeable and at least different. A serviceable story, but there's not much here that isn't in many other Chan films and better. 

The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
Overall Grade: A-
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Coming soon...

Rumble in the Bronx (1995)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Jackie visits his relatives in the Bronx (it's actually & obviously filmed in Vancouver) but gets on the bad side of a gang when he interrupts them from stealing at his relatives convenience shop. This film would be Jackie's global breakout and it's not hard to see why with its basic formula: It's a clean and simple good vs evil story filled with several diverse high quality action sequences that highlight Jackie's talents. A lot of bad acting (including a really annoying kid actor) and some bad attempts at humor spoil this one a bit. 

Thunderbolt (1995)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: The base of this film is the tried and true formula of Chan somehow getting involved with gangsters and this time he has to rescue his kidnapped sisters. The twist here is that Chan is a car mechanic who can race and fight and the film features a street race and concludes in a race where Chan must beat the villain in a major race to free his sister. There's an outstanding fight in a Pachinko Parlor, the street race is a nice sequence, and the racing overlay (despite the disappointing decision to speed up the final race footage to add more speed) adds just enough freshness to make the repetitious formula watchable. 

First Strike (1996)
Overall Grade: B
Viewability: 4
Commentary: Coming soon...

Mr. Nice Guy (1997)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Directed by Sammo Hung and set in Australia, Jackie plays a chef who gets caught up in a drug ring because some VHS with damning evidence ends up in his possession. This all leads to a series of athletic and comedic chases and fights choreographed by Sammo Hung. Several strong action sequences and the simple but satisfying plot are somewhat hurt here by poor female characters and spotty humor. 

Who Am I? (1998)
Overall Grade: B
Viewability: 4
Commentary: Jackie begins as part of a special forces team collected together to capture three scientists in South Africa working a special mineral coveted by people all over the world. Turns out it was a setup and when the bad guys turn on Jackie's team he barely makes it out alive, but he has lost his memory. His search for his memory takes him from the bush country of South Africa, to car chases, and all the way to Rotterdam where he finds and disrupts he villain's plans. This is another easy to watch international globe trotting film in the vein of First Strike and Mr. Nice Guy. The story movies quickly, features strong action (especially the final two sequences), and with the exception of two poorly written female characters (surprise), doesn't contain a lot of grating weaknesses. 

Rush Hour (1998)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Chan's first American produced film in thirteen years is an easy to enjoy fish out of water buddy cop story alongside then burgeoning comedic star Chris Tucker. The crime story is fine, the comedy mostly hits (Chan & Tucker do have some decent chemistry), but the action scenes are only decent. In general, American produced films would seriously struggle with getting the full potential from a Jackie action scene.

Gorgeous (1999)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: This was apparently meant to be just a basic romance story (which comprises most of the story) with Jackie Chan producing, but over time he took a role in the movie (apparently to secure the main actress) and it slowly evolved include more and more action portions. The romance story is saccharine and disposable, but Chan's two fights with his stuntman Brad Allan shouldn't be missed.


- The 2000's -
Total Major Films: 13
Best of the Decade: Shanghai Noon & Knights, The Shinjuku Incident
Worst of the Decade: The Medallion, Rush Hour 3, The Tuxedo

Shanghai Noon (2000)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Jackie Chan teams up with Owen Wilson in this fish out of the water buddy comedy Western (its the same idea as Rush Hour but set in the West basically). Jackie plays a Chinese bodyguard who has come to the American "Wild West" to retrieve a kidnapped Chinese princess. Along the way he gets connected with Owen Wilson's "too nice for the West" outlaw and together they go through a kind of buddy road trip through all the Western clichés: outlaw double turns, Indians attacks, saloon fights, gun duels, Spanish mission showdowns and more. It's a bit convoluted and some of the jokes don't work, but thanks to the chemistry between Wilson and Chan mixed with good production values there's an earnest wholesomeness that makes this film go down really easily. It's quickly endearing and it has some decent action to boot. It’s a win.

The Accidental Spy (2001)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: Jackie plays a simple workout machine salesman when he finds himself caught up in a crime and spy ring. The film takes Jackie for adventures in Turkey where he has an all-time great sequence action comedy sequence trying to keep his towel on in a market. Outside of that, the comedy, drama, and other action sequences fall kinda flat. It's not a bad film, but its just a flat film with one really outstanding action sequence.
Rush Hour 2 (2001)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
2001 - Rush Hour 2 (C+): The sequel to the enjoyable first film travels to China and Vegas for their crime story and throws Ziyi Zhang into the mix. It's another easy to follow story where the duo mostly lucks into their big breaks and constantly finds themselves in trouble. The chemistry between Chan and Tucker still works and while Tucker can often be annoying in his stereotyping of his China adventure, it is part of his character. The action is a notch better, the story a notch worse, and the comedy a little more worn but workable. Still, it's an easy to watch film with decent action.

The Tuxedo (2002)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 2
Commentary: I think this was an attempt to make a American produced Jackie Chan film that appealed to a younger demographic than the Rush Hour films. This attempt at a more cartoony style family film see's Jackie play the chauffer of a James Bond like secret agent whose suit allows him to become an incredible action star. When the agent dies, he hands over the suit to Chan and the hijinks begin. Not a bad idea, but the execution is poor, the action sub-par, and everything just feels a bit uninspired.

Shanghai Knights (2003)
Overall Grade: B
Viewability: 4
Commentary: Coming soon...

The Medallion (2003)
Overall Grade: D
Viewability: 1
Commentary: One could easily think this was an American produced atrocity with too much studio interference and people who just didn't "get" Chan's style. However, this is written, directed, and choreographed by a Hong Kong team. I'm absolutely flabbergasted that this film was nominated for an action choreography award at the Hong Kong film awards. It is just flat out terrible. The story is about some fantasy medallions that give someone eternal life and supernatural powers and Jackie of course gets caught up in it all. I don't know the full behind the scenes work, but whatever happened ending up producing a boring film, with poor performances, and features embarrassing action sequences from someone who takes such pride in them. Skip this one, don't even show it to the kids.

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Continuing the attempt to make more family oriented films, Jackie stars in this Disney produced remake of the famous Around the World in 80 Days story. The early 19th century story is about quirky inventor Phineas Fogg (played by Steve Coogan) trying to win a bet that he could travel all around the world in just 80 days. Jackie plays Fogg's assistant Passepartout and gets the group into a series of fight. It's not great, but it's light and breezy with some decent action (the best being a creative painting session in Paris). Mindless, forgettable, but fun.

New Police Story (2004)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: After several years focusing on American productions, this is Jackie's return to Hong Kong cinema and the Police Story franchise. The story here is that a gang of young disaffected Hong Kong teens are pulling off heists and eventually trap and kill all of Jackie's team. He drowns his sorrows in booze, but after he gets a new young partner he is renewed again to take on the gang. The drama doesn't quite work here (it's very melodramatic and over the top), but the story is pretty good, and the action scenes are better than usual. There's a nice chase sequence in the middle of the film and the finale, especially a fight in a Lego exhibition, are memorable standouts. 

The Myth (2005)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Robin-B-Hood (2006)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Rush Hour 3 (2007)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 2
Commentary: The third entry into the Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan buddy cop series heads to Paris and has become repetitive and tired. The jokes are mining well-worn territory and the action is sub-par.

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Coming soon...

The Shinjuku Incident (2009)
Overall Grade: B
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Jackie Chan has stated in interviews something to the effect of, "I'd like to be the Asian Robert De Niro." I think Jackie meant he wants to be seen by others as a great dramatic actor taking on serious roles. The Shinjuku Incident is a decent crime story about the rise of an illegal Chinese immigrant to becoming a a major crime boss in the city of Shinjuku. In other words, it seems tailor made for Jackie to give it his best shot and while he's no Robert De Niro, he does give one of the better dramatic performances of his career. Jackie plays a poor Chinese worker whose female love immigrated to Japan for new opportunities and never sent word back. To find his love and a better life, Jackie illegally enters Japan and finds his way to the city of Shinjuku where a few friends are staying. He connects with them (several of them living in a small shack) and the story turns into a kind of contemporary Japanese Goodfellas filtered through the humble sensibilities of Jackie Chan. We see Jackie and his friends navigate the underground world of Shinjuku; finding small jobs, partaking in small scale criminal enterprises (selling phone cards, ripping off pachinko parlors, stealing retail goods), and steering clear of the bigger crime families. Eventually Jackie gets into it with a Yakuza backed Chinese business man who beats up a friend and steals a food cart. Jackie gathers his friends together and they destroy the business place as revenge. Eventually other criminal groups discover the stealing and the tampering and Jackie and his friends respond to that. This kind of tit for tat reprisals wind their way up to the highest levels of the Shinjuku underworld where Jackie gets noticed, does a couple of reluctant hit jobs for a notable crime boss, and in turn becomes a boss over Chinese turf in the city in return. It's remarkable how simple and straightforward the film portrays how an ethnic "gang" can begin - it's the best quality of the film. While I compared it to Goodfellas earlier, other than being a kind of epic about "the life of a gangster" the comparisons stop there. Goodfellas was about a quick moving and slick portrayal of the paradoxical culture of the mob (civilized gentlemen but also violent sociopaths) and its appeal to the working class, and its working in the greys of society all set to a cultural pop soundtrack. The Shinjuku Incident (I'm assuming filtered through Chan's sensibilities) isn't interested in flashy camera moves, editing, or soundtracks; it wants to show how an essentially humble and decent man (Chan) tried to make his way in life as an illegal immigrant and how a criminal gang and life spiraled out of hand from that. It's strengths are in its humble opening act and Jackie's restrained performance. About halfway through the film it gets fairly complicated, a little ham-handed in its side stories, and really struggles to a satisfying resolution. Like the old Hollywood Hayes code, filtering an ending about a crime boss through the Jackie Chan lens guarantees the story takes on the feeling of tragedy. It's one of his better serious films and worth a view.


- The 2010's -
Total Major Films: 16
Best of the Decade: The Foreigner, The Karate Kid, Little Big Soldier
Worst of the Decade: Bleeding Steel, Knight of Shadows, Kung Fu Yoga

The Spy Next Door (2010)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Don't sleep on the 'C' rating here. This isn't a bad film, it's just not for me. This is a good film for families with young children looking for an entertaining, simple, and clean spy action story. A great entry way for young kids into the world of Jackie Chan. 


Little Big Soldier (2010)
Overall Grade: B+
Viewability: 4
Commentary: It's ancient war-torn China and Jackie Chan plays a Liang soldier that plays dead as his army led a surprise ambush of the Wei army. After the battle Jackie, known only as "The Soldier" in this film, combs the battlefield and finds a still half alive general of the Wei army whom he believes he can turn in to the Liang king for "five acres of good land" and restart his life. As he pushes a cart carrying the General back to Liang to receive his reward, Chan faces many different people and obstacles along the way - each affected by the war in some way, each presenting their own unique conflicts. The biggest obstacle is a band of top Wei warriors who are following Chan's footsteps to find and kill the General. The trip allows the film to show a lot of stunning scenery. What action there is in the film is decent stuff, but the focus is much more on the relationship between Jackie and the General and an examination of life amidst perpetual warring factions.  Along the journey Chan and the General fight, argue, and discuss things like being a deserter, what is honorable, the plight of war, goals in life, etc. It makes up the core of the film and it's done surprisingly well here. Jackie Chan's acting really shines here in the role of a honorable weasel. He's essentially a good man in circumstances that have forced him to take become a bit of a trickster to keep alive. The character allows for Chan to make use of his comedic abilities, his physical nature (he does a great job at being a man who knows his way around nature), and the dramatic range he does possess. While charismatic on the screen, Chan retains a working class kind of posture with his weary but spry gate, his broad facial expressions, untrained singing voice, and his eager to please but confident in himself posture. He really sells the "of the earth" character here. This is not a role that someone like Tom Cruise or The Rock could pull off. It's easily one of Jackie's best and most moving performances. It's a strong movie that's able to balance a love for life with a weariness in war, the light with the more serious. I won't give anything away, but the ending is quite powerful and quite earned. One of Jackie's best overall films and performances. 

The Karate Kid (2010)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: 4
Commentary: Coming soon...

Shaolin (2011)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: 2
Commentary: Coming soon...

1911 (2011)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Chinese Zodiac (2012)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Jackie formally announced that this was his "retirement" film and it caused a bit of a buzz. What he meant is that it was his retirement from making "Jackie Chan" style action films with large scale fights that required weeks of shooting. He's held to this promise as all his follow-up films have been led by other directors/choreographers or only feature smaller scale action moments. This "retirement" film is a mixed bag. It is the unofficial sequel to Chan’s Operation Condor (1991) which was an unofficial sequel to Armour of God (1986). Each of these films feature Jackie Chan as “Asian Hawk” on a quest to beat others to acquire gold and historical relics; think Indiana Jones with a dash of James Bond (and a sprinkle of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in this one) funneled through the sensibility of Jackie Chan and shaken (not stirred). This film sees Jackie on a quest to recover lost bronze heads of the Chinese zodiac that were taken from China by greedy imperial westerners back in the 1860’s. Due to some complications stealing two heads from a Count in Paris, Jackie gets involved with the great granddaughter of one of the imperialists who seized artifacts. Her records send them on a quest for the remaining bronze heads and they run into competing parties along the well. The opening parts of the film move pretty quickly and give some promise that this will be a fresh entry, but the middle part of the film gets overwhelmed in repeating old bits and weaknesses from previous movies: poorly written annoying female characters who constantly cause problems and can't handle themselves in fights, cheesy side stories, competing parties, switching loyalties, and over-complicating the plot. Thankfully the final act gets better with a strong extended action sequence at a counterfeiting lab only to disappoint again in "sky dive fight" finale that relies so heavily on CGI and suspension of disbelief it feels "anti-Jackie Chan." This big retirement film is an interesting bridge as it features some of the great strengths and weaknesses of Chan's films while also previewing new weaknesses of the films he'd work on after this (especially the over use of poor CGI). It's tough to recommend this one though it's a pretty easy view.

Police Story: Lockdown (2013)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: This is Jackie Chan's most recent entry into the Police Story series (came out in 2013, but not released in US till 2015) and it is likely his final one. Jackie is a hostage negotiator with the police in this low budget Die Hard knockoff (Die Hard in a nightclub!) that is just mediocre enough to be watchable, but not recommendable. This was Chan's first film after his "action" retirement in 2012's Chinese Zodiac and you can see Chan straining to play a dramatic role but traying to please his long time fans in this film. His character purposefully fights little and tries hard to produce peace through patience, listening, and only a few well placed shots or kicks. The problem here is that the film is neither fish nor fowl, never an outright action film and never an outright drama/thriller - with both never done very well. The action is unremarkable and the drama is overdone in that unique way Hong Kong type films can do. It's a shame really, there is a glimmer of a good story in this film and continues a string of strong dramatic performances that began with 2009's Shinjuku Incident.

Dragon Blade (2015)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: What if the Roman Empire ever expanded and took over the silk road? What if Jackie Chan ever tried to do a Gladiator or Braveheart film? That's the concept at the basis for this uneven but ultimately melodramatic historical action film.. Jackie Chan plays the Chief of a Protection Squad for the Chinese Silk Road - their goal I guess is to ensure peace along the route. Chan's unit is framed by higher-ups for gold smuggling and sent to work at a kind of work prison camp where they are to rebuild a city called an outpost city named Wild Geese Gate in 15 days or be executed. It's not long until John Cusack, named Lucius, shows up as the leader of a Roman legion that is sheltering a boy (who was poisoned by Tiberius) that is the potential heir to the Roman throne Tiberius sits on. Lucius gets connected with Chan's men and they pledge to work together to build up the city in just 15 days, their men bonding in the process. Ultimately, Tiberius uses Lucius as an excuse to come marching down the silk road and overtake it with large numbers of soldiers. Chan fights back, is able to rally other silk road nations to war, and they defeat Tiberius' threat to free trade on the silk road. There are some nice moments here, serviceable (but ultimately forgettable) action, and high production values. Unfortunately, Chan's character is flat and boring: from the beginning he seems to be just begging to be a well-remember martyr in the vein of Maximus or William Wallace. Adrien Brody's Tiberius is oddly miscast as well. It's watchable and always somewhat engaging, but it gets messy and less substantial the longer it goes on. Skip it and watch Little Big Soldier again.

Skiptrace (2016)
Overall Grade: C+
Viewability: 3
Commentary: Nine years after Rush Hour 3, Hollywood decided to team Jackie Chan up with another American comedian in another fish out of water action comedy. This time Jackie is teamed up with Johnny Knoxville (who is the fish out of water in Russia/Mongolia) does a pretty good job as the trickster who lulls you into trust only to break it as soon as its possible. Jackie is a Hong Kong cop (for the umpteenth time) who is trying to bring Johnny Knoxville back to China for stealing from a casino. This is very low budget and often looks like it was shot flat as a television show. The action is very tame and slow (though it does show flashes of Jackie's wit at times) but the relationship between the two leads works and the light nature of their journey makes it enjoyable.

Railroad Tigers (2016)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 2
Commentary: It's 1941 and the Japanese have occupied China. Life is difficult under Japanese rule and food is scarce to find. Jackie Chan leads a group of bandits who make raids on Japanese trains to steal food and give it to the population. It's a great premise that is squandered in the execution. The film is slickly produced with constant freeze frames/flashes that highlight someone and tell us who their character is (sometimes with their catch phrase), but it's done so often that I lost track. Sometimes those slick animations provide transitions between scenes and sometimes we just get awkward fades in and out of black for transitions. Not a big deal, but it embodies the problem here- the film is an odd mixture of tones and goals that don't mix well. It's a historical story about a sad and serious issue and it wants to play that drama up, but it also wants to be a slick action film and a comedy at the same time. It's possible to be all these things, but the execution must be top notch. The finale train sequence, the big redeeming moment, is pretty decent but it's stretched quite thin over 40 minutes.

Kung Fu Yoga (2017)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 1
Commentary: Chan is an archaeologist that gets caught up in a dispute between China, India, and private collectors. This is iterative of his better "artifact hunt" films and the action scenes which are CGI messes are a bit of an embarrassment to Chan's legacy. The whole thing feels like a cynical money grab and milking of Indian and Middle Eastern audiences. I think a much more interesting film could be had with just one letter change, Kung Fu Yoda.

The Foreigner (2017)
Overall Grade: B-
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Bleeding Steel (2017)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 1
Commentary: A science fiction plot surrounding some kind of experimental science work being done to extend life and how the technology is being stolen...I don't know, the plot it really convoluted and at times difficult to follow due to poor filmmaking. Jackie Chan is a police officer and his daughter is tied into the experiment somehow as well as a past failure of his, it's strange. Don't watch this, aside from a couple competent action films, it's a real bust. It's a shame that this film is a disappointment because Jackie doesn't have any good sci/fi films in his filmography.

Namiya (2017)
Overall Grade: ?
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

The Knight of Shadows: Between Yin and Yang (2019)
Overall Grade: C-
Viewability: 1
Commentary: A bit of a strange attempt at a Pokemon esque family fantasy franchise. Chan plays a kind of wizard who can trap and use demons (this is played friendly) and encounters a particularly tricky demon in this film. The comedy doesn't quite work, nor does the simple romance. Lots of CGI, some good, some bad.

Iron Mask (2019)
Overall Grade: D+
Viewability: 2
Commentary: This is one strange Russian produced film. First off, it's really bad and Jackie has a fairly small role. The entire story has a feel of a kid telling a story, "And then this happens, and then this happens, and then..." I was surprised to find out this is technically a sequel to the 2014 direct to DVD Russian film Forbidden Empire. Second, it's a cash grab of a role for Jackie and other major actors. I guess the first film made a lot of money and the Russian studios greenlit a big budgeted sequel and it feels like the creatives behind the movie just decided to grab some big name actors (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Rutger Hauer, & Charles Dance cashing paychecks here). Third, the tone and plot are needlessly complicated.  The film looks like a family film (just enough budget to look okay, but not enough to look real good), and feels like a Chinese fantasy, an 18th century European adventure, and a Pirates of the Caribbean film thrown all-together into a genre blender. The story begins with a mythical tale about dragons, tea, and witches but then settles in to a Man in the Iron Mask meets Around the World in 80 Days kind of feel without ever really mentioning the opening stuff for most of the first half of the film. It looks like Peter the Great of Russia visited England and was thrown into the Tower of London (Arnold is the warden) while an imposter sat on his throne. Somehow, Jackie Chan who is a master connected to the dragon from the mythical opening is also imprisoned with the Tzar in the Tower. Turns out, Jackie Chan's daughter is connected with a British map maker who is in Russia and sending letters by dove...eh...you know what, it's really not worth it. It's a mess that would be fun to see Red Letter Media talk about. There's a decent enough finale sequence (that doesn't really feature Jackie Chan or Arnold Schwarzanegger) and there's not even any outtakes! Just enjoy this CLIP and you can say you've seen the film.


- The 2020's -
*In progress
Total Major Films: 
Best of the Decade: 
Worst of the Decade:


Vanguard (2020)
Overall Grade: C
Viewability: 2
Commentary: Jackie heads up a mercenary bodyguard association and when a key client is kidnapped, a globe-trotting adventure is kicked off. This is an ensemble action film where Chan is surrounded by younger stars and is filled with underwhelming shootouts, decent fights, and a horrible reliance on CGI. This is Chan reduced to "direct-to-DVD" quality action.

All You Need Is Love (2021)
Overall Grade: ?
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...

Snafu (2022)
Overall Grade: ?
Viewability: ?
Commentary: Coming soon...



THE END!

“I think every young child can learn through any martial art. They would then learn to respect their life, respect their parents, respect their country, and respect the whole world.” -Jackie Chan


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