American debut Jackie Chan: The dreadful 1980 flick "The Big Brawl," in which he plays a Chinese martial artist taking on the Mafia single-handedly in 1920s Chicago. It bombed. He played a Japanese racing car driver in the two "Cannonball Run" comedies starring Burt Reynolds. After another attempt to break into the U.S. market failed -- 1985's "The Protector" -- he decided to focus on Hong Kong films. He finally hit box-office gold in America with 1995's action-comedy "Rumble in the Bronx." Jet Li: "Lethal Weapon 4" in 1998. Li was electrifying in his first villain role -- in fact he was the only decent thing about this wan entry in the franchise. He agreed to do the film after producer Joel Silver promised he would give him the leading role in his next film, 2000's "Romeo Must Die." None of Li's American films has performed as well either critically or commercially since "Romeo." Winner: It's a tossup. It took Chan longer than Li to impress American audiences, but Chan has been far more successful stateside.
Kharen Hill / Warner Bros.
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