"Jackie Chan's First Strike," yet another amusing action comedy-adventure from the martial arts superstar, is actually No. 4 in Chan's popular "Police Story" series, which finds Chan playing a Hong Kong policeman, Jackie, inevitably thrust into one hair-raising, cliffhanging predicament after another. "First Strike" is a diverting follow-up to "Rumble in the Bronx," which was also directed by Stanley Tong and which also had wide distribution in an English-language version.
"Relax, have fun," says Jackie's commanding officer, "Uncle Bill" (Bill Tung, veteran comedian and perennial Chan sidekick), allowing the CIA to dispatch Chan on a plane to the Ukraine, where he is to observe closely a beautiful young Russian. Upon the plane's arrival in an unnamed city, he dutifully turns over to his CIA contact his notes listing the times the woman went to the restroom. He's off to a good night's sleep and a return flight to Hong Kong the next day.
Of course, he never gets any rest, because the Russian woman is involved in a plot involving a stolen Ukrainian nuclear warhead. In no time, Jackie finds himself snowboarding over Ukrainian mountains and posing as a stilt-walking priest in an elaborate Chinatown funeral procession in Brisbane, Australia, where he winds up fighting for his life in a shark tank. These are just a couple of the flashier moments in Chan's nonstop derring-do as he pursues a rogue CIA agent (Jackson Lou).
The plot is terrifically complicated, which is typical for the genre. That the film has been dubbed into laughably primitive English makes it all the harder to follow, but this is ultimately no big obstacle to its enjoyment. (This dubbing could pose a problem in Chan's more serious films, however.) As always, Chan displays a balletic grace in his elaborate martial arts stunts, performed with the knockabout humor of a born clown. Interestingly, one of the film's most delightful moments is one of the simplest. It occurs when Chan nonchalantly eases himself down a brick wall, bracing his legs against a convenient palm tree. Intricate, awesome stunts are a Chan trademark, but it's his unpretentious, boyish charm that ensures Jackie Chan's position as one of the giants of the international cinema.
* MPAA rating: PG-13, for plentiful action/violence. Times guidelines: The film has standard martial arts violence.
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'Jackie Chan's First Strike'
Jackie Chan: Jackie
Jackson Lou: Tsui
Jouri Petrov: Colonel Gregor Yegorov
Bill Tung: Uncle Bill
A New Line Cinema presentation of a Raymond Chow/Golden Harvest production. Director/stunt coordinator Stanley Tong. Producer Barbie Tung. Executive producer Leonard Ho. Screenplay Stanley Tong, Nick Tramontane, Greg Mellott, Elliot Tong. Cinematographer Jingle Ma. Editors Peter Cheung, Chi Wai Yau. Music J. Peter Robinson. Production designer Oliver Wong. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.