Friday, May 15, 2009

Jackie Chan - a man, and a big insurance premium.

Originally published on the (now defunct) website of mine, lawsie.com, and published in Real Overdose zine some time around 2001.

Fans of Kung Foo normally claim Bruce Lee was the greatest ever, but to me he always seemed, I dunno, kinda dull! Far too serious and angry! I am not really much of a Kung Foo fan, but I can't help but be impressed by Jackie Chan. The man has an injury list longer than most whole families, and get keeps getting up again! In his own words he has broken, "everything from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet".
According to legend the first time the public saw Jackie in action was when he was still a young teenager in Hong Kong. Out one night with his mates Jackie Chan accidentally knocked over a motorbike belonging to a member of a teenager biker gang. For those of you that don't know, you really don't wanna fuck with the teenage biker gangs in Hong Kong. Similar to the teenage biker gangs of Japan, the gangs are so feared that even the police won't challenge them. Needless to say, the biker gang laid into Jackie and his mates prettily heavily. Folklore has it that Jackie went away and polished up on his martial arts, and returned to confront the gang. He walked up to the line of parked scrambler bikes, and kicked the first one over, causing all of them to topple in a domino fashion. Standing there giving a group of about twenty five bikers the come on, he held his ground and assumed the fight position that was to make him famous. When he emerged from hospital a few weeks later, he had allready decided what he wanted to do for a living. This was the first example of Jackie Chan's overly optimistic outlook on life. Look at a challenge, know you stand a pretty good of failing dramatically, and still give it your all anyway, kinda like being in band I guess! Despite his own love of Kung Foo Jackie Chan doesn't advise anyone to follow in his footsteps, "Don't try to be like Jackie. There is only one Jackie ... Study computers instead." When Jackie was born in 1954 his parents were so poor that they offered to sell him to the doctor that delivered him, as they couldn't afford the bill. At age six Jackie was sent away to the Chinese Opera Research Institute for ten years to learn dancing, acting, martial arts and most bizarrely singing. He sings the title tune to my favourite Chan film 'Police Story'. I could well be wrong, but I think he may have had a few records out in Hong Kong, hopefully NOT along the vein of David Hasslehoff though! The training at the Institute sounds more like what you or I would know as a rough borstal, Jackie once said of his time there, "The stick tell me, 'jump,' the stick tell me, 'kick.' The teacher say, 'Jump over the table,' I say, 'I can't.' Well, as soon as the stick comes up, I jump two tables!" Upon leaving the Chinese Opera Research Institute Jackie continued with his acting career that would see him make over 100 films, including a role which saw him fighting next to Bruce Lee in his big hit 'Enter the Dragon', and appear in an Early John Woo film titled 'Hand of Death'. And more bizzarely, Chan also featured in the 1981 film 'Cannonball run'.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons I have always been a Jackie fan and not a 'Brucey' fan is that Jackie always makes you laugh, a good thing! It was in some of his earlier work that he decided against following in the footsteps of the then massive Bruce Lee, and as a stunt man in others people's films he started to develop his own unique style. He told an interviewer recently, "I look at (a) Bruce Lee film, when he kick high, I kick low. When he not smiling (I) always smiling. He can one-punch break the wall; after I break the wall, I hurt. I do the funny face." This realism of the pain he was probably feeling was shown with almost morbid realism during the end credits of most of the films that he stared in. Long before the days of DVDs and their myriad of extra features and deleted scenes Jackie Chan films usually showed the more horrific outtakes during the end credits. These include the man himself jumping from a high wall onto a tree, and not catching a good grip, and then being resuscitated by ambulance men. This particular accident resulted in a him puncturing a hole in his skull! At the end of 'Police Story' we see our hero flip a car over whilst filming a scene where he was driving down a hill through a shanty town, and then appears to just climb out (without a helmet or any other safety gear on) and just look quizzically at the tangled wreck! Some of the other outtakes that are worth mentioning would be the multiple times that you see Jackie Chan being carried off unconscious on a stretcher, and then paramedics giving him heart massage! In today's world of over the top special effects and action sequences it is really cool to watch an 80's Chan film, because they are so gritty and realistic. Scene after scene you can't help but whince as the star and other actors land hard, and MUST be hurting bad! One particular scene in 'Police Story' Jackie jumps in front of a double decker bus causing the driver to brake sharp, and two bad guys to fly though the top front windows and land on their head on the tarmac! Unlike Hollywood films, that really is the road, and they really do land on their heads. Don't get me wrong, I don't like Jackie Chan films for some weird kinda 'snuff' attraction, I just admire the skill and dedication that is put into the end product. On second and third watching of Chan films you start to admire the skill in the choreography of the action sequences, this doesn't come easy. For example, one fight scene in 'Armour of God II' took over four months to film! A life of fighting and falling on an almost daily basis has taken a toll on Jackie, now nearly fifty years old he said, "I might change the types of movies I do. I'll just become a director, and also I'll teach people how to do stunts and fighting. Doing my type of action movies is not easy. You not only have to fight, but you act, you do drama. You have to do a lot of things besides fighting to be a good action star. It is very difficult."
So if you want a good night of Jaw Dropping action, and great humour, watch a Jackie Chan film. You don't have to be a sofa martial arts fan, just know good entertainment when you see it. His later Hollywood films are 'okay' but I would recommend getting an older Hong Kong film, like Police Story (my favourite). You won't be disappointed!