Saturday, February 3, 2007

Movie Review: Rob-B-Hood

I'm a big Jackie Chan fan. I've got most of his movies - seen and enjoyed most of the classics (the Police Storys, the Project As, the Drunken Masters) and have started in on the earlier stuff (The Young Master, Spiritual Kung Fu, etc.). After finally hitting it big in America with the Rush Hour and Shanghai films, though, he's hit a definite slump with his American films. The Medallion and Around the World in 80 Days had little to recommend, and the less said about The Tuxedo, the better.

But in between these stinkers, Jackie has continued to make films overseas. I've had a few of them waiting on my shelf for a while now, and I'm finally getting around to some of them. New Police Story (2004) and The Myth (2005) will get their turn, but tonight's film is 2006's Rob-B-Hood.

This isn't really a typical Jackie Chan action film, but it's probably the type of film we're likely to get from him in the future. It's not really an action film - it's more of comedy/drama film with a few action sequences. Here, Jackie plays a member of a three-man robbery gang. They seem to be pretty successful at their trade, but all three of them have problems. Thongs (Jackie) is a cumpulsive gambler with an estranged family. Octopus is a womanizer whose just learned his wife is pregnant. And Landlord has a delusional wife who never got over the death of their son years ago. They all need money, and so Landlord grabs a shady deal that turns into a babynapping-gone-awry. At this point, the movie turns into "Two Thieves And A Baby", as Thongs and Octopus have to look after the baby until Landlord can extract himself from jail and get the deal back on track. The usual baby-related hijinks ensue, and so does the usual baby-related lessons in life.

The movie has a couple of short but impressive fight scenes, and a couple of longer stunt sequences, before reaching the big fight at the end. There is a fairly nice car chase sequence with a great and funny ending, and an odd little chase for Jackie set on a roller coaster. There's also a classic Chan fight scene set in a small apartment where everyone seems to converge at the same time - the thieves, the loan sharks, the kidnappers, the police and the unknowing girlfriends. It shows Chan's usual great use of environment in staging his fights.

However, the movie is less successful outside of the action parts. There are just too many odd subplots going on, each of which sets up some payoff later on - but most of the payoffs are fairly lame. The whole thing just takes too long (the movie itself is about 2:15), and this extends to the end; after the final big fight, there are two more drama sequences left, neither of which works for me (especially the "execution" at the end).

Jackie has done this kind of film well in the past (I'm thinking especially of Dragons Forever here - and this movie was at one point supposed to star the Three Dragons as well), but this one just didn't work outside of the action parts. Not actively bad, but I don't know that I'll be revisiting this one much. Three stars.

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