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HTF Review: Jackie Chan in ROBIN-B-HOOD

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Leo Kerr, Nov 8, 2010.

  1. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

    May 10, 1999
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    Vivendi Entertainment and the Weinstein Company release a Jackie Chan Enterprises feature. The feature stars Jackie Chan, Lewis Koo, Conroy Chan, Michael Hui, Yuanyuan Gao, Baoguo Chen, and Matthew Medvedev. It was written by Jackie Chan, Benny Chan, and Alan Yuen, and was directed by Benny Chan.

    The BluRay disc is letterboxed to 2.35:1 aspect ratio in the 1.77:1 HD frame, and is delivered with a DTS-HDMA 5.1 Cantonese sound track. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English dub, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese Director’s Commentary track. Subtitles for the feature include English, English SDH, and Spanish. Special Features are subtitled in English only. The feature runs about 126 minutes. It starts with both Vivendi Entertainment and Dragon Dynasty slates, and then begins a relatively slow load to the main menu. Between the menu and the main feature is a conventional FBI warning. The packaging is a typical Bluray case, with only the disc inside.

    Retail price for this Bluray title is $19.97, and will be released in the United States on November 9, 2010. The feature has not been rated by the MPAA, but typical ratings from other countries vary somewhere between PG13 and R, mostly for violence.

    The Feature — •••½
    Thong (J. Chan) and Octopus (Koo) are acrobatic burglars with problems. They hit high-value targets, along with their handler/fence Landlord (Hui,) but the money never lasts. Thong gambles away everything, and is deep in debt to McDaddy (C. Chan,) while Octopus is spending all of his gains on women. Thong, obviously, is a huge disappointment to his father and siblings, and Octopus is hardly winning any points with his wife.

    If that is not enough of a complication to start with, Max (Terence Yin,) tries to steal an ex-girlfriend (Gao) and her newborn (Medvedev) from the hospital. Complications arise, involving Max falling to his death.

    Now start the opening credits.

    After a kidnapping escape goes wrong, Thong and Octopus are on their own with the baby for a couple of weeks, without a contact for who hired them, which is where the majority of the film happens: two men without a clue about babies are now the enforced caretakers of a baby, while also hiding from McDaddy, the police, and more.

    This is the third in a series of films produced by Jackie Chan in his own attempt to establish himself as something other than a Kung-Fu action film star. To quote Chan, “no one ever says, ‘you’re Dustin Hoffman,’” and makes bad Kung-Fu moves with their hands, like they do to him (although they call him Jackie Chan.) In spite of that, however, while this is primarily a comedy, involving just about every baby-joke in the book, it is also an action film with Jackie Chan, and so has some fighting, stunts, and other general improbabilities that people expect from a Kung-Fu film. But the fights are relatively small, and widely scattered. So if you’re looking for a fight film, this ain’t it.

    Without adding anything back, I think the film could have been helped by cutting out some of the Baby footage. Stunts around the baby, okay. Baby-caused events, okay. But close-ups of the baby? They get kind of old — fast. Cutting some of that footage and adding back some of the background material probably would have helped a lot more — like Thong’s family, or Octopus’s relationship (or lack there-of) with his wife.

    The Picture — ••••
    The film-sourced image is generally nice and sharp, with good color and contrast. It is not the cleanest picture I have seen; I suspect that they may have been shooting with a relatively high speed film stock, and maybe push-processing at that. Night scenes are often grainy. Color-grading was generally done with a subtle touch, and there are no signs of significant noise reduction, edge enhancement, or significant compression noise.

    The Sound — •••
    Allow me to admit that it is very hard to judge some foreign language films. My ear had a very difficult time trying to keep some of the male Cantonese voices apart; particularly when the shot was not on their faces — it got hard to keep track of who was saying what. But even so, it was still much better than the flat readings of the English dub track (which I could not stand more than about five minutes of.) Then, of course, given the nature of the Chinese language for a native English-speaker — how do I tell if the dialog is rendered in a clear and intelligible fashion?!

    On a star-factor, this rating might be unusually low because of the language barrier.

    The Extras
    This film has numerous extras:

    Director’s commentary: in Cantonese, with English subtitles.

    Crashing the Hood: an interview with Jackie Chan, in English, standard definition. About 40 minutes, in 7 chapters, covering a wide range of subjects about acting, interacting with the Chinese government, and the various inspirations for aspects of the film.

    The Hand that Mocks the Cradle: an interview with the director. In Cantonese, with English subtitles. Standard definition; about 16 minutes long.

    Baby Boomer: an interview with Conroy Chan; about 14 minutes, in English, standard definition.

    Playtime for Adults: mostly on-set interviews with cast and crew. About 22 minutes, Cantonese, with English subtitles.

    Robin-B-Hood: a Making Of featurette. About 22 minutes, seven chapters, standard definition, and mostly in Cantonese with English subtitles.

    US Promotional Trailer for the DVD. About 2 minutes, in English, in standard definition.

    In The End — •••½
    It is a Jackie Chan ActionComedyFantasy; what more should be said? I was about to say, “not his strongest work,” but it occurred to me that few people might agree on what ‘his strongest work’ might have been. And given that he is trying to branch out of the typecasting that many people see him in, there are bound to be some that complain about the lack or quality of the fight scenes. But it is not a fight film! Some of the stunts are — more subtle, for lack of a better term, and perhaps because of that, might even be better than the completely flamboyant spectaculars of some of the ‘fight films.’

    And beyond the film itself, there is a lot of interesting comment — and commentary — on the nature of films, audiences, and the like. If there is a serious ‘nit’ to pick with this disc, it is in “why a Java menu system?” It is slow, a little cryptic, and not hard to confuse the player and cause it to have to reload the data off of the disc before the menu returns.

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