Body slam

Jackie Chan puts his life on the line again in Rumble in the Bronx

Yet it's easier to forgive Jackie's movies for his storytelling transgressions than similar, bigger-budget, and more pompous action flicks produced in Hollywood. Largely that's because Rumble in the Bronx isn't some prepackaged, THX-recorded, Industrial Light and Magic-style extravaganza, but a hands-on chop-socky movie. The action scenes are peppered throughout the film like sprints in a marathon, giving you a burst of adrenaline and then drawing back to give you a breather.

Chan is the Rube Goldberg of action sequences, staging a series of perfectly choreographed fight ballets full of wit, elan, and dash. His character--from film to film, it's always a variation of the same winsome, goofy athlete who never has time to win over a girl--has MacGyver's sense of resourcefulness, mixed with Curly Howard's comic style. As he waddles like an oversized duck from one danger to the next, Jackie's our tour guide of life-threatening excitement, an Asian Robin Leach inviting us to enter the "Lifestyles of the Dumb and Daring." We share in his jeopardy vicariously, and we share his enthusiasm--possibly the most elusive and undervalued of all action-hero qualities. Perhaps that's why Jackie Chan hasn't caught on here--he seems to be enjoying himself too much.

Rumble in the Bronx, like Chan himself and the Hong Kong style of filmmaking, is paradoxically critic-friendly and virtually critic-proof, a sui generis exercise in audience-friendly entertainment. You'll either enjoy it or you won't. I don't know which. I don't care. I just hope Jackie Chan makes it through his next picture, and lives to keep making more.

Rumble in the Bronx. New Line Cinema. Jackie Chan. Written by Edward Tang and Fibe Ma. Directed by Stanley Tong. Opens February 23.

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