Star - Jackie Chan
Run Time - 119 minutes
Genre - World Cinema
Certificate - 18
Country - Hong Kong
We all know Jackie Chan is one of the greatest martial arts stars and pretty funny alongside the likes of the adorable Owen Wilson in action comedies - although can never be forgiven for the Rush Hour movies alongside the teeth itchingly bad Chris Tucker - but can he play it straight? The Shinjuku Incident was his first real test of some serious acting and not too bad a performance for me. His hometown Asian audience was not as happy and rejected the film on mass as they only want kung fu hero Jacky Chan, here very much the bad guy and one with no martial arts skills of note here, the Jacky Chan that is getting old and starting to slow down. He was still doing those manic action films at 50 and has broken that many bones ad more in his career and so inevitable that films like this would start to appear to keep his career going and maintain his huge star status in that part of the world, his Hollywood career long since tired and a tad 'cringey'.
The film is basically Scarface meets Heat set in Tokyo, Chan playing the Tony Montana character but in a noble and likeable way to keep his fan base. There are no chainsaws in the bathroom although someone does lose a hand in a sweet chestnut vending fat fryer! The Asian critics, on the other hand, did seem to like it and it was nominated for the top awards in that part of the world.
* Jackie Chan as Steelhead
* Naoto Takenaka as Inspector Kitano
* Daniel Wu as Jie
* Chin Kar-lok as Hongkie (Hong Kong Boy)
* Xu Jinglei as Yuko Eguchi
* Fan Bingbing as Lily
* Masaya Kato as Eguchi
* Jack Kao as Gao Jie (Taiwanese Gang Leader)
* Yasuaki Kurata as Taro Watagawa
* Xu Jinglei)Xiu-Xiu
It's the early 1990s and a rural Chinese tractor mechanic, 'Steelhead' ( Jackie Chan), and his brother Jie (Daniel Wu), have to smuggle themselves into Japan to find Xiu-Xiu (Xu Jinglei), steelheads fiancée, who is an illegal immigrant there seeking her fortune but has gone off the radar.
When the boat sinks on the Japanese shore and the guys have to scram with the other stowaways the search begins with a hurry Tokyo for his girl. She hasn't been seen by her friends and family in the underground illegal Chinese community for a while now and so Steelhead, fearing the worse, decides they should blend in by taking the nasty jobs the illegal's do in the city, quite literally in the case of their first job, working down the sewers. When they are raided by the cops Steelhead fortuitously rescues the senior detective on the raid, 'Inspector Kinano' (Naoto Takenaka), a gruesome waste disposal death beckoning before Kinano is plucked from the sludge, resulting in a friendship of sorts that will develop through the movies later phases.
The brothers decide to get out of the sewer business and become waiters, where they glimpse Xiu-Xiu, who seems to be married to a gangster, the dashing Yuko Eguchi ( Xu Jinglei), head of the local Yakuza branch.
Drowning his sorrows, Steelhead vows there and then to become a legal Japanese citizen, especially as he can't go back, a flashback to the boat sinking revealing why, rescuing pretty bar owner Lily (Fan Bingbing) from muggers soon after the restaurant revelation another reason to stick around. But to make good money the only way is petty crime, which, after a while, becomes more than just selling iffy phone cards ad counterfeit goods for his Chinese immigrant friends, soon having to confront 'Dr Gao' (Jack Kao), the local Taiwanese gang leader in the district for muscling in on his action, resulting in Jaie losing his hand.
When Steelhead seeks revenge on Gao he happens to save Eguchi from being whacked by rival gang bosses and so begins his rise through the ranks to inadvertently establish a Chinese Triad gang in the north of working-class Tokyo, unprecedented, now he, too, becoming the hunted, all of this being monitored by Inspector Kitano's unit. But will this help him and his inferior Chinese immigrants find their place in Japan and more importantly, get the girl?
It's not bad although not as brave as I thought it would be, considering some of the violent, cool and stylish films coming out of the rather excellent Asian Extreme cinema. You can sense Chan dumbing down the role in fear of morphing into a villain and finishing his career here and now and so the film ad main character quickly loses its edge, almost comical at times in the way their films can be. Chan tries his best in the lead to be all serious but he is still the lovable Jackie whatever he does.
Its violent but in a melodramatic way and when things do get shopped of you giggle not wince. The script is ok and the drama and romance not likely to trouble the tear ducts. The action is the standard mobs of knife wielding Asians chasing each other down the street and falling over boxes of oranges I the rumble, the brothers falling out with each other thing, one going good, one going bad, Shakespearian style, the crux of the movie.
It did three times its production costs in HK dollars and so considered a success and a film that looks mid budget. It's rather long though and once it drops comfortably into cliché you do start reaching for the remote after two hours of subtitles. Saying that I enjoyed it enough and can recommend it to serious world cinema fans and as long as you don't expect it be in Yun Fat - Chow's league it will do the job. Definitely one for Jacky Chan fans.
Imdb.com - 7. 0/ \10.0 (4,567 votes)
Metacritc.com - 64% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 60% critic's approval
The Telegraph -'Shinjuku Incident strains for social significance, but it is too timidly produced to risk depicting any recognizable reality'.
The Village Voice - 'Shinjuku Incident forgoes flashy action scenes in favor of old-fashioned moralism'
The NY Times -'Shinjuku Incident strains for social significance, but it is too timidly produced to risk depicting any recognizable reality'.
Houston Chronicle - 'Try as he might, strut as he does toward climactic showdowns with ruthless adversaries, [Chan's] character remains an incongruous muddle. Same goes for the movie'.