Jackie Chan's CZ12
I am extremely disappointed in Jackie Chan. The stunts are clever, the action is fun, there's comedy and adventure, but on the whole it's one big propaganda statement claiming that the Chinese are so smart, righteous and honourable while the West are all thieving rapists and pillagers. Seriously, I hated that aspect of the film, and I'm so disappointed in Chan for making this movie about that. The French get it the worst; not only are they shown to be stupid as shit, but it's really shoved down our throats how much they stole from China in a period of looting in the dynasties of China's past. Jackie has said in previous interviews how every film he makes from now (interview was in about 2009, I believe) will have a purpose, a message, instead of making movies for money like Rush Hour. So I'm guessing the message here was to "educate" people on the events of the past by making the West look terrible, while at the same time he's trying to get some of his Asian fans back....I don't think he's going to be able to do that. I also don't think he should bad mouth his US-made movies, they're what's made him most of his fortune and made him a huge international star.
The funny thing is, though, that in the movie Jackie Chan is a thief. He's not doing anything for the good of the Chinese people, he's a mercenary working for money, yet he has the cheek to lambast the French for looting. He actually sums up [in the movie] my opinion on this matter, he says "you cannot judge the looting back then by the standards of today", which is very true, which is why I am so baffled why he made the film so strongly anti-West. Perhaps Chan made it with this irony in mind, but I'm a fairly big Chan fan and I know his comedy doesn't have the range for that type of inclusion, he's just not that talented to make an ironical historical adventure comedy.
That's my biggest criticism. On a technical level, however, there are even more. The movie is sloppy in its production. The editing is off by a lot, and it doesn't really flow very well. The subtitles were wrong quite a bit. There's your usual Jackie Chan humour, which is a bit dated now: a guy's trousers are burned on the bum after being dragged along a road etc. It's a fun ride; the opening scene is very cool, as is the French mansion theft with the maze and dogs, then the scenes on the island come and the theme changes, it gets silly. There's a lot of different languages in this; English, Mandarin, Japanese and French, and it's so hard to keep up when you're reading subtitles because they chop and change from one language to another and it's quite messy.
The film is quite obviously a remake of Operation Condor: Armour of God II, even if it is being promoted as a sequel to that movie. There are so many similarities, even down to the fact that a French woman gets given a huge Bren-gun and is wildly firing it with no control for about 30 seconds - happens in both movies. Then the fights around that part are similar too. But CZ12 absolutely pales in comparison to the masterpiece of Operation Condor.
The film gets into a mess about half way through. I couldn't understand what was going on and why people were doing certain things or where they were - the ending is especially bad, Chan changes from a mercenary to a philanthropist intent on saving three kids from a group he met at the beginning, and I'm still not sure how/why that all happened, it's all very rushed through in order to add another action scene. It's all fun and made primarily for kids, I suppose, which is why I think that Chan, at his age, needs to stop making this kind of fare and concentrate on mature movies. Don't get me wrong, for the most part I enjoyed it, but these niggling criticisms mentioned above just cannot be forgotten. There's nothing new here - if you've seen Chan movies before, then you know what to expect from a positive aspect. It's possibly more grande than previous efforts, like there is a volcano skydive and some James Bond-esque gadgets, but on the whole it's the same Jackie Chan formula we're used to. One stunt sequence apparently cost $10m, though I can't think for the life of me which one that would have been.
For those that care, Jackie's real-life wife has a cameo at the end, as does Daniel Wu (the audience gasped). For a budget of $49m, it's quite lazy and I just wished they had spent the money more economically because there is one scene where a huge tree full of gold (with them all sitting on it) is going over a cliff into the sea and we don't see that at all; we see a CGI background with them on the log, then it cuts to four actors jumping into a "swimming pool" and that's it. It could have been done with a long shot of the log coming over the cliff into the water and being on location to actually film it would have helped out tremendously.
Better than Chan's recent adventure movies; The Spy Next Door and The Medallion, but I think he needs to reassess his career and make less infantile movies like those and make more mature movies like 1911 or Shinjuku Incident. Though I appreciate the effort it must have taken to make this movie.