Looking for Jackie (2009)

Posted in Reviews by - August 16, 2014
Looking for Jackie (2009)

A muddled family film designed to re-position Jackie Chan (or, rather, the Jackie Chan brand) as a spokesperson for Chinese youth. The film feels like a calculated, committee-driven byproduct of Chan’s closer affiliation with the government, but placing cynicism to one side, the message is wholesome enough. He teaches the doting boy at the centre of the film, who is desperate to be his disciple, that he should respect his elders, stay in school and learn Chinese for the betterment of the nation. Which is all fine, but there is a self-consciousness to the film which acts to spoil most of the fun. It’s also all over the place and filmed using the kind of cheap digital process which makes it feel like a TV movie.

Jackie Chan tops and tails the film, first appearing on the set of a kung fu movie where he is treated in highly gratifying and deferential terms, before cutting to Indonesia and the privileged life of 16-year-old layabout Zhang Yi-shan (another actor playing himself). He somehow escapes his bad grades, bullies and strict grandparents by boarding a plane to Beijing in an attempt to join Jackie Chan’s stunt team. Once in China, the film jumps from a knockabout comedy to serious crime drama. He ends up at a monastery and appears on the set of a Yuen Wah film, before being kidnapped and held hostage by a family of small-time crooks. He befriends a female cop and then saves her life in his first selfless act.

The cop highlights the falsity involved in Chan’s movie-making compared to the gritty reality of life, and there is a brief moment when Zhang starts to acknowledge a new-found respect for authority. There is a palpable sense of relief when Jackie Chan reappears to share his wisdom with the kid when he makes it onto a Beijing Film Studios set, which seems to resemble some kind of North Korean military camp. Chan undeniably has powers of persuasion, but the film plays off his child-like naivety and good nature with a sense of purpose, and the results are curious to watch.

AKA: Jackie Chan & the Kung Fu Kid; Kung Fu Master; Searching for Jackie Chan.

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