Jackie Chan is undoubtedly one of the few Asian stars whose name alone can open a movie, probably worldwide now. With his latest offering for the Chinese National Day holiday in Rob- B-Hood, he has again done back to basics, together with one of his collaborators of late Benny Chan (New Police Story, Who Am I), with his mantra of "no sex no violence", but just pure action.
In his recent movies, while staying true to his brand of action together with his band of merry men from the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, there is no denial of his attempt to infuse a little more drama into his role so as to showcase his acting chops. While his acting in slow moments might not appeal to fans of his action, it looks like dramatic moments are here to stay. However, if you'd notice there's a progression in his willingness to move away from one- man-army type of roles, to sharing the limelight with his fellow co-stars.
Here, his screen time is almost equally shared with co-lead Louis Koo, with the both of them playing unsavoury characters - thieves with vices, with Chan as Thongs, a hardcore gambler with family issues, and Koo as Octopus, a married womanizer and fast car lover. They turn to their current profession of thievery to sustain their lifestyle, and the brains behind the duo's brawn is Landlord, played by veteran Michael Hui, a man whose wife is devastated by the loss of their only child.
See the plenty of moments for some serious drama yet? It is perhaps these moments where an exploration into the character's background slowed down the pace of what could've been a rip-roaring ride from start to end. Clocking in at 135 minutes, the movie felt that it could've been shortened as certain scenes were just too trying. The action scenes too were few and far between, though each scene is still carefully choreographed and felt that it lasted longer than the usual.
The comedic element came in full swing with the introduction of the baby, which probably is the movie's trump card in luring the crowds (my friend and I didn't think he was that adorable actually). It's nothing new as the antics of soiled diapers, refusal to stop crying, and various moments of what baby would do, have already been touched upon in movies like 3 Men and a Baby, or even Raising Arizona. However, having one actor play daddy, and the other play mommy, does call for some genuine laughs sometimes.
Louis Koo has been playing the bad guy role to aplomb with his Election movies, and here, it's a nice change to see him tackle both comedy and action. I truly welcomed Michael Hui's return to the big screen, as one of my favourite comedies as a kid, was his Chicken and Duck Talk. Here though, there aren't many moments where he exhibited his classic bossy demeanour full of wit and sarcasm, probably hampered by the script.
The supporting casts consists of actors past and present in roles that either brought back some good memories, or are milked just for laughs. Yuen Biao was the other supporting role that compelled me to watch this movie, as he seemed to have faded from starring in movies for some time now. He doesn't have much to do here, save for some limited screen action. Actresses like Charlene Choi, Teresa Carpio and Gao Yuanyuan add balance to the testosterone on screen, but probably the best cameo appearance belongs to the duo of Nicholas Tse and Daniel Wu (totally different from what you see now in The Banquet)!
As always, stay at your seats while the end credits roll, for the usual out-takes included. My only gripe would still be to have this shown in Cantonese, somehow the dubbing of the out- takes sounded really too artificial.