Jackie Chan reaches out to Sammo Hung
(the director of the film, doing a cameo).
Mr. Nice Guy is the first Jackie Chan movie filmed in English in a decade. As such, it is a direct reflection of Jackie's eagerness to be a star in the United States. Asia isn't enough for Jackie, he wants everybody in the world to like him.
In Mr. Nice Guy, Jackie plays a guy named Jackie Chan. We know that in most of the English dubbed versions of Jackie Chan films that have cropped up in American theaters in the past couple of years, Jackie's characters have been renamed "Jackie," but here he's called Jackie even in the Cantonese version we saw on tape. Jackie is a famous chef with his own TV show, and the movie opens with him travelling to Melbourne, Australia to visit with some friends. One day he's just walking down the street when he runs into Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), a reporter who is fleeing from dark-suited mobsters. The mobsters want Diana because she videotaped a drug deal gone bad between their leader, Giacarlo (Richard Norton), and a street gang.
Jackie, being the nice guy that he is, immediately fights off one group of mobsters, and leads the rest on a merry chase. He ends up in the middle of a mass wedding where all the brides, grooms, and even the presiding priest are bikers(?), and Jackie ends up clinging to the bottom of a big inflatable gorilla as it floats off into the sky. One of the mobsters shoots a hole in the gorilla, and it floats back to earth, depositing Jackie in an embarrassing position.
This is a good example of why Jackie Chan films don't actually take place on the planet Earth. On Earth, those inflatable sculptures are filled with compressed air, not helium or anything else that would cause them to float. But on Jackie's world, they do float, mostly so we can see Jackie perform some of his patented physical comedy.
"I hate gravity!"
That's hardly the last instance of something in Mr. Nice Guy occurring on Jackie's planet. Later in the movie, there is a great comedy sequence involving Jackie running from more mobsters through a construction site. At one point, our hero and the mobsters play a game of cat and mouse among a half-finished portion of the building that seems to be made up almost totally of doors. Just tiny, closet sized rooms with doors on two or three walls. It's a great comedy sequence, but the floor plan is nonsensical. Unless someone is building an exact replica of the Winchester Mystery House there in Melbourne, this building only exists on Jackie's planet.
Back to the plot, such as it is. The movie continues along the same path blazed by Rumble in the Bronx, with Jackie caught between the mobsters and the street gang, both of which want to get the tape back. Jackie gains a whole gaggle of helpless females that he has to save from peril, including his Hong Kong girlfriend Miki (Miki Lee). Miki is kidnapped by the street gang, resulting in some scenes very reminiscent of Crime Story. Miki is also kidnapped by Giacarlo, leading up to the finale, where Jackie drives the world's largest truck into Giacarlo's mansion. In another example of the architecture of Jackie's planet, Giacarlo built his mansion almost totally out of glass. You know what they say: "People who live in glass houses shouldn't piss off people who have access to really big trucks."
Mr. Nice Guy is not going to please people who think Jackie's movies have been poorly scripted as of late, because Mr. Nice Guy is poorly plotted. However, the movie is a lot of fun. There are two standout fight sequences, one taking place on a movie horse carriage, the other in a construction site. Mr. Nice Guy was directed by martial arts master Sammo Hung (Eastern Condors, Pedicab Driver), and as you might expect, the fight choreography is top drawer. Where Hung is a liability to Mr. Nice Guy is in his use of slow motion effects during action scenes. He has shown a fondness for the technique in the past, but he goes way overboard this time around.
Jackie Chan and Miki Lee.
The biggest question about Mr. Nice Guy right now is, "Will it be a big hit in the US?" We can expect the usual editing and rescoring that all of Jackie Chan's films have gone through. When you get down to it, this film could probably be improved by some judicious editing. It will not have to be dubbed, however, because it was shot in English, as the out-takes attest (Jackie protests "When I speak English, I'm nervous! Arrggh!"), so it may not seem quite as unintentionally goofy as some of the US versions of Jackie's previous films. So: will it be a hit? In a couple of weeks, we'll know.