expectation is a pretty crucial thing when writing about movies, especially for us. after the medallion, rush hour 3, and new police story, i had pretty much gave up on jackie chan movies. i can’t even get enough energy to watch the karate kid 2010 or the shinjuku incident or the spy next door, and they’re on netflix instant. so robin-b-hood comes as quite a surprise. released in 2006, it’s a late period jackie chan movie that actually works.
chan plays, in a career first, a criminal. in the opening scenes we see them during a heist that eventually involves a baby. the other two are played by louis koo, a young hong kong former criminal turned actor, and michael hui, the stephen chow of 70s and 80s hong kong cinema. chan is a gambling addict, koo is a womanizer, and hui is more or less the leader of the gang.
after the opening hospital sequence, we get the back story of the three main characters. which leads to the main plot of the story. i like how the three reunite after the backstory sequence that they agreed to do a job that could get them $7 million dollars, yet it doesn’t go through the usual heist movie cliche of how the scheme is supposed to go. instead, we are as in the dark as at two of the characters.
many have described the film as chan’s version of three men and a baby but it ends up being more of a baby’s day out. like most hong kong movies, it has a long meandering juvenile second act, with more baby poop than i ever wanted to see. on the other hand, it is very nice to see chan with his brother yuen biao on screen together again since the 80s.
it’s a shame that the film went direct-to-video in the u.s. i don’t know if it’s because of the baby in danger scenes or the anarchic jokes about abortion. there are some pretty amazing action scenes in this(and to be honest, i don’t really know if they were done with special effects or not). but that alone wouldn’t have made it great. what i think makes it special is the fact that the usually “boring” parts, the back stories and the eventually serious scenes, work surprisingly well in this. especially chan’s part with his dad. of course, one tend to forgive the melodramatic exaggerations in hong kong cinema. yes, at 125 minutes it’s longer than it should have been. i could also do without the “message” that pops up more and more in chan’s movies. yet, so many things work that i’m willing to endure the two-men-and-a-baby second act. he even fights the matrix twins near the end, even though everyone is locked in the freezer. in addition to the action scenes that are jackie chan-ess, there are a few filmic techniques that i don’t think we would have gotten had it been directed by jackie chan. the delegating of action scenes to the younger co-star also works way better here than new police story. as far as chan’s filmography goes, rob-b-hood is the perfect blend of old school chan and the latter period chan. the worst thing i can say about it is its title, which doesn’t make much sense either as rob-b-hood or robin-b-hood.
it also helps that that is one cute baby. he was nominated for best new performer in the hong kong oscar, but lost.
and by the way, here’s the whole movie, apparently: