Bleeding Steel

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 12/26/17 06:39:56

"Definitely one of the weirder things Jackie Chan has done."
3 stars (Average)

"Bleeding Steel" is Jackie Chan's sixth film to come out in the United States this year, and while two were (mostly) animated while another played China in late 2016, that's still a pretty good clip for a guy in his sixties who has spent his career doing highly-physical action movies. This one is less a martial-arts showcase than a sci-fi thing that is rather brazen in what it cribs from other movies, the sort of thing that will make people shake their heads when they rediscover it later, a peculiar part of a legendary career.

Chan plays Lin Dong, a cop who is part of a UN task force in Xingan, China, although as the film opens in 2007, he's more concerned about five-year-old daughter Xixi (Elena Cai), a leukemia patient undergoing a crucial treatment, though he's called in for a crucial mission, as brilliant geneticist Dr. James (Kim Gyngell) is defecting from a terrorist state and needs to be brought into witness protect. Lin and partner Susan (Erica Xia-hou Qi-yu) are the best in the business, but they get ambushed by a small army led by a Darth Maul-looking maniac by the name of Andre (Callan Mulvey). It goes about as badly as you might expect, but James's "bioroid" research resurfaces thirteen years later in Sydney, with the author of a new Tom Clancy-style novel drawing the impression of Lin, genius hacker Leeson (Show Lo Chi-cheung), and a flamboyant lady mercenary (Tess Haubrich). Leeson, at least, is flabbergasted - how does this lead to local Chinese-Australian college student Nancy (Ou-yang Nana)?

Jackie only gets one or two action scenes where a viewer will really feel like the movie needed Jackie Chan for that, although the big central stunt where he gets into a fight on top of the Sydney Opera House is classic Chan daredevil material, the sort of thing that still kind of looks nuts even in a decade in which anything can be pasted together digitally and the action outtakes over the closing credits are mostly what scenes looked like before the wires are edited out. It's a movie where Chan's character is as likely to drive recklessly and shoot guns as throw punches, but even in a shootout, the JC Stunt Team still impresses, working with director Leo Zhang Li-jia to make the action crackle even though audiences are used to movies with this sort of B-movie plot being clumsy things where action and reaction is never in the same shot. Little things like how Jackie changes directions when dashing from one bit of cover to another show a star and team that are still fairly nimble.

If you're going to put Jackie Chan in the middle of this sort of futuristic action-adventure - which, let's be honest, doesn't sound like the best use of the one Jackie Chan we have - it might as well be something this gleefully ridiculous. It's kind of like the early 80s Shaw Brothers movies in that way - the basic plot is standard action stuff (super-soldier technology in both the wrong hands and an innocent girl), but the designers gleefully appropriate anything kind of popular, which in this case means lots of Star Wars stuff, from goons that look like Stormtroopers by way of Tron to the "bioroid" supervillain to a final battle on board what is basically a Star Destroyer. That's not the only influence - there are secret bunkers, steampunk-styles hypnotists, and witches as the need arises. The filmmakers wind up serving up a mess that is chaotic and derivative in a lot of ways, but there's a lot of fun in that chaos.

Which isn't to dismiss the mess - certain plot "twists" are both obvious and kind of terrible when you look at them as choices people actually made rather than set-ups for a movie, for instance. The writers will stretch things to ridiculous lengths to fit in either an action scene or an utterly unnecessary connection at the coda, and make leaps in storytelling and only barely manage not to stumble when they land. The cast is all amiable enough as individuals, but only Chan and Erica Xia-hou Qi-yu necessarily seem to be on the same page, with Show Lo Chi-cheung being given much broader comedy to play while Ou-yang Nana never seems to get much guidance on who Nancy is aside from someone everyone else is after.

To be honest, "Bleeding Steel" is a real mess. On the other hand, more movies should have villains in capes, and the folks who make this movie did not care that it would look silly as long as it also looks cool. I'll forgive a lot when served up that sort of inanity every ten minutes or so, and this one is certainly worth forgiving.

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