More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 0 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Luxor by Peter Sobczynski

Wander by Peter Sobczynski

Love, Weddings & Other Disasters by Peter Sobczynski

Black Bear by Peter Sobczynski

Poison Rose, The by Jack Sommersby

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by Jay Seaver

Fat Man and Little Boy by Jack Sommersby

Harry & Son by Jack Sommersby

Shattered by Jack Sommersby

Deathstalker II by Jack Sommersby

subscribe to this feed

Chinese Zodiac
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Preserving old Chinese relics, even beyond Jackie Chan's career!"
3 stars

It's not just one thing that has brought Jackie Chan to the point where his latest movie is something of a loud, sloppy mess, but everything working together: Age takes a toll on a performer this physical. Hollywood success puts international markets more explicitly in mind when making a big movie, while the mainland Chinese market pulls in other directions. Fortunately, underneath all that, Jackie still puts together good action, good enough that seeing it on the big screen's a welcome treat.

This time around, he's playing "J.C.", the head of a team of treasure hunters who, this time around, are looking for a set of twelve animal head busts representing the Chinese Zodiac looted from the Winter Palace a hundred and fifty years ago. Some are hidden, sold at auction, or lost, and to find and/or steal them, J.C., Bonnie (Zhang Lan-xin), David (Liao Fan), and Simon (Kwon Sang-woo) will need the help of idealistic young preservationist Coco (Yao Xingtong) and broke French aristocrat Catherine (Linda Weissbecker).

Chan's career has, with a few noteworthy exceptions, been a long string of movies with just enough story to tie five or six impressive action sequences together, and Chinese Zodiac is no exception. In fact, it's probably more slapdash than usual, with an opening flash-forward that the movie never quite gets around to fitting into the story, off-screen issues meant to humanize the mercenary characters (but which, popping up as they do as one-sided phone calls, tend to come off as annoying mosquitoes to be slapped away), and silly last-minute changes that render any sense of accomplishment from the action scenes moot. J.C. and company spend much of the movie working for the villains, which could be interesting, but mostly just leaves them with little to push against until the "Max Profit Corporation" becomes even more cartoonishly evil than its name suggests. Admittedly, roughly fifteen minutes has been cut from the original Chinese version for the American release, though much of that is likely heavy-handed Chinese flag-waving (enough material about how China suffered at the hands of foreigners remains to make the point, but Chinese films seldom stop at "enough" these days).

Fortunately, the story is seldom the main attraction at a Jackie Chan movie; the action is, and while Jackie's fast-approaching sixtieth birthday has him delegating some of the punching-and-kicking duty to his younger co-stars - particularly taekwondo champion Zhang Lan-xin - he's still spry enough to do a lot himself and still great behind the scenes. The bit that opens the movie is kind of goofy - despite Jackie escaping from a French military base in a suit that has rollerblades on nearly every surface, it never quite gets all the way up to speed - and the finale is an effects-heavy aerial sequence, but in between there's plenty of good stuff. One enjoyably pulpy sequence has the group fighting pirates and other hired guns in the middle of a lost ship on a jungle island; another has the audience getting a tour of where relics are warehoused and forged that seems like a lecture before it all comes into play with a trio of good pieces: A fun match-up between Jackie and French up-and-comer Alaa Safi, the inevitable girl-on-girl bit with Zhang and American stuntwoman Caitlin Dechelle, and the sort of big, use-whatever-comes-to-hand throwdown against an entire security staff that Jackie Chan is famous for. There are a number of other good pieces in there, too, and while there may be more wire-work and doubling than during Chan's peak, Jackie (who serves as both director and stunt choreographer) remains great at staging an exciting fight and sticky with Gene Kelly-style medium shots that let the audience clearly see what everyone's doing.

Jackie actually fights a little more here than he has in his last few movies, where he's increasingly been taking on mentor roles. This version of "J.C." (technically the same character as in Armor of God and Operation Condor, although past adventures aren't referenced, at least in the American cut) is about halfway there, and while Chan's natural charm certainly does get a few chances to shine through, he's not always as comfortable as the greedy rogue who can be persuaded to do the right thing as the flustered everyman he often plays. Teammates Zhang Lan-xin, Liao Fan, and Kwon Sang-woo don't get quite enough room to establish their individual characters as they might like, although Yao Xingtong makes a likable foil as Coco, with Linda Weissbecker going a bit more broad as Catherine. Oliver Platt and Vincent Sze, sadly, don't get much to do as father-and-son villains.

It's worth noting that much of the movie as shown in American theaters is in English, although it's not clear how much is dubbed and how much of that is just how a film with an eye on being a global hit is made - there are moments when it seems like a bit hinges on someone not being able to understand the language they were just speaking. It's an odd choice for a movie where most of the characters are Chinese and most of the action takes place in France, at any rate, with the end result being that nobody, even Platt, ever sounds quite right. It's the most obvious compromise in a film much larger in scale than any of Chan's previous gigs as a solo director, and there are a lot of moments where the big, polished blockbuster side of this movie clashes with the relatively little attention he has often paid to what comes between the fights. For all Chan is an all-time great with hand-to-hand action, and was an acceptable director when that was all that mattered, he could maybe have used a more sure hand at the helm here.

Even if "Chinese Zodiac" isn't all one might hope for it to be, it's still got enough moments when Chan goes with what he knows to break out a few smiles, especially when they line up with good old-fashioned high pulp adventure. He's not quite the sort of relic his character spends his life chasing yet, even if he's not quite the crazy stuntman of his youth any more either.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/20/13 08:17:59
[printer] printer-friendly format  

Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  18-Oct-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Mar-2014


  DVD: 25-Mar-2014

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast