“Crime Story” – A.J. Hakari

I’m not one to pigeonhole entertainers into one category. It’s great to see them escape their comfort zones and try something different; even if it doesn’t work out, at least their efforts were nice. Crime Story is notable for being one of the rare occasions on which the great Jackie Chan casts his jovial personality to the sidelines. Our boy means business in this tale of crooks and corruption on the streets of Hong Kong, though he still makes time for the odd instance of death-defying derring-do. But in sacrificing what made him one of cinema’s most spry men of action, Jackie deprives Crime Story of any real flavor or spark. With precious little stuntwork on display, this is as generic as crime dramas get, competent but hardly a high point for the mad man of martial arts.

Jackie Boy here plays Inspector Chan, who, like countless movie cops before him, is an army of one. So committed is he to his work that he shrugs off the resulting trauma from a robbery gone awry to pursue his next case. Chan’s latest assignment is another dangerous one, involving shady construction magnate Wong Yat-Fei (Law Hang Kang), who fears someone’s out to kidnap him. Surely enough, he’s snatched away in broad daylight, leaving Chan and his fellow lawmen racing to bring him back alive. But little does our hero know that the culprits are a lot closer than he thinks, a troupe of villains that includes none other than a colleague of Chan’s, Detective Hung (Kent Cheng). As determined as Chan is to rescue Wong, Hung is equally bent on covering his tracks, doing everything possible to derail Chan’s efforts and walk away with the ransom.

The novelty of Chan playing serious for once will be enough to entice viewers to give Crime Story a gander. Lord knows that after The Medallion and Rush Hour 3, the man’s fans are due something from an era when he had some dignity. But in Crime Story’s case, “serious” translates to “devoid of personality,” as our lad takes on a bland leading role that robs him of everything that makes Jackie Chan Jackie Chan. There’s no humor to his performance or to the story, only an overbearing sense of routine that makes the least out of the talent involved. Crime Story is a recitation of its namesake genre’s most tired cliches; what little plot there is, the film barrels through its key events as if to get them over with. You never get the idea that anyone’s having a blast, just that they needed something to do when “Empty Nest” wasn’t on. It’s run-and-gun fodder of the most formulaic order, full of sound and fury but no energy to make it all wholly enjoyable.

This is a shame, since Crime Story definitely had potential. Its premise is a predecessor to Infernal Affairs, with much of the suspense owing to how Detective Hung tries hiding his true intentions. The good guy gone bad angle is one worth exploring, but the movie never does anything with it; the same goes for Chan’s troubled psyche, references to which were reportedly played down at Jackie’s own behest. The film never seems to want to gets its fingers dirty or follow up on its own themes. All I can say is that while the action is fairly standard, at least it’s there and explosive enough to perk up the story at its most conventional. Crime Story does its stunts the old-fashioned way, which is to say it actually does them. When Jackie’s hurtling down a steep hill or getting yanked about the bowels of a freighter, the “oohs” and “oofs” it evokes are well-deserved. Though he gets little time to show it, Jackie’s physical prowess is in prime shape; seeing him pummel his foes with the poise of a gymnast on meth simply never gets old.

It’s a testament to Jackie Chan’s talents that while Crime Story is one of his lesser films, it’s still a decent flick. Being spoiled with Who Am I? and Rumble in the Bronx first have raised my expectations, but it’s harmless stuff that’ll keep the average action buff occupied. While Crime Story isn’t the cream of Jackie’s crop, for someone who made it through The Tuxedo unscathed, he’s faced worse challenges in his day.

Rating: ★★½☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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