The Accidental Spy
Director: Teddy Chan
Stars: Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min, Cheung Tat Ming, Brad Allan
One of the major complaints many critics and fans (myself included) have had about most of Jackie Chan's latest movies is that he seems to be straying from the formula that made his films so successful. Whether it was adding more comedy (Rush Hour) or romance (Gorgeous), Chan's newer films seem to be missing that certain spark that made them stand out from similar movies. While The Accidental Spy doesn't quite capture that magic, it does mark a return to a "classic" Jackie Chan movie and it stands out as his best work since Police Story 3.
The plot is by-the-numbers Chan, wherein he plays a man thrown into circumstances beyond his control. Here he plays a fitness equipment salesman named Buck who becomes a local hero after foiling a robbery attempt, which attracts the attention of a private detective played by Eric Tsang (almost unrecognizable in a balding wig and thick glasses, at least until he speaks). Tsang wants to bring Chan to Korea to meet the man who might be his father. The man dies, but not before he gives Chan a mission of sorts. As Chan unravels the mystery, he finds a beautiful woman, a large sum of cash and himself smack dab in the middle of an international conspiracy involving chemical weapons (hence the title).
Yeah, so the plot's not mind-blowing -- but then with the exception of a few films, such as the Drunken Master movies, Heart of Dragon and Crime Story, Chan's plots usually have the weight of the paper the scripts are printed on. But that's okay in my book. They're usually just an excuse to get to the action sequences, and like Chan's best movies, The Accidental Spy delivers. They're not spectacular -- keep in mind, Jackie's getting up there in years… I don't think we can expect any more 20-minute duels ala Drunken Master 2 from him -- but they're damn solid and a lot better than Chan's last few movies. The stunts are also done well, though it looks like he was doubled for the more dangerous stuff.
Just one last point about something that is becoming a pet peeve for me: the bad English acting by the Asian actors in many recent Hong Kong movies. I don'y want to sound like I'm a cultural elitist (I'm sure these actors' English is much better than my Cantonese) and I understand that Hong Kong studios want to build an international audience for their movies, but enough is enough already. Either find actors that can speak English well, or just dub them over. Case in point: one of the actors pronounces Athens "ay-thens" not once but twice. Don't they have someone to supervise that kind of stuff? Besides that (as Tim Youngs pointed out in his review) there's an epilogue that seems to serve to only provide a space for the advertiser's logos rather than further the story.
But these are pretty minor complaints. If you've been disappointed with the recent wave of Hong Kong action movies, The Accidental Spy should at least give you some hope that Hong Kong can still churn out the world's best action movies. If you don't believe me, just watch this and then take a look at a new US action movie like The Mummy Returns. I think you'll see that despite how much homogenization has gone on in both Hollywood and Hong Kong, and how much money Hollywood can throw at a movie to make it seem like a Hong Kong one, that Hollywood simply cannot compete with a dedicated artist armed with a crazy imagination and a set of props.
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A review of the VCD for this movie can be found here
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