'Thunderbolt' HK movie poster


AKA: Dead Heat


Director: Gordon Chan

Action director: Sammo Hung

Driving director: Frankie Chan

Stars: Jackie Chan, Anita Yuen, Michael Wong, Ken Lo, Thorsten Nickel

This is a great movie...for the first hour and half or so. There's some good fighting (including one inside an arcade which Jackie goes against Ken Lo), a nice car chase through the streets of Hong Kong, a high-powered (and violent, by Jackie Chan's standards) shootout/prison escape and a inventive action/stunt sequence where Jackie is trapped inside a trailer being tossed around by a crane.

In fact, this stuff is so good (hell, even Michael Wong manages to look semi-tough) you forget about the shred of a plot, which has Chan as a race car driver/police informant who has to race against a dangerous criminal named Cougar (played horribly by Nickel -- can't they ever find a decent white guy for these roles?) to rescue his two sisters. You can also forgive some of the heavy-handed "getting the point across" messages that Chan likes to put in his movies; this time it's against the evils of tabloid journalism.

However, this movie falls apart terribly during the finale. Now, this is when Jackie Chan movies -- even his lesser efforts -- usually get really good. But here? Nope. Apparently, the movie's shooting was running over budget and hampered by bad weather in Japan, so the crew had to move over to Malaysia. The Malay authorities decided they didn't want people driving so fast (didn't someone check to see if the government would allow them to shoot how they need to?), and as a result all of the climatic race footage is undercranked (sped up) and it looks ridiculous. Oh, and there's also a crappy romantic subplot that comes up too. And a gaggle of Japanese girls who swoon over Jackie every move on the course (now, Jackie, it's one thing to live out one's fantasies, but enough already).

Worst yet, there's no ending brawl. Yes, that's right. A Jackie Chan movie that ends without everyone and everything getting beat up or blown up. Not only is this a letdown for the viewer, it also forces them to turn their attention to the loose ends that are left. Like, who is Cougar? Why is Interpol after him? Why did Cougar want to race Jackie so badly that he committed kidnapping? Now, I know Jackie Chan movies aren't exactly Shakespeare, but come on -- between four directors (Jackie is notorious for sticking his big nose in the middle of things during shooting) and three scriptwriters, you'd think they could have come up with something better than this. Even Jackie (normally the biggest PR guy for his movies) admits -- somewhat -- to the movie's failure in his autobiography by saying "it's isn't my favorite film."

Still, this big-budget movie (at US$25 million, it's the most expensive HK movie to date) deserves a look. It's really only because the first part is so good that the ending -- and thus the film as a whole -- is a bit disappointing.


A review of the VCD for this movie can be found here

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