This week will see The Foreigner hit the big screen. Jackie Chan plays a retiree with a secret past who has to dust off his elite black-ops skills to bring his daughter’s murderers to justice. While The Foreigner probably isn’t going to break the action movie mold, with Chan in a starring role it is still likely going to be a fun time. Chan always manages to bring some solid action to the table, and his onscreen charm can brighten an otherwise mediocre movie.
With well over 100 films under his belt, it is hardly news that Chan has another film hitting theaters. With his first role occurring in 1962 (Chan was eight), that works out to something like an average two films a year over a roughly 50-year career. That’s not quite Samuel L. Jackson numbers, but it’s starting to get close. A quick look ahead shows another seven films coming out in the next few years. This includes new entries in the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon series, two of his most lucrative franchises.
You can’t be as prolific as Chan is and have all of your films hitting it out of the park, but with his huge catalog you can afford to be a bit choosy about what you watch. My personal favorite is his 1994 film Legend of the Drunken Master (Jui Kuen II). This film isn’t just Chan’s or Kung fu’s best; it’s an all-around great movie. Legend of the Drunken Master has some fantastic fight choreography. I’ve seen it something like 100 times and am practically mesmerized every time. The film also has a dose of humor, a good story and a splash of intrigue, all the makings of a great action film. If you only ever watch one Chan movie, this is the one to watch.
While I am happy to see Chan’s career continue to flourish, it isn’t his recent work that won me over on his movies. It was some of his earlier stuff that got me hooked. When I was younger, getting a hold of a Chan movie from the local video store was a memorable occasion. In the days before CGI could make anyone seem like a ninja, Chan represented another level of onscreen action. When his character had to jump up a wall or parkour from rooftop to rooftop, there wasn’t a cutaway or dubious camera angle. It was just a clear shot of Chan doing the stunt, and it felt really genuine. Add in his signature high energy, frenetic fight scenes and you’ve got some of the best Kung Fu flicks in the business.