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Friday, 12 May 2017

Retro Review: Mr Nice Guy (1997) #JackieChan

Mr Nice Guy (Jat Go Hou Jan)
Cast: Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Miki Lee, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick
Genre: Action
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $45 million

Plot: A Chinese chef accidentally gets involved with a news reporter who filmed a drug bust that went awry and is now being chased by gangs who are trying to get the video tape

'Watchable and Passable, But Not Up There With Jackie Chan's Best'

Mr Nice Guy isn't what I'd say is Jackie Chan's worst film by a long stretch, but in contrast to his other efforts from Hong Kong, this mid- 1990s vehicle is very much the same stuff as one would expect in a Jackie Chan movie: the only difference being that Chan is head and shoulders above everyone and everything else, including the bland script. & that though Mr Nice Guy is at best an average Jackie Chan film, it would be even more awful without him.

Jackie's role in Mr Nice Guy is, as the TV chef based in Australia, who bumps into some drug dealers and gang members, whilst he comes to the rescue of a reporter named Diana. In doing so, Jackie, by accident, finds himself in possession of a video tape and the bad guys want to get hold it. Even by going to greater lengths as kidnapping his girlfriend.

Richard Norton is so hammy as the cigar-chomping bad guy, Jean Carlo and overacts with a mawkishness. The acting performances from the supporting characters/actors borders on cartoonish and wooden, with overly exaggerated mannerisms. With Chan's girlfriend being the hopeless damsel and has very little to do but is rescued by Jackie. Arguably, they are more wooden than him and with no backstory to latch onto or touching a little bit on who they are, we don't really care so much for the characters, particularly the protagonists, but for Jackie. Even though it is set in Australia, this is still a Golden Harvest production all the way through and so with that, its set-up and feel is very akin to Hong Kong martial arts films. or more specifically Jackie Chan's films.

There are a few comical moments, it functions more as an action comedy. Everything else is second nature but for Chan; and for that reason, Mr Nice Guy will not win plaudits with many die-hard fans of his, but more so with mass audiences who sit through this film, just to see Jackie do his usual thing.

It's nice to see a Jackie Chan film that isn't based in Hong Kong or the U.S; this one is set in Australia, which is quite a change but also refreshing to see just to have it based in another part of the world. The plot, however, is weak and some of the dialogue is pretty poor. There is that common misconception with all of his movies that they should have interesting plots and stories. Honestly, who watches a Jackie Chan film for the story? I don't.

I also like the fact that there is no dubbing and so everything is in plain English, as well as more female representation in an action flick; here, there are four female characters, although they get beaten up a few times and it wasn't nice to see also. The ending was also a bit of an anti-climax, one would expect Jackie giving Richard Norton and his cronies a right and proper thrashing. Instead, he drives a massive yellow forklift truck or something on the lines of that - and that for me isn't as great.

There are two main fight scenes: one in a shopping complex, which some of it echoes traces of Police Story (and yet also is nowhere near as awesome) and the other being held at a construction site. The fight scenes and chase sequences including one with a horse themselves are somewhat cool, although it is not like outstanding or amazing, they still do their job, pretty well.

Mr Nice Guy could have headed in another direction, but the slow pacing by Sammo Hung becomes a detriment to the film, not to mention some of the fight scenes fail to excite me and lack real energy, buzz and invention.

One thing I would have liked to have seen is a character of Chinese Australian origin, who aids Jackie against the bad guys. Given that it was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, it would have been nice to see him/her in this film and that it would have benefited a great deal.

Final Verdict:

I am not a huge fan of Jackie's non-Hong Kong efforts, insofar as to the quality of his films but Mr Nice Guy by judging it on its own merits is a solid action romp. Yet it is weak when it comes to the high standards of his other best efforts, Drunken Master, Police Story; that and the story isn't that great; as a standalone international offering that he has starred in, this film is somewhat fun, entertaining and enjoyable.

It's a shame that this could've and should've been a whole lot better: it takes bits from Police Story, Wheels On Meals and some of that Hong Kong, Jackie Chan humour, incorporates that into the film, and still, with Mr Nice Guy it falls short on many levels. & with no proper head-to-head fight showdown between Richard Norton and Jackie Chan, with Chan triumphing in the end, is equally disappointing.

That is not to say Mr Nice Guy is a complete bummer of a Jackie Chan film.

Despite the at times paper-thin and wooden performances and plot, it just about watchable enough to salvage this film and preventing it from being terrible and utterly forgettable.


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