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Sunday, 30 September 2018

Retro Review: Rob-B-Hood (2006) #JackieChan, #Hongkongcinema

Rob-B-Hood aka Baby Project 
2006
Cast: Jackie Chan, Louis Koo, Yuen Biao, Michael Hui
Genre: Action Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $20 million

Plot: Two thugs accept a job from their landlord by kidnapping a baby. However, due to some unexpected glitches, they fail to hand him over to the triad as planned 





'Chan Action Comedy Where I Felt ''Robbed'', Despite Cute Looking Poster'

2006's Rob-B-Hood is a take on the old tale of a band of fathers who don't know how to handle an infant or child, which leads to a manner of scenarios going wrong and as he learns develops a better bond with the child. This premise is nothing that hasn't been attempted before: Jack & Sarah, Three Men & A Baby, Fathers' Day, Les Comperes, Look Who's Talking being several examples.

The breastfeeding scene with the baby nipping on Jackie Chan's nipple is the highlight of this tonally inconsistent and unengaging film starring one of Hong Kong's finest, although you might want to look away at the scene with the baby taking a dump during their trip to Toys R Us.

The first half is a crime heist but even I found this boring to watch, whilst the second half switches up to a Three Men and a Baby style comedy with a tad more slapsticky bits. Rob-B-Hood is essentially a Hong Kong version of that film. In fact, it's sort of Three Men & A Baby meets the 1982 French comedy, Les Comperes with the child subplot, mixed in with a bit of kung fu. 

Three burglars raid people's homes with one of them being Thongs (Chan) and they are taught not to kill, rape, murder or kidnap people. When a landlord's retirement money is stolen, he seeks to kidnap a baby. The burglars aren't up for it, but by the time they find a baby in a bag in their car, they take off. It is revealed the cute looking baby is an offspring of a rich guy and Thongs and his partner, Octopus end up going on the run, taking care or and protecting the child from the evil goons. 

Jackie Chan is the king of action comedy, but the comedy in Rob-B-Hood is pretty weak and the film chooses to space out its action sequences in favour of more traditional comedy and jokes and more emphasis on building a story. It's definitely more plot-driven, however, the story fails to engage and it lacks the incisive and straightforward Hong Kong old-school humour that I have become used to over the years and one that made Jackie Chan's 1980s and 1990s comedy films synonymous (but for some of his Western efforts) and were far more entertaining and fun to watch. The humour isn't laugh- out- loud funny, but I expected a few chuckles and smiles here and there (though the nappy with the poo in the bad guy's face is gross); unfortunately, these never materialised, the villains were no one I could put my finger on and there is not much in the way of your usual Chan fight scenes one would expect in a movie of his. His character is also not as charming, cool, nor resonates any of the magic and ease of his previous ones that he has played in the past. 

The partnership of Chan with fellow actor, Louis Koo becomes twitchy and doesn't work as well as Chan with Yuen Biao, which worked a treat during the Lucky Stars era of films and who surprisingly enough is in a demoted and marginalised role as a bit-part cop onscreen, as opposed to one of the leads. I couldn't help but wonder that with Biao in place of Koo and how their buddy chemistry had played out, it would have made a tad of difference. 

I'd take this over The Tuxedo, but for a comedy-based action film, it doesn't stand well and most of it is just too story-driven and the humour was not only too few and far between, but it didn't work most of the time, either. Hong Kong comedy films of the 2000s and beyond have transcended towards the Hollywood American model, particularly those with action elements, as they focus more on the plot and carving out a story; however, but for a few exceptions, many of them have been lacklustre. Rob-B-Hood isn't terrible and it's not my least favourite film of his by far- it's just not very inventive and it's a disappointing one coming from Jackie Chan's standards, as well as Hong Kong comedy standards, even with his likeability factor. That, and it's overlong for 2 hours, which especially for a comedy, just didn't bide with me. If there is one genre of film that doesn't deserve to be dragged out for 2 hours or more, it is comedy; as by then, it wears thin and when Rob-B-Hood did and does, it became a drag and so pressing it never understands the limitations of its genre, when it comes to its runtime. 

It just appears to me as I sat through this is that Rob-B-Hood tries to emulate and replicate that 2000s style of American comedy & filmmaking and whilst it plays to some of Chan's strengths, this is still below-par. 





Final Verdict:

Avid Jackie Chan fans may want to add this to their collection, but everyone else who wants their comedy fix ought to stick to his much earlier outings of the 1980s and 1990s. & if you are more into films with similar child plots, give 1997's Fathers' Day, 1983's Les Compares, Three Men & A Baby a go. Rob-B-Hood, for me anyway, ranks way below My Lucky Stars, Wheels On Meals, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars and is as less enjoyable as The Medallion, Shanghai Knights & Noon, Twin Dragons and The Medallion as Chan's worse. 


Despite being heralded and marketed as his return to form, whilst this is not a complete waste of time, its execution should have been so much better. Alasforth, Robin B. Hood was just too awkward, not zany enough and is uneven to appreciate as a fan of Chan's much earlier, and far superior comedy work. 



Overall: 




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