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Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Retro Review: Thunderbolt (1995) #Jackiechan

Thunderbolt aka Dead Heat
Cast: Jackie Chan, Anita Yuen, Michael Wong, Thorsten Nickel, Chor Yuen
Genre: Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $11.4 million

Plot: A psychotic driver kidnaps the sisters of a Hong Kong mechanic who bested him in an impromptu car race 

'Blunder Bolt'

Thunderbolt sadly joins Mr Nice Guy, First Strike, The Accidental Spy and Twin Dragons on the list of disappointing and mediocre Jackie Chan films, with a plot that feels 'off' and is not something we had in mind in regards to his previous offerings. But for the fight scenes, barely anything else here reeks of classic Chan at his best. The film is noted for being the most expensive Hong Kong film produced at almost $25 million (nearly $200 million Hong Kong dollars). 

Jackie is Foh: a motor mechanic, who is also a race car driver in the vein of the Initial D Japanese anime, who finds himself on the wrong side of a crime syndicate. Resultingly, Foh's sister is kidnapped and he is forced to compete in a Days of Thunder -style race competition.

The villains are nothing to write home about, although the central bad guy of the film comes across as so cartoonish (that & he reminds me a little of the WWE wrestler, Triple H), some of the acting is questionable (the usually reliable Michael Wong is one of the culprits in terms of overacting), whilst the script is half-decent at best, yet in reality, it is just unbelievably dreary. This wasn't an easy watch, as it wasn't as entertaining and it's no wonder that Jackie himself has shown a personal dislike towards Thunderbolt. This film was also the follow-up to Rumble In The Bronx and whereby Jackie was recovering from a foot injury he had sustained onset; with that, a stunt double was employed multiple times during his fight scenes. With his injury and the stunt man doing Jackie's moves, the action looks rather 'off' and is not that good. The tone veers on the surprisingly unpleasant side and with that in mind, I could see either Jet Li, Chow-Yun Fat or Donnie Yen in a film such as this, more so than Jackie. 

1995's Thunderbolt was one of Chan's not-too-latter films of his career that tried to cater to and appeal to Western audiences, as he tried to cross-over from Hong Kong to America in his attempt to crack the U.S film market. But despite the NASCAR-type backdrop, it is never really utilised in a way that is made entertaining and the action sequences are all right, - yet they lack the creativity, flair, imagination and outrageousness of the fight scenes in say, Police Story 1 and 3 and Wheels on Meals. In fact, the film seems to focus more on the racing aspects and much less so on the fighting, which might not be a bad idea if it didn't star Jackie Chan. But because he is in it, a lot of people expect plenty of good action martial arts sequences. Thunderbolt just never offered much of these. 

Thunderbolt's story is also surprisingly subdued, lukewarm and with Gordon Chan in the director's helm, his effort, who gives it a Hollywood and Americanised flavour, lacks inspiration and any type of ingenuity and zest that the film could have done more with but even worse, it fails to utilise and maximise Jackie Chan to his fullest. As the film went on, I saw to it that Gordon never handled it properly or as well and with that, it is one of Chan's less Jackie-Chan-like movie offerings.

Sure enough, the tone is far more serious at face value than we've come to expect as Jackie tries to pull off the serious acting thing, but it is the story that is conceived in a way that doesn't appear to suit Jackie. Coupled with the reliance on stunt doubles, as well-choreographed as the fights tend to look, it just takes away some of the magic. 

That being said, one of the best and fewest scenes take place in a Japanese Pachinko parlour with Jackie trying to fight off the goons whilst evading them at the same time. But besides that, Thunderbolt is one of Jackie Chan's poorest showings when it comes to movies with an almost nonsensical script, some poor performances, some dodgy editing and the fights themselves are lacking and yet these were also not that great, either.

Final Verdict: 

Therefore, unfortunately, there is not much more to be enjoyed out of this, unless you want to see Jackie kick-ass - but even he doesn't get to do that often here, either. 

Along with no humongous climactic fight finale to be seen in sight unless you are a Jackie Chan completist, Thunderbolt is easily worth skipping. 


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