The Accidental Spy (2001)

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Don’t let the oddly constructed poster above fool you, this isn’t a cheesy and American explosive spy movie however it might look. This film has darker threads in it for Chinese superstar Jackie Chan to cope with. It is a pretty bad plot but the action moments more than make up for it I feel.

Two groups are after a new powerful drug and of course the CIA, Asian police forces and undercover detectives are out to stop them get their hands on it. Jackie Chan in the version I watched plays Jackie Chan who is a fit sports goods salesman who happens to feel intuition about troubling circumstances leading him to save the day in the shopping centre gaining attention that he could be a valuable asset as a spy.

Ivy Ho writes this martial arts spy movie with a keen sense of the meatier more entertaining moments but the filler in between is short lived and rushed. The characters don’t really connect and the main reasoning of who Chan is feels lost or dumb or perhaps both. We don’t really get to see more of who the normal Chan is/was and we don’t have enough moments to grasp the spy mission he is going along on. This film could have done with more detail or even a longer runtime to let us understand more of the narrative and make it a better spy plot than just a below average one.

It’s almost as if the director didn’t want the spy genre overshadowing Jackie’s skills at action either. Teddy Chan neatly exposes us to more exhilarating fights but the pieces in between are glossed over in a drab way that don’t live up to Bond or Bourne genre tropes. Sure there’s the globe-trotting and shadowy figures that may or may not be who they say there are but that feels like less than the focus for the film which is a disappointment because having more of an engaging spy plot run through would have been different for Jackie and for us also.

An example of the rushed attempt at being a spy thriller is having Chan trying to find information. It views like a plain Mission Impossible montage as he tries discovering things and playing his dead father’s game. The introduction of Yong to proceedings also clouds up the plot as we’re meant to believe that Chan cares for or loves her but there’s never enough time to buy into that relationship.

The action is great entertainment though and does make the film watchable and enjoyable. Jackie Chan comments that Buster Keaton was an influence and that can truly be felt in the defibrillator response, what with his brilliant clowning movements after the shocks. The taxi fight sequence is energetic but short-lived which is annoying. Though the spectacle of Chan using objects around him is found in a longer scene for amusing visuals of him utilising bubble blowing defence moves or handy tools at his disposal in the Turkish bazaar. The film has a surprising dark touch with blood, deaths and terrorist threats, addiction also plays a part for Yong but the film still gives us the gleeful humour we expect from Jackie Chan flicks.

Jackie Chan himself is as good as usual, the dedication he gives to the stunts makes everything more real. Even a non-dangerous moment where he twirls up into clothed disguise is done in such a cool way by the actor. He has a cheeky smile that lights up almost every scene even if they’re not all as exciting as you’d expect. Vivian Hsu as the damaged Yong tries her best at being an interesting character but they don’t give her much to do so you don’t ever feel for her. Eric Tsang as the mysterious Manny has a good stab at being comedic and layered as a character cropping up from time to time and he does well though that spy angle as mentioned isn’t cared about as much as letting the action do the talking.

A rushed shot that bounces off the target of being a good spy movie but it slam dunks for Jackie and his always fantastic action persona. Watchable but not overly recommended.

5.5/10

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