Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#42Movies, Day 6: Chinese Feud

(All right, you got me. This entire blog series is, in fact, just an excuse for me to make up terrible puns. Deal with it.)

Today we're talking about:

Rush Hour (1998)
The One (2001)

Let's get it on after the trailers.

Yes, these are both American movies which feature Asian performers. I suppose I feel an affinity for them because my life has followed a similar trajectory: I was born in Taiwan, and many of my early life experiences there shaped who I am today, but I grew up in the United States, and this is where I'll succeed or fail.

And yes, there are many excellent kung fu movies made in other countries, but it's interesting to look at how the stars of these two films were imported and repackaged for American audiences.

Jackie Chan and Jet Li in many ways represent two opposite ends of the martial arts movie spectrum: Jackie became famous for always doing his own stunts (and sometimes suffering grievous injuries in the process), and Jet was well-known for his wire fu special effects. Jackie tends to go for comedy, and Jet usually plays the badass fighter character. But they both act as ambassadors for Eastern martial arts, which are a huge part of many Asian cultures but have no traditional counterpart in the West. (Wrestling? Boxing? Let's be serious here, folks.)

Fun fact: John Rogers, now known for showrunning TV's Leverage and The Librarians, also created the animated series The Jackie Chan Adventures back in the day. And if you think a cartoon about Jackie Chan is an odd idea, perhaps you're misinterpreting his brand. It's not about the "real" death-defying stunts; it's about a very specific, precisely choreographed style of action comedy. Rogers later wrote a draft of Rush Hour 2... but I digress.

The original Rush Hour also features Chris Tucker's second-best career performance to date. His best work was, of course, as Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element. FIGHT ME.

Speaking of science fiction, I know The One is completely ridiculous, but I love how it's totally okay with being a gonzo spec-fic riff on Highlander. And come on, you gotta give it up for a movie that has its own TV Tropes page.

Directed by James Wong, who co-wrote the script with Glen Morgan—they're the same team who co-created the TV series Space: Above and Beyond and shared writing credits on 15 episodes of The X-Files, including "Squeeze" and "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man"—The One is kind of the bright, brazen, balls-to-the-walls antithesis to the often dark and brooding TV shows they worked on.

By the way, if you're watching it on DVD, make sure you check out the special features. The pictures of all the different alternate-universe Jet Lis are a friggin' hoot.


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