Just to set the scene: orphaned former exercise machine salesman turned international spy Buck Yuen has embarked on a cryptic chase, instigated by a dying rich man who may or may not be his father. The puzzling clues lead him into the path of certain danger in Istanbul when he finds himself in possession of a suitcase full of cash and a mysterious vial of white powder. And naturally he falls for dishy "reporter" Carmen Wong in the process…
Coherence is not, in all honesty, one of The Accidental Spy‘s trump cards, throwing in as it does every hoary spy convention in the book. Still, at least it has a plot of sorts – but the best advice is to ignore it, sit back, and enjoy the finest selection of Jackie’s set-pieces you’ve seen in years. Best of the bunch is a fight/escape from a Turkish bathhouse, which seamlessly segues into a hysterical run-around in a souk. Jackie, stark naked, has to run through the market place fending off all-comers whilst maintaining his modesty with carefully placed spice-bowls, meaning his buttocks soon become irrevocably dyed in a variety of multicoloured spices. [Only in a Jackie Chan film…Ed.]
In normal hands this would have worked as simple fun, but the speed and sophisticated direction ensure it is consistently funny and exhilarating. Once again Jackie pins down his exotic locations by utilising cultural clichés to form the basis for his fight scenes – it’s similar to the clog scene in Who Am I? (1993), which was set in Rotterdam. Hitchcock used to do the same thing, only without the kung fu. These are enough set-pieces to keep the punters entertained but, as everyone knows, they’re only half the Jackie Chan story. There is still the small matter of the super-stunt to contend with.
In a Jackie Chan film, this always relies on one big, dumb, dangerous premise as opposed to a string of expertly choreographed mini-stunts. The Accidental Spy comes complete with two of Jackie’s trademarked super-stunts neatly book-ending the film. The final stunt, performed on a bridge, is sheer madness. Even though the out-takes show the mechanics (and in one take, complete failure) of the process; the whole "reality" of the staging is enough to make you turn pale.
Some people say that perhaps Jackie Chan is getting too old for this sort of thing. He is, after all, nearly fifty, and has so far managed to injure just about every inch of his body in the name of entertainment. He has talked about engaging in a more mellow style of filmmaking for over a decade, and a glance at his recent body of work would seem to suggest he might be slowing down – at least a little.The plodding tedium of Rush Hour and the lazy blue screens of The Tuxedo were disappointing, Only Shanghai Noon had any real sense of the Jackie joie de vivre – along with the imminent promise of bone-shattering, life-endangering lunacy which makes his films so exhilarating. These are, of course, all Hollywood films. But even Jackie’s home-grown Gorgeous hinted at a more restrained retirement. In the midst of his ever-increasing star status in the west, The Accidental Spy proves that there’s life in the old dog yet, and adds further fuel to the burning question – why are his rubbish Hollywood flicks so popular when he can still produce stuff like this?
These are, of course, all Hollywood films. But even Jackie’s home-grown Gorgeous hinted at a more restrained retirement. In the midst of his ever-increasing star status in the west, The Accidental Spy proves that there’s life in the old dog yet, and adds further fuel to the burning question – why are his rubbish Hollywood flicks so popular when he can still produce stuff like this?