Apr 082012
 

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , ,

 

HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still cannot forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word.  So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore…. our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection.  Presenting the first of two movies this week starring the incredible Jackie Chan that are amongst his less seen films but are must sees if you appreciate decent action and yearn for the days when action was shot so you could actually see it!

 

HCF REWIND NO.47. MR NICE GUY  AKA  YAT GOH HIU YU [1997]

AVAILABLE ON DVD

DIRECTED BY: Sammo Hung

WRITTEN BY: Fibe Ma, Edward Tang

STARRING: Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Miki Lee, Karen Mclymont

RUNNING TIME: 96 mins [Hong Kong version] / 89 mins [US version]

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

 

In Melbourne, a cocaine deal between the Italian mob and a street gang called the Demons goes wrong and Giancarlo, the mob boss, kills the Demon’s leader.  As bullets start flying, it seems that TV journalist Diana is catching all this on tape.  Though her partner is captured, she flees with the tape, which of course contains evidence which, if publically aired, could bring down the Mob. Chased by gangsters, Diana bumps into mild-mannered TV chef Jackie, who uses his martial arts skills to fight her pursuers and help her escape.  Supposed to be giving a warm welcome to his visiting girlfriend Miki, Jackie hopes he has seen the last of Diana, but she accidently switched the tape with a children’s video, meaning that he is now a target for both the mobsters and the Demons………..

 

I doubt that any Jackie Chan fan would claim Mr Nice Guy to be amongst his best movies, but I have always had a real soft spot for it.  It is basically a load of nonstop chasing around and fighting, so that for me I can almost forgive the film’s glaring problems such as its stupid plotting and awful acting, things that one might say are often a feature of Chan’s films but are especially notable in this one, perhaps because, although a Hong Kong-made production, it was shot in English. It’s almost like watching a two hour Chan film but fast forwarding through all the ‘slow’ bits – you know, the bits that might make the plot stronger and give us breathers between all the running and kicking – resulting in ninety-odd minutes of almost constant movement.  Being as it almost plays like a compendium of bits and pieces from Chan’s earlier movies [though there is still much originality too]  it should be a good introduction for those who only know him from his American features, many of which are great fun, but not all of which use his skills, be they as a martial artist, as a stunt person or as a comedian, to their fullest.

Mr Nice Guy was put into production just after the huge success of Chan’s Rumble In The Bronx in the United States.  Distributing company New Line asked fora virtual remake of that movie,  basically a film that was all action and had less, though still some, of the comedy that was a feature of most of Chan’s Hong Kong pictures.  As well as being shot in English, it marked the return of Chan’s childhood buddy Sammo Hung to Chan’s world.  He directed and co-starred with him in several films during the 80’s and they are regarded by Hong Kong film fans as being amongst the highlights of the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema.  As was often the case, Chan injured himself during shooting, this time almost breaking his neck doing a flip.  The expected huge hit in Hong Kong, it failed at the US box office  [probably because folks has been saturated with Chan releases of late, though Rush Hour soon restored his box office potency].  A shame, because the US release for me is actually superior to the Hong Kong cut, something that is not usually the case!  None of the action was hurt and continuity errors were removed, most of the violence against women [Hung having a thing for women being hit, kicked and pushed in his films] was thankfully cut removed, what scenes were cut were unnecessary and J. Peter Robinson’s score, though not great, was a significant improvement on the original mess by Peter Klam and Clarence Hui.  One scene, a brief dinner table conversation, was restored from the cutting room floor.

So what we basically have here is a film that has diametrically opposed features.  The storyline, which is basically a load of people after a tape, is so weak you almost forget it whilst watching the movie.  It’s simply an excuse for all the rushing around and brawling, and when people do stop to talk it is sometimes painful to hear.  Try and count how many times “where’s the tape”? is said near the beginning, or cringe at the dialogue between the Demons as they plan to get the tape back.  The appalling quality of the acting does not help, almost giving the impression that many of the cast members were pulled off the street, two cops being the worst culprits, really seeming like they were made of wood.  There is some clumsiness in execution too; look out for the two scenes when the tape is played back and what you see are the film edits from the scene, not what one tape recording will be witnessed.  Duh!

So it is left for the action to save Mr Nice Guy, and it just about succeeds.  This is a film that seems to be on permanent fast forward.  No sooner has one chase down a street ended than another one begins.  I mentioned earlier that there is quite a bit of rehashing of things from earlier movies, from hanging sign-jumping [Police Story 2] to near-misses with a chainsaw [The Protector] to a chilli eating gag [Project A 2] to Chan having three young women of different nationalities in tow [Operation Condor], but there is so much action that this only make up a small part of it.  Highlights include Chan battling villains on a runaway cart, Chan battling villians in the back of a van, Chan fighting Giancaldo the main villain whilst tied up, Chan jumping across a river onto a crane,  and Chan driving a huge mining vehicle into Giancaldo’s home; of course Chan refuses to just climb up the outside ladder to get into the moving vehicle and hangs on to one of the wheels while it turns round instead.  This final scene was put together because Chan’s injury meant that the intended final fight could not happen, but it’s pretty spectacular, and caused so much mess that the authorities said Chan was never allowed to film in that area of Australia again!  Some of my favourite bits are the quicker, smaller things such as Chan, somehow, managing to his himself through gate railings, and every minute or so a laugh is worked in.  There may not be the extended comic episodes of some earlier Chan films, but there is plenty of comedy mixed in with the mayhem, including a great gag where Chan realises he has his hand on a woman’s breast.  Actually,  maybe it’s not that great, but such stuff always makes my juvenile mind laugh!

The greatest sequence of all is a battle in a construction site which is nearly Chan at his best; thrilling, dangerous and funny, with all the features of the environment being used, from pallets to a cement mixer, plus some great comic gags such as some silent movie-type stuff with doors, Watching scenes like this, I am always in awe of the timing and the skill employed.  It is notable though that Chan spends as much time running away from baddies as fighting them, a common feature of later Chan films, as he got less interested in, and was getting a little old to do, extended smackdowns.  Considering Chan put in some of his best fighting performances for Hung-directed films, often showing a tougher, more uncompromising side, many fans expected Mr Nice Guy  to have a return of this, and were disappointed.   As director though, Hung does direct the action very well, sometimes adding slight slow motion to some scenes and making good use of the occasional aerial shot.

Jackie Chan, of course, just plays Jackie Chan.  He’s even called…..Jackie [as he was in a few other films around this time].  He exudes his usual natural charm and displays his usual incredible timing, whether it be for action or getting a laugh.  At 42, he displays seemingly as much agility as has had when he was 32, though he’s over twice the age of Miki Lee, who plays his girlfriend, called…..Miki.  A singer who only appeared in two other films, she has a likeable presence and a light touch which makes her probably the best of the other performers in the movie. Richard Norton as Giancarlo is hilariously hammy and isn’t helped by having so much obvious makeup he looks like a transvestite.  Sammo Hung has a fun cameo as an ill-fated cyclist.  In a way criticising a film like Mr Nice Guy is pointless; its main ambition is to just throw you a ton of great action and in that it succeeds very well.   I just wish that a bit more effort had been made in other departments so then we may have had one of Chan’s best movies here, rather than an average one. Though if you’re a fan like me, that is still well above average overall, hence the generous rating!

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

 

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