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Chinese Zodiac

Original title: Sap ji sang ciu

D: Jackie Chan / 109m

Cast: Jackie Chan, Xingtong Yao, Qi Shu, Oliver Platt, Fan Liao, Laura Weissbecker, Rosario Amedeo, Qingxiang Wang, Stephen Chang, Sang-woo Kwon, Alaa Safi, Caitlin Dechelle, Ken Lo

JC (Chan) and his team of mercenary treasure hunters are tasked with finding the twelve bronze heads that the animals of the Chinese Zodiac are made up of.  Originally plundered from the Summer Palace, the whereabouts of some of the heads are already known.  JC’s boss, Lawrence Morgan (Platt), wants him to locate and/or steal each one.  JC and his team travel from Hong Kong to France to Australia to Vanuatu in their efforts to find the heads; along the way they’re joined by antiquities expert Coco (Yao) and Parisian heiress Catherine (Weissbecker).  Unaware that Morgan has an ulterior motive for collecting the heads, JC finds each head in turn and then discovers he’s been tricked.  With time against him, JC has to save the last remaining head from being dropped into a live volcano.

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If that last bit sounds a bit over the top, then you’d be right.  But then this is an action comedy devised, written, directed by and starring Jackie Chan, and made first and foremost for a Hong Kong Chinese audience.  Platt’s presence aside, this makes no concessions to international viewers, and is the usual mix of injury-defying stunts, intricate fight sequences, slapstick comedy, desperate mugging, chaste romancing, and has a storyline that barely serves as a hook for the action scenes; there’s even the standard outtakes included in the end credits (as well as a recap of Chan’s career).  If you like this sort of thing you’ll find plenty to keep you engrossed, and to be fair, Chan delivers the action goods even at 58.  With everyone involved clearly having fun, Chinese Zodiac is only interested in giving its audience a good time, and its far-fetched approach merely adds to that fun.  Chan has a steady hand on the tiller, the action is expertly choreographed, shot and edited, and the whole thing has a welcome, Saturday morning matinee feel to it.

Rating: 7/10 – an exhilarating thrill ride of a movie, Chinese Zodiac will attract fans of this type of thing probably more so than newbies; Chan is still an amazing physical performer, though, and thankfully, the positives easily outweigh the negatives.