Mr. Nice Guy (1998)

I’m a TV Chef, but I’m Asian so I Also Know Kung Fu.

I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted to watch today.  I definitely didn’t want to keep going with the Batman theme because I didn’t want to oversaturate myself, even with something good.  I finally decided that I was in the mood to watch people punch each other in the face.  A martial arts movie would take care of that.  I also felt like it should be something fun, and there’s only one martial artist that I think of when I think of fun martial arts movies.  That’s Jackie Chan.  So I went to my DVD collection to see if anything stuck out for me.  Then I remembered that most of his movies were basically the same movie as far as I was concerned.  So I randomly grabbed Mr. Nice Guy, written by Edward Tang and Ma Fibe, directed by Sammo Hung, and starring Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Miki Lee, Karen McLymont, Vince Poletto, Barry Otto, Peter Lindsay, Peter Houghton, Rachel Blakely, David No, Sammo Hung, and Emil Chau.

A journalist named Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick) records a drug deal between an Italian mob boss named Giancarlo (Richard Norton) and a street gang known as the Demons.  She also records the deal going sour as Giancarlo shoots the leader of the Demons, and then she records them seeing her and her cameraman.  They run away and split up, and Diana runs into a TV chef named Jackie (Jackie Chan), who is Asian and thusly knows kung fu and helps her escape.  While escaping in Jackie’s car, Diana accidentally switches the tape of the drug deal with one of Jackie’s cooking tapes.  When the mob tracks Diana down, they find that she doesn’t have the tape, so they set their sights on Jackie.  But they seem to have forgotten that he is Asian and knows kung fu, and he will defeat them with his fists!

This is certainly the kind of movie I think of when I think of a Jackie Chan movie.  The story is dumb and ridiculous, the performances are lackluster, but the action is fun.  I wouldn’t call this a good movie, but I’d go so far as to say it’s a fine movie to shut off your brain and just enjoy for what it is.  The story is pretty simple and often goofy and nonsensical.  At its core, it’s just about a drug cartel hunting a TV chef, and I’m sure we’ve all seen that story before.  Then they add a couple more ridiculous and improbable things, such as a random biker wedding that Jackie runs through at some point when trying to escape Giancarlo’s men.  But they were in Australia, and I’m sure that kind of thing goes on roughly every day down there.  They certainly have the worst excuse for cops down there, as shown in the scene where Jackie is trying to make a swap with the gang for his girlfriend.  They follow immediately behind him despite his protests, wear obvious earpieces to keep in communication, and even bulletproof vests.  If that doesn’t spell “inconspicuous”, then I don’t know what does.  They also do something that I’ve taken issue with in movies before.  I’ve seen it so many times in movies where someone is watching a tape that is supposedly filmed from one camera and one vantage point, but when they play it back on the TV it’s clearly just the footage from the movie, able to make the close ups and camera angles it needs to.  You’d think they’d be able to see the cameraman sooner with him holding the camera an inch from their face.  The biggest thing that gets to me about the story of so many Jackie Chan movies that I’ve seen is that he quite often plays a character named Jackie.  What’s the story behind that, I wonder.  Can he not remember the name of a character he’s supposed to be portraying, or are the writers just lazy?  Either way, two people in this movie share their names with their character, and it perplexes me.  But the story of this movie is really not meant to impress as best I can tell.  It’s more played for comedy and action.  The comedy rarely sinks in as all that funny to me.  Obviously you’ll have a lot of slapstick and comedy coming up in the fight scenes because that’s how Jackie rolls.  They also got some mileage out of Miki not being able to speak English, but usually having just enough knowledge of the language to understand a few words heard out of context so that she can think Jackie is cheating on her, or that Lakeisha is saying she has small boobs.  A part in the movie I did actually think was funny was Sammo Hung’s whole scene.  He just had a brief part in the movie as a cyclist, and the comedy in the scene was mostly slapstick, but the things he said around it got a chuckle out of me.  I would say I took issues with the ending of the movie as well because not a whole lot really happened.  I would say it was poorly written, but great in the spectacle and action.  Let’s just say it brought the roof down.

That seems like a good opportunity to switch into talking about the action in the movie a little bit.  I am known as the King of the Segway, after all.  There’s a good enough amount of action, but I probably would’ve appreciated a little more fighting and less chase scenes for my action buck.  But, as always, Jackie Chan will find some interesting new things to do.  There was a whole fight scene that took place in a building that was under construction, making the building just a series of concrete walls and improbably placed doors and turning the fight into a Scooby Doo style chase.  There’s also a part where Jackie has his arms and legs tied, and the ropes are being held by Giancarlo’s goons so that Jackie could almost fight and defend himself against Giancarlo, but his hands and feet would never connect.  This was definitely an interesting idea, but probably more complicated than a mob boss who owns a gun would ever set up.  There was also an action scene that took place on and around a giant construction … thing.  It was like a truck or a bulldozer, but didn’t really have a scoop or anything.  I don’t know what it was.  It was enormous and Jackie had to lay down in front of its wheels (that were roughly twice as tall as him) and climb up the wheels to get to the cab while it was still moving.

The performances were all kind of goofy in this movie.  For some reason, even though I think the greater majority of the cast spoke English, they really go over the top with their mouth movements to say each word, as if they had no idea what was coming out of their mouth and were just made to say it phonetically.  Jackie Chan did his part in the movie.  You could find a few occasions when he didn’t say his lines right because he probably had little idea what he was saying, but he does his action very well.  I think I talked about this the last time I reviewed a Jackie Chan movie, but he really seems to love the gag of accidentally grabbing a handful of some actresses boob, and he does that same gag here with Gabrielle Fitzpatrick.  She didn’t have to stretch any acting chops in this movie, but she did run around in her underwear for a bit, and that was alright by me.  I felt like I knew her the entire time I was watching her, but it wasn’t until I got on Rotten Tomatoes that I realized I’ve reviewed a movie she was in before.  She was a minor role in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie!  So that’s a thing.  Richard Norton was occasionally close to being intimidating as Giancarlo, but he completely lost me at one point.  There’s a part in the movie where he is threatening one of his goons and punctuating each word by taking the goon’s tie and slapping him in the neck with it, but he apparently didn’t know how goofy and limp-wristed the movement would make him look until the movie was released.

Mr. Nice Guy was decent enough.  The story was ridiculous and goofy, the performances were all pretty bad, but the action was mostly a lot of fun.  I just think they should’ve focused a little more heavily on Jackie Chan’s fighting skills and not as much on his comedic stunt work.  Either way, it worked out okay and ended up being roughly what I expected it to be.  A fun watch if you like martial arts movies and Jackie Chan, otherwise there’s not a whole lot of reason to watch it.  Mr. Nice Guy gets “Whose dialogue is it?” out of “That’s it.  No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

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