Happy 67th birthday to the master of comedic action.
Jackie Chan is an amazing performer.
He's not only a talented actor, director, singer, and martial artist, he also holds two Guinness World Records — for most credits in a single movie, and for most stunts performed by a living actor.
And the more you look into some of those stunts, the more shocking it is that Jackie Chan still is a living actor. He's sustained major injuries to his spine, his skull, his ribs, and every one of his limbs, all to deliver some of the best action comedy movies of all time.
Jackie Chan - How to Do Action Comedy youtu.be
While it's impressive that Tom Cruise does his own death-defying stunts, Jackie Chan has made a career out of doing stunts that no one else could — choreographing and executing some of the most intense, complex, and entertaining fight scenes ever filmed. As a result, his sequences are equal parts impressively realistic and hilariously heightened.
At 67, Chan is still kicking, and still putting his body on the line for the entertainment of millions (if not billions) of fans around the world. With Rush Hour 4 and Shanghai Dawn — the third installment in Chan's Shanghai film series with Owen Wilson — reportedly in the works, we can likely look forward to more of Jackie Chan's improvised ass-kicking, incredible stunts, and painful outtakes.
In the meantime, we can celebrate his work by looking back at some of his coolest, funniest, and most memorable fight sequences.
"Legend of the Drunken Master": One More Drink
In 1994's Drunken Master II — released in 2000 in the US as Legend of the Drunken Master — Jackie Chan portrayed folk hero Wong Fei-Hung, a martial arts expert who has what could be termed either a drinking problem, or possibly a drinking solution.
Using the drunken boxing style of fighting, Wong mimics the swaying, unpredictable movements of intoxication to strike his enemies with surprising and powerful blows. But while this is a real martial arts form, the movie plays with the idea that Wong's key to success is actual drunkenness.
Whenever he's outmatched in a fight, Chan seeks out the nearest supply of alcohol, and pours it down his throat as quickly as he can. With a goofy smile he becomes increasingly wild, impulsive, and seemingly impervious to pain.
This classic scene in which a friend is throwing him bottle after bottle is a great example of how Chan's faux-drunkenness makes for great visual gags as well as impressive fighting.
"First Strike": Ladder Fight
Jackie Chan's improvisational style of fight choreography almost always involves his character making use of everyday objects in his surroundings to overcome seemingly impossiblre odds. That can mean fighting with the help of everything from furniture to clothing to dishware.
In this famous example from 1996's Police Story 4: First Strike, he takes on a group of henchmen armed with a tall step ladder. Flipping and whirling the ladder around in every conceivable way, Chan manages to strike, trap, and block his opponents in a fast-paced sequence that ends in surrender — and one of his most satisfying visual jokes.
"Rush Hour": Exhibit Fight
Brett Ratner's 1998 hit Rush Hour elevated Jackie Chan to a new level of fame in America, and for good reason. Chan and co-star Chris Tucker make for one of the funniest reluctant duos in action movie history, and unlike a lot of American action movies, Rush Hour managed to get the fight sequences right.
This scene from the film's climax is a great example, with a twist on Chan's usual style. Because the fight takes place at an exhibition of priceless Chinese art, Jackie Chan can't use the objects around him to fight. Instead, he has to work double duty, taking hits and managing to fight back while running from one teetering antique vase to another, trying desperately to prevent them from being smashed to pieces.
"The Accidental Spy": Naked Fight
In terms of sheer slapstick silliness, it's hard to beat this fight scene from 2001's The Accidental Spy. Chan's character Yuen gets sucked into an intricate plot of international espionage that takes him to Istanbul, and he's relaxing at a local bathhouse when a group of assasins come for him.
Yuen escapes into the market, where he loses his towel, and has to fight off his attackers while constantly picking up objects to hide his shame. In addition to being a funny sequence, this scene comes with the bonus of lots of shots of Jackie Chan's bare ass — including shots where it's coated in some kind of colorful spices, if that's what you're into.
"Police Story": Mall Fight
Jackie Chan has referred to 1985's Police Story as his best movie when it comes to pure action. And if that's the case, this classic scene in a sprawling shopping mall is the reason why. The scene, which features Chan kicking dudes down escelators, smashing through glass, and fighting with trash cans, clothes racks, and even a motorcycle, eventually builds up to one of his most infamous stunts.
With the bad guys several stories below, getting away with the all-important briefcase, Chan's character Chan Ka-Kui slides down a metal pole strung with popping, sparking lights before dropping through a glass structure to catch them. Unfortunately those lights were real, and — along with the crew's lights— had managed to heat up the pole so much that Chan's hands were covered in burns almost as soon as he touched it.
With no harness or net to catch him, he had no choice but to slide all the way down that scalding pole — a bit faster than was probably advisable — and land on the hard mable floor of the mall, injuring his pelvis and two vertebrae, nearly leaving him paralyzed. The resulting shot is all the more amazing when you know how real it is, but what kind of director would put his star in that much danger?
Oh, right...Jackie Chan.
"Miracles": Rope Factory Fight
In this scene from 1989's Miracles, Jackie Chan has to fight of a whole crime syndicate's worth of henchmen in a rope factory. The setting makes great use of Chan's distinctive fighting style, with lots of swinging, jumping, an acrobatic moves involving ladders, spools of rope, and precarious wooden platforms.
The Legend of the Drunken Master (Jui kuen II) Final Fight
The climactic fight in Legend of the Drunken Master combines both of Chan's most impressive skills as a filmmaker. Not only does it feature more of the blended action and comedy of his drunken style in meticulously choreographed sequences; it also includes another of Jackie Chan's insane stunts.
Fighting in a steel factory, Wong gets knocked onto a bed of burning coals. On his hands and feet, he then crab-walks backwards over those coals, badly damaging his hands, necessitating the use of his secret weapon — alcohol. How did they achieve such a realistic shot before the era of CG? Simple — they just Jackie Chan actually crawl across burning coals...twice.
Wow. After everything he's put himself through to entertain us through the years, the least we can do is wish Jackie Chan a happy 67th birthday.
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