Jackie Chan rounds out a busy 2017 in Chinese director Leo Zhang’s partly Sydney-set action-thriller.
With Bleeding Steel, Jackie Chan literally wraps up 2017 by revisiting every archetype he has dabbled with during the past 12 months. As an upstanding cop trying to protect his daughter and also save the world, Chan’s protagonist here is at once a comical vigilante (à la Railroad Tigers), globetrotting fighter (Kung Fu Yoga) and a grieving father (The Foreigner). All that is packaged in a futuristic narrative peopled by a mad scientist and mutants, a backdrop shared with Reset, the sci-fi actioner on which Chan was credited as a producer.
Having made his directorial debut in 2012 with Chrysanthemum to the Beast, a gangster flick starring Chan’s son Jaycee, musician-turned-filmmaker Leo Zhang struggles to maintain a coherent tone with such inconsistent characterizations — not just the protagonist’s, but the supporting roles as well. Spiced up with moments of crude humor (bared brassieres and burned backsides, for example) and extreme violence (someone gets shot in the head, another has his heart ripped out of his body), the screenplay disintegrates as the plot careens forward with ever more inexplicable turns.
Bleeding Steel is hardly groundbreaking. Then again, by playing a rewritten version of Chan’s theme song to the 1985 film Police Story over the actor’s trademark end-credit gag reel, both the director and star probably had the idea of making a throwback all along. Fans of Chan and derring-do actioners will have a lot to marvel at, such as the tautly choreographed shootout at the beginning of the film and the skirmish on top of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a spectacle that will also go down well with Chinese audiences seeking some festive entertainment during the lucrative run-up to the New Year holidays.
The film begins with special forces agent Lin (Chan) speeding his way across town, split between his desire to bid a final farewell to his ailing daughter and an order to escort bioengineering expert James (Kim Gyngell) to a high-security facility. This being a Jackie Chan film, Lin naturally foregoes the personal in order to fulfill his professional duties. It’s a decision that leads to deaths aplenty: Lin’s daughter’s at the hospital, of course, but also most of his team at the hands of Andre (Callan Mulvey), a mutant warrior hunting down James for the immortality serum he has invented.
Flash forward 13 years, with the narrative relocated to Sydney in 2020 and Lin working odd jobs in order to remain close to a Chinese university student named Nancy (cellist-turned-actor Nana Ouyang). It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal who she is, given that she’s shown dreaming of James and his medical experiments in just her second scene. While Nancy struggles to contend with these suppressed memories, people begin to appear because of them: a bumbling rogue called Leeson (Show Lo, The Mermaid) is soon followed by Andre’s henchwoman (Tess Haubrich).
Cue endless chases along Sydney’s streets and inside (and atop) the Australian city’s buildings, followed by more set-pieces — including showdowns first with the villainess and then with Andre himself — filmed in Taipei, here masquerading as the fictional city of “Xingan.” Not that the geography — or the science, or the psychology — matters anyway. Bleeding Steel is all about old-school thrills, and Zhang has delivered a wide range of them, from cafeteria catfights to expansive pyrotechnics — with not just one but two crotch-kicking gags thrown in for good measure.
U.S. distributor: Swen Asia, WME-IMG China
Production companies: Heyi Pictures, Perfect Village Entertainment
Cast: Jackie Chan, Show Lo, Nana Ouyang, Erica Xia-Hou, Callan Mulvey, Tess Haubrich, Kim Gyngell
Director: Leo Zhang
Screenwriter: Leo Zhang, Erica Xia-Hou, Siwei Cui
Producers: Javier Zhang, Paul Currie, Aileen Li
Executive producers: Kailuo Liu
Directors of photography: Tony Cheung, Jian Liwei
Production designer: Huang Mei-ching
Costume designer: Hsu Li-wen
Music: Peng Fei
Editors: Kong Chi-leung, Leo Zhang
Casting: Nikki Barrett
In Mandarin and English