Friday, April 2, 2004

Jackie Chan: gangster with a heart of gold

Last night I rented a Jackie Chan movie called Black Dragon, also known as "Miracle." Hong Kong in the 1930s. Jackie Chan in a fedora. Let the good times roll.

First of all, let it be known that I won't scramble after just any gangster flick. For example, there is no way in hell I'd pay anything to sit through Mobsters, with Christian Slater and Richard Grieco. Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Frank Costello, and Arnold Rothstein would be rolling in their graves. However, if it came on TV, which no self-respecting channel would ever air, of course, I'd watch. But only for the clothes.

Now, back to Black Dragon. Jackie Chan is so adorable it's not even funny. Well, yeah, it's funny, but so funny that it's not even funny anymore. I learned that this movie was a kind of martial arts loose remake of a Frank Capra movie...well, two of them, to be exact -- Lady for a Day and Pocketful of Miracles. However, Capra's movies were based on a Damon Runyon story called "Madame La Gimp." Runyon was the quintessential voice of Broadway in the late teens to the Twenties, and wrote the essence of what became Guys and Dolls. So as soon as Chan's Black Dragon launched into that plot line of a good-hearted gangster trying to help a poor flower-seller pretend to be a high-class woman to impress her daughter, whom she hadn't seen for years, and future son-in-law, whose father was in a prestigious position...I immediately thought of Runyon. Jackie Chan wrote and directed this movie, so he probably didn't even know how far back he was reaching, even further than Capra's version.

And by golly, this was a fun, touching movie, with a fair share of eye-popping action scenes. JC is a genius fight choreographer, make no mistake about that. The sets and costumes were great. The music was cheesy at times, but it only reminded you to lighten up. Oh, and speaking of costumes, the way Jackie Chan handled his hats...drool-worthy. As for the sets, there was this one conspicuous sedan, beige body with a burgundy top, that I kept seeing throughout the movie. It was used several times by the rival gang, but other times it was just used as a passing car, and I just thought that was pretty funny.

Yay for Jackie Chan. He can do no wrong.

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