It was the next logical step! Jackie Chan had fame in Hong Kong so why not break into a much bigger movie industry – Hollywood! After all, Bruce Lee achieved tremendous fame when he made Enter the Dragon. Well, like all good things Jackie had to work for it!
With a few flops standing between him and his goal, it took some time for him to make the impact he wanted. So what movies were Jackie’s “stepping stones” into Hollywood? Let’s have a look…
Battle Creek Brawl
This was Jackie’s first English speaking film! It’s interesting as he didn’t speak great English so he relied on the sounds of the words during his dialogue. Plus it was the first film to feature his actual voice, whereas his Hong Kong performances featured voice overs from other actors!
This movie surrounds a small Chinese family in the 30’s who are threatened by gangsters. These gangsters kidnap the fiance of Jerry’s (Jackie Chan’s) brother in the film and will only return her once he fights in the Texas Brawl – a fighting competition. So he trains hard and gets into lots of fights…yippee.
The fights? Actually not too bad.
The whole flow of them is reminiscent of Enter the Dragon with similar style sounds and storytelling. Throughout the the whole moviethe Enter the Dragon feel is present with the music being almost identical at times. There’s even a scene where Jackie character spies on the enemy (similar to breaking into Han’s dungeon) and the final fight even takes place away from the crowd in a private area (Lee vs Han?). You don’t have to be a genius to tell that this was made by the same people – Chow, Clouse, Weintraub…
Overall it’s ok, nothing special. They expected the same success they saw with Bruce Lee’s first US picture but it just didn’t happen, it’s missing that unique style and flair and comes across as pretty standard.
Cannonball Run 1 & 2
So next step for Jackie? Play supporting roles in American films and gain publicity that way.
So Jackie landed a spot on a Burt Reynolds Comedy called Cannonball Run. With Burt being such a big name it would seem like a decent enough move to make people more aware of Jackie. Unfortunately Chan’s presence was overshadowed by Reynolds – and Jackie had an extremely minor role.
Jackie plays a Japanese driver and his skills are used for a fight scene later in the movie. It goes without saying, it didn’t do much for his career despite that scene being pretty cool and the movie making a bucket load of money at the box office. Jackie did first get the idea of using an outtake reel from this film after they used one during the credits.
Jackie had legal obligations to star in second, though he didn’t want to. Once again they threw in a token fight scene.
Naturally the sequel didn’t do as good as the first film and I think Jackie was pretty much done with it at that stage.
Both movies are on DVD & Blu-ray
5 years after Battle Creek Brawl they decided to go at it again in Hollywood with Jackie in the lead.
They decided to make him a tough guy, fill him up with a bunch of crappy one liners (“That’s not a threat, that’s a promise”) and use a guy so polite and harmless looking as Jackie to play him. He swears, there’s big ass explosions and naked girls showing off their gifts from puberty to add that hardcore edge…
…yeah, it didn’t work.
This ‘copper goes after bad guys’ movie is exceptionally bland with a definite drop in action quality along with the overall acting and story. Once again, it’s kind of watchable and not terrible but only by a shred. The only way you’d have to see it is if you’re a hardcore Jackie Chan fan.
Jackie himself will tell you he’s not happy with this film and I can see why. He forgot all about the USA after this movie and focused on his successful Hong Kong career.
Rumble in the Bronx
Some years pass and the next thing you know – Hong Kong action choreographers are working in the US! Jackie starts work on Rumble in the Bronx and finally gets the recognition he deserves.
This film is like a conceptual remake of Way of the Dragon – only in the Bronx instead of Rome.
Jackie helps out friends in trouble from a gang but it expands far beyond that initial conflict. It has some hard hitting fights and also offers some more ‘general’ action to make it more than just a ‘martial arts’ film. Needless to say it’s a good film (success tells the tale) and I definitely recommend it.
Yep, this film is what solidified Jackie as an A-Lister in the Hollywood film industry. This blend of East meets West comedy is what people wanted and it had some nice action to back it up – but not nearly as much as some of Jackie’s earlier films.
This film’s value lies in the comedy primarily and the antics of both Chan and Chris Tucker in their cultural differences and arguments. I did enjoy this film and also what action it did present, but I wouldn’t call it one of Chan’s best action movies – but one of his best comedies.
While other films were released before this one (after Rumble in the Bronx), this one is the next most notable in the list. Ever since Rush Hour Jackie has been popping up in US films (primarily comedies with some Martial Arts action) and is a house hold name.
Rush Hour is on Blu-ray and DVD
The rest is history…
…and it’s still in the making! Since then Jackie’s done some mediocre films with some good ones targeting English speaking audiences. It goes to show just how hard the Hollywood film industry can be for anyone to succeed in despite the background of huge financial success overseas.
If there’s once thing you can say about Jackie it’s that he works hard, makes mistakes and learns from them, coming back better than ever!
What’s Your favorite ‘English language’ Jackie Chan film?
Do you even have one? He’s had some bad with the good for sure but let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or on Facebook. Thanks for reading!
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I loved Big Brawl (other name Battle Creek) and the protector.
My favourite though was Wheels on Meals. Best fight scene ever against Benny “the Jet” Urquidez and a real Lupin the 3rd storyline.
Jackie Chan is the best action film star ever. My favorites are def Drunken Master 2, Supercop, Armor of God 2: Operation Condor, Thunderbolt, Rumble in the Bronx and New Police Story. As far as his US films I would have to say the Rush Hour movies and Shanghi Noon. I’ve noticed his US movies are a lot more tame than his Hong Kong films
You have good taste, yeah the US films do hold back a bit – I think the difference is in the filmmakers choreographing the action and the safety factor, the USA would have stricter safety laws. Not sure if that’s it, that’s my theory though
Either Rumble in the Bronx or Jackie Chan’s First Strike. Both have great action but I like how dark Rumble is.
Jackie chan is a great martial artist, it was very sad that his first films were so bogus as no one can jump thirty feet for example but once he got to USA it all changed and he made some great movies, i really think he is under rated.
He definitely is underrated, his performances are unbelievable 🙂