Our Jackie Chan Adventures series closes with the eponymous action star’s first American vehicle, Rumble in the Bronx.
Review by Trylon volunteer Thorn Chen.
Almost immediately as he gets to the Bronx, Ma Hon Keung (Jackie Chan) gets on the bad side of neighborhood motorcycle thugs and its head Tony (Marc Akerstream), who leads his followers in a go-cart. Jackie beats up some gang members for roughing up a grocery store, and things go south from there. The fact that he runs off with the gang leader’s girlfriend Nancy (Françoise Yip) does not help matters.
The neighborhood bickering—and near lethal fights between Jackie and the gang—gets overshadowed when Angelo, whose nose Jackie broke in the first fight, gets everyone accidentally mixed up in a multimillion dollar diamond heist and a criminal syndicate whose thugs wear suits, ride around in Lincoln town cars, and impersonate FBI agents. Jackie’s new girlfriend and her wheelchair-bound little brother are taken hostage, and Jackie finds himself in an epic hovercraft chase in order to get the bad guys and rescue the hostages.
That’s about all there is in terms of plot. As with most films starring Jackie Chan, Rumble in the Bronx is thin on narrative, for which it compensates with well-choreographed (and ridiculous) fight sequences, complete with the requisite props.
Jackie is, in fact, helpless without his props. Cornered in a dead end of an alleyway by the biker gang, he is almost killed as the gangsters bat empty liquor bottles his way (literally, with a baseball bat). When he goes after the gang in a used appliance store, he is golden: refrigerators, TVs, ladders, and hanging lamps all become his allies and accessories. Not to mention, the props make the brawls interesting. And there are a lot of brawls, in the typical Bronx locales—a supermarket, a parking garage, graffiti-filled alleyways, a boathouse, a beach.
Rumble was the first of Jackie’s films to break into the U.S. market, and this significant fact shows in its narrative geography. Title credits pasted over a plane flying against the sunset cuts to the airport, where Jackie gets a ride from his uncle. On their way across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan (taking a very inefficient route from JFK airport to the Bronx), Jackie marvels at the downtown Manhattan skyline; his uncle says, “This is Manhattan. I could only dream of having a market here… my market is in the Bronx.”
Hence the film’s stand in the inter-borough rivalry, where Jackie puts aside his differences with the biker thugs from the Bronx in order to fight the suit-and-tie mafia, with its leader “White Tiger,” obviously more at home in Manhattan. After all, Jackie Chan and Kung Fu cinema fit in better with the racially diverse biker gangs of the Bronx than the town car driving diamond dealers. All this doesn’t prevent gems of moralizing dialogue, like when Jackie tells the gang (after he has beaten them up): “don’t you know you’re the scum of society?”
Thorn Chen is from New York, now in Minneapolis pursuing a PhD at the U, where he studies Chinese cinema, reads continental philosophy, and scrounges for funds to support his coffee addiction.
Rumble in the Bronx screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 9:00. Purchase tickets here.