I was not too familiar with the oeuvre of Jackie Chan when he made his English-language debut in 1995, but there can’t be too many people in the West who remain completely ignorant. He’s a bit of a specialist star – his films are more or less vehicles for delivering his special talent, in this case, a hyper-kinetic fighting style that blends face-punching with the slapstick of Buster Keaton. This gives all his films a somewhat samey quality, in much the same way as I can’t always remember what happened in which of Esther William’s swimming pools.
If we try and think about Rumble in the Bronx using almost any typical story architecture, it makes absolutely no sense. It grabs tropes and story beats from a variety of genres and styles. The film opens with the standard beats for a fish-out-of-water comedy, then sets up the beats for a pair of different romantic comedies, introduces the characters for a street warfare plot, jettisons all of that to introduce a completely new bad guy and his jewels, and ends up with a hovercraft chase through NYC. Bonkers doesn’t begin to describe it.
It absolutely worked for me, because I went in with the right mindset: watching Jackie Chan alternate prat falls with high-kicks. The film never pauses for breath, never shows you a second of disconcerting emotion, and absolutely crucially, never takes itself even slightly seriously. All of the fight scenes are everything you could hope for too.
It’s a little rare for me to watch a whole film with a silly grin on my face. Probably not something to try and indulge in too often though – like eating Ice Cream for breakfast.