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'Mr. Nice Guy' Proves to Be Archetypal Chan Thriller

Movie Review

March 20, 1998|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Mr. Nice Guy" could be the the title of practically all the movies Jackie Chan has ever made, but it happens to be that of his latest, an entertaining, action-filled thriller that is pure pleasure for fans of the charismatic martial arts superstar.

Not surprisingly, "Mr. Nice Guy" is a lot like a zillion other Chan films; what's amazing is how Chan's sunny personality, his graceful dexterity plus lots of inventive stunts and action sequences keep the formula fresh.

Directed by his longtime colleague, director-actor Samo Hung and featuring the work of Chan's own team of stunt coordinators, "Mr. Nice Guy" seems as much choreographed as it is filmed. It has the movement and structure of an exceptionally vigorous ballet, giving it a terrific sense of energy and unity. Hung's bravura sense of style and pace have been crucial in making "Mr. Nice Guy" one of Chan's best.

Edward Tang and Fibe Ma's lively, well-developed script finds Jackie a star in a popular Melbourne TV cooking show, whose cooking video gets mixed up with one belonging to a TV newscaster (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick). She has managed to record the city's premier drug kingpin (Richard Norton) engaged in dealings that would swiftly bring him down should the tape be played on the evening news.

The trouble is that Fitzpatrick's intrepid Diana has been discovered. She runs for her life, and luckily Jackie becomes her knight in shining armor. Alas, the subsequent tape mix-up now has the gangster Giancarlo and his no-less-than 42 henchman after Jackie as well.

*

There's just no end of awesome and amusing derring-do and kung-foolery in "Mr. Nice Guy": Jackie escorting a group of friends over an I-beam bridging two buildings high above the ground; Jackie crashing an outdoor group wedding of 50 Harley Davidson bikers and escaping via a balloon float; Jackie leaping onto a giant crane in pursuing the baddies. The action never lets up until a finale set-piece that's too good to give away and may well be the most elaborate ever staged for a Chan film. Hung himself shows up in a funny cameo as an irate cyclist.

Chan is as buoyant and appealing as ever, but the film gives him a sharp edge of rage because no sooner has his fiancee (Miki Lee) arrived from Hong Kong than she is kidnapped by Giancarlo's minions. As nonstop as the action seems, the film surrounds Jackie with lots of likable people in addition to Lee: veteran Australian actor Barry Otto (as Chan's senior cooking show partner and foster father), Vince Poletto (as Otto's policeman son) and Karen McLymont (as Jackie's loyal assistant). Tall, elegant Norton, who has Stewart Granger looks, is the wittiest of villains. He's a martial-arts master long associated with Chan.

"Mr. Nice Guy" is a quality effort that makes good use of a range of photogenic Melbourne locales, gleamingly photographed by Raymond Lam. Horace Ma's strongly contemporary production design includes a magnificent rural high-tech-style estate for Giancarlo that looks to be about size of the Getty. J. Peter Robinson's rich score expertly supports the action dramatically rather than merely frantically. Jackie Chan has done it again.

* MPAA rating: PG-13, for pervasive action violence, some sensuality and drug content. Times guidelines: Violence and other elements are standard for the martial arts genre.

'Mr. Nice Guy'

Jackie Chan: Jackie

Richard Norton: Giancarlo

Miki Lee: Miki

Karen McLymont: Lakeisha

A New Line Cinema presentation of a Raymond Chow/Golden Harvest production. Director Samo Hung. Producer Chua Lam. Executive producer Leonard Ho. Screenplay by Edward Tang, Fibe Ma. Cinematographer Raymond Lam. Editor Peter Cheung. Editorial consultant Michael Duthie. Costumes Lui Fung Shan. Music J. Peter Robinson. Production designer Horace Ma. Art director Chau Sai Hung. Set decorator Jill Eden. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

*

* In general release throughout Southern California.

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