A recent online poll ranked Jackie Chan as the forty-first most popular movie star in the world. The poll was heavily weighted towards the West, of course, and loaded with American bias. A Chan retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery in February reminded fans of the greatness of his Hong Kong work, from 1978's Drunken Master to 2004's New Police Story - and brought home how dissatisfying, by comparison, even large commercial successes like the Rush Hour films are. Chan's attempt to conquer the American market, it seems, can never happen on his own terms: he will always be cast alongside an American (white or black) who inevitably dilutes his humour and cramps his style. Where are the surreal flights of fancy, the childlike comedy, the breathtaking physical work of his Hong Kong masterpieces?
Chan and his collaborators perfected the storyline for an action-comedy in Drunken Master. No matter how many exacting skills the hero picks up along the way, or how much bone-breaking training he endures, the climax demands a special ingredient: some extra bit of magic or soul, some splendid moment of inspired improvisation, some overcoming of inner doubt or fear, will come into play when the final life-or-death battle arrives.