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The Accidental Spy
2001 - PG-13 - 87 Mins.
Director: Teddy Chen
Producer: Jackie Chan, Raymond Chow
Written By: Ivy Ho
Starring: Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min-jeong, Wu Hsing-kuo
Review by: James O'Ehley
   
Just how does one review a Jackie Chan movie? Start with the plot? But the plots in Chan movies (a) most often doesn’t make much sense and (b) never really mattered anyway since it is usually just a framework to keep the various action set pieces together.

But let’s start with plot: Chan plays Buck Yuen, an an exercise equipment salesman who one day happens to foil some bank robbers at the shopping mall where he works. Buck does this by employing some fancy kung fu moves. Why would an ordinary salesman know any kung fu? Well, not to prevent any robbers from robbing his workplace all the time (unless there is something about the exercise equipment sales industry in Hong Kong I’ve missed here), but because he grew up in an orphanage where the bigger kids used to beat up on him all time. So he learned kung fu.

OK, Chan is a diminutive guy, yeah – which is part of his charm as action hero. I mean who really likes to watch macho school bully types like Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme beat the crap out of faceless bad guys? Probably sadistic jock types. Nope, us gormless geeks looove Jackie because he is a small guy like us, and we just love watching him get the better of much bigger and badder guys. Call it a power fantasy, call it wish fulfilment, but that’s just the way it is. (Oh yeah, and Chan is a lot funnier than most of his action hero rivals – more Buster Keaton than Bruce Lee really.)

But I digress: the learning kung fu as an orphan plot point not merely explains why a lowly exercise equipment sales guy should know kick ass martial arts, it also brings us to our next plot point. (Not that I’m disparaging any of you exercise equipment salesman out there – but hey, come on, when was the last time you prevented a bank robbery and got involved in an international spy plot in the process?)

Yuen is approached by a lawyer representing an aged and dying North Korean defector who believes that he might be his long lost son. The lawyer should have done his homework better though: he is looking for someone born in 1958, someone a full four years younger than Chan who, according to the IMDb, was born in 1954 (wow! is he really turning 50 this year?!)

From here on the plot gets more convoluted and complicated as Buck becomes in involved in all kinds of espionage intrigues and double-crosses and the like. Like I said, not that any of this really matters because no-one watches a Jackie Chan flick for the plot, but rather the action sequences and stunts.

So how are they? The action sequences don’t disappoint. I especially loved a sequence in which Buck is ambushed in Turkish bath. He flees – without any clothes on! – to a nearby bazaar where he is attacked again. This time he tries to defend himself while trying to cover his private parts as well. The scene is hilarious and worthy of any silent era slapstick comedy.

At the end there is a set piece stolen straight from “Speed” involving a fuel tanker truck set alight which must be driven to outside the Istanbul city limits. Istanbul is one of my favourite cities so I can imagine that one wouldn’t want a fuel tanker to explode outside, let’s say, the Hagia Sofia, but I kept on wondering why they didn’t just stop the truck and simply put out the flames. But then again one wouldn’t get to watch it fall spectacularly down a tall bridge, would one?

Ultimately “The Accidental Spy” isn’t one of Chan’s best efforts, but it isn’t one of his worst either. Lots better than the dismal “Drunken Master” (I know Chan fans call this one of his masterpieces, but don’t take their word on it), better than the recent “Shanghai Knights” but not as good as my personal fave, the underrated “First Strike”. At least the stunts are real and not enhanced by any CGI trickery which rendered recent Chan vehicles such as “The Tuxedo” and “The Medallion” pointless.

It’s watchable and fun, but won’t win the martial arts star any new fans . . .
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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