Review: THUNDERBOLT 霹靂火 (1995) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Review: THUNDERBOLT 霹靂火 (1995)

Review: THUNDERBOLT 霹靂火 (1995)

Jackie Chan plays Foh, a junkyard mechanic and a part-time race car driver who assists the Hong Kong police force to crack down illegal street racing in the country. One night, while on the crackdown, Foh stumbles upon a speeding black Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 driven by a notorious criminal driver Cougar (Thorsten Nickel). Foh takes over news reporter Amy Yip's (Anita Yuen) Mitsubishi FTO, who is actually doing a coverage with his partner Lam (Wong Chi-Wah), to chase Cougar along the street. Foh manages to trap Cougar in a police roadblock and has him arrested. However, Cougar is subsequently released from police custody, due to lack of evidence. But he has arrested again when Cougar's thugs attempt to make a mess at Chan's junkyard. A jailbreak ensues after Cougar's heavily-armed thugs raid the police station and gets him out of jail, resulting in a number of police casualties except the pursuing Interpol agent Steve Cannon (Michael Wong). Cougar proceeds to exact vengeance against Chan by rampaging his junkyard with a crane, injuring Chan's father Chun Tung (Chor Yuen) and taking his younger sisters Dai Mui (Wu Oi-Yan) and Sai Mui (Annie Man) as a hostage to force Chan to race him in Japan. With the help of Amy, Chan and his racing team are working hard to build a new race car and prepare for an upcoming car race against Cougar in Japan.

REVIEW: After the mega success of RUMBLE IN THE BRONX earlier this year, martial art superstar Jackie Chan explores the world of auto racing in THUNDERBOLT. Despite its would-be fascinating premise, THUNDERBOLT is a half-baked effort suffered from a weak plot, uneven acting and -- surprise, surprise -- some badly choreographed action scenes.

The plot, written by Gordon Chan, Chan Hing-Kai and Philip Kwok, is simply absurd. Can you imagine the length Cougar has to go through in order to get Foh to race with him? No doubt Cougar's action is easily branded as a childish act. That's not all, the plot is also heavily uneven, with a pathetic romantic subplot involving Foh and Amy seems more like an unnecessary filler.

Gordon Chan's direction is haphazard, especially his choice of blurry camerawork turns out to be one of the biggest mistakes shooting a Jackie Chan movie. Most of Jackie Chan's fight scenes are shot too close or the camera moves too fast until they are hard to distinguish what is really going on. Not only that, there are plenty of obvious double (which is done by Chin Kar-Lok, Collin Chou and Sam Wong) throughout the fight scenes (this is because Jackie Chan had injured his leg during the shooting of RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, which enable him to perform some of the stunts).

Despite its uneven action scenes, some of them are quite entertaining enough to warrant your attention. Earlier in the movie, the nighttime car chase scene along the Hong Kong street is genuinely intense. The particular fight scene (although some of them are hampered by over-the-top wirework) in the pachinko casino scene where Foh squares off against Ken Lo and Kenya Sawada, is nevertheless the highlight here. The climactic racing scene between Foh and Cougar (which is directed by Frankie Chan) is also exciting.

Acting-wise, Jackie Chan really broods a lot and any chance of his trademark humour seems to be gone here. It's actually nothing wrong for Chan trying to act dead serious most of the time here, but apparently, his joyless acting performance proves to be his biggest advantage as well. The rest of the supporting actors are overall forgettable. Even the would-be reliable appearance by Anita Yuen is sadly relegated to a thankless role. The least said about Thorsten Nickel's laughably over-the-top villain as Cougar the better.

During that time of the making, THUNDERBOLT was the most expensive Hong Kong movie ever made and it cost an eye-popping HK$200 million. Apparently, the insanely huge budget was due to the bad weather in Japan, which forced the crew to move over to Batu Tiga Circuit in Shah Alam, Malaysia to shoot the race finale.

Despite being greeted with a poor critical response, THUNDERBOLT was a (surprise) box office hit, grossing at HK$45.6 million. Not only that, the movie earned a Golden Horse award for Best Action Choreography as well as a Hong Kong Film award nomination for Best Action Choreography (which is lost to Chan's own RUMBLE IN THE BRONX).

THUNDERBOLT is fairly entertaining in parts but pretty much a joyless Jackie Chan's action vehicle filled with haphazard direction, uneven plot and some badly choreographed action scenes.

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