Mr. Nice Guy

Mr. Nice Guy (1997)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Jackie Chan, Richard Norton, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick
Extras: Trailer, Biogrpahy

With every new film by martial arts master Jackie Chan, you are under the impression he is trying to top everything he has done before. While that is certainly a notion prevalent throughout the film industry, the personal risks charismatic Chan takes while making sure to wow his audiences are almost out of this world. Going through a list of his more recent movies, there is a clear tendency toward bigger, faster, and more daring stunts in each of the successive films. "Mr. Nice Guy" is Jackie’s latest video release, originally called "Yatgo Ho Yan", and is now available from New Line Home Video on DVD. Having missed the film during its theatrical run, I was eagerly awaiting this disc to take a look at Chan’s recent work. What I saw was breathtaking in more ways than one. Just when you thought you had seen it all in Chan’s thirty-year film career, the reputable master of martial arts outdoes himself once again with death-defying stunts – stunts that could get an ordinary person committed.

Jackie (Jackie Chan) is a chef in Australia with a regular TV show taped in front of enthusiastic live audiences. His fans are regularly amazed both by his cooking and his handsome showmanship and even more by the athletic acrobatics he uses to spice up his show. One day, he has a run in with a young woman who is obviously on the run from a few men, gangsters who open fire on both of them without the slightest hesitation. Jackie immediately comes to the rescue and starts taking them down with his astonishing martial artistry. When more and more opponents arrive, all of them armed with guns and eager to use them, even Jackie decides that running might be a good idea. They outwit the gangsters and use Jackie’s car to escape the mob. In the car however, Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick), the girl on the run, accidentally mixes up a videotape of her own with one of Jackie’s cook show tapings. This tape contains exposing pictures about gangster boss Giancarlo (Richard Norton) that could easily land him in jail for life, and of course it is what the gangsters were after when they chased the reporter through the streets of Melbourne. Now that the tape is in Jackie’s possession, he quickly becomes the focal point of attention of the mobsters who grow ever more desperate to retrieve the evidence before it exposes their activities and their boss. Jackie is too smart and quick for them, and every time they try to lure him into a trap, he manages to outsmart them the only way to get a grip on this furious whirlwind is to play dirty. Running out of patience, the gangsters kidnap Jackie’s girlfriend, believing that this will be the straw that will make him succumb.

As you would expect from a Jackie Chan movie, the film is fast, furious, and hilarious. Starting with the furious shoot-out and chase scene in the opening minutes, the film immediately establishes the pace for the rest of the movie. It never slows down, and if it ever gives the viewer much time to breathe, it does so only to give Jackie Chan an arena to show all his other skills and to make sure the viewer is fit and "ready" for the next array of hair-raising stunts. "Mr. Nice Guy" is an action film in its truest sense, lining up one stunt after another, bombarding the viewer with mind-blowing images and scenes, all the while spicing it with Chan’s trademark humor, which is one of the most elemental differences between Chan’s films and the rest of Hollywood’s action fare.

He never takes himself too seriously, and never presents the premises of his films in a dark or foreboding way. Whenever the situation becomes seemingly hopeless, a quick joke and a wacky, daring stunt will solve the problem. It almost feels like Buster Keaton has been reborn and discovered the action genre. Jackie Chan is one of the few actors in action films who is genuinely and openly sympathetic. Unlike his colleagues in the genre, he never even attempts to give himself more importance or weight by playing the part "rough". I guess he just doesn’t need it, as he is clearly playing in a league of his own.

"Mr. Nice Guy" was directed by Jackie Chan’s long time friend and collaborator Sammo Hung who also appears in a hilarious cameo in the film. The two have developed a way of making films together that works perfectly, allowing Hung to make good use of cinematic styles and techniques, while giving Jackie plenty of room to act and re-act. The film’s editing is as furious as the story at times, but always coherent. Seamlessly, it takes the viewer through different camera angles, creating heart-pounding action sequences that are almost impossible to top. As in other Jackie Chan films, "Mr. Nice Guy" also features a number of bloopers when the end credits are rolling and these moments are usually the most memorable and impressive ones, as they show his true nature and his dare-devil approach to film making. "Mr. Nice Guy" is no different, and the stunt with the table saw is as outrageous as anything I have ever seen on film. The only thing I was able to think about when I saw this clip, was "Slow down, Jackie, you might really get hurt some time, and the last thing we want to read is about a fatal injury".

New Line Home Video have released Jackie Chan’s "Mr. Nice Guy" on a dual-sided DVD that contains its original theatrical 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> version on one side and a <$PS,fullscreen> <$PS,pan&scan> transfer on the other. The transfer on the disc is clean in both versions and free of scratches or other deficiencies. The compression is well done and does not exhibit any artifacts or <$pixelation,pixelation>. With its faithful color reproduction, this DVD brings out the best in the movie’s imagery, which has been skillfully arranged and photographed. Although not <$16x9,anamorphic>ally enhanced, the picture contains lots of detail, even in the shadows. The overall color balance is very good with deep shadows and good highlights, without <$chroma,chroma noise> or any color smearing.

The film’s soundtrack is presented in a nice <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix that is well produced, although not overly aggressive. Directional effects are good, but somewhat sparse with good dynamic response and good bass. The film comes fully dubbed in English and French and is <$CC,closed captioned> in English. French and Spanish subtitles are also available form the disc’s interactive menu, which also take you to Jackie Chan’s biography and the film’s theatrical trailer.

"Mr. Nice Guy" is Jackie’s biggest spectacle to date and it seems that previous works like "Rumble In The Bronx" or "First Strike" were mere warm-ups for this film. At this point in time, I cannot image how he could possibly supercede the stunts depicted in this film. On the other hand, I don’t really think there is any need for that. Jackie’s films are always extremely entertaining and draw their value not only from the breathtaking stunts, but also from the charming portrayals of the characters, and the signature humor he always manages to weave into his films. If there is one actor out there, who is completely underrated by mainstream audiences, it’s got to be Jackie Chan. You don’t believe me? Try this disc and I am sure you will agree. "Mr. Nice Guy" blows every wannabe martial arts film star out of the water before they can even take a breath, and it makes a number of true comedies look like they ran out of gas halfway through.