The Accidental Spy

The Accidental Spy (2001)
Universe Laser
Cast: Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu
Extras: Featurette, Trailers, Cast & Crew Biographies

Jackie Chan must be one of the busiest actors in the world. Appearing in movies that are produced in Hollywood and Hong Kong, while also producing various films in both parts of the world, while all the while living in Canada, it makes you wonder, if there may actually be two Jackie Chans. Be that as it is, almost unbeknownst to American audiences, Jackie has recently delivered a spectacular film by the name of "The Accidental Spy," which has been produced by Golden Harvest Studios and is available as a direct import disc from Universe Laser & Video.

Bei (Jackie Chan) is a salesman for fitness products when during his lunch break in the mall, he witnesses a bank robbery and steps in. He secures the stolen money before knocking out some of the bad guys and ultimately receives credit for his actions on the tabloid front pages. Soon thereafter he is approached by a strange man, who says he acts for a man in Korea who is looking for his lost son. Bei is an orphan and there is indeed a chance that this man could be his real father, so he travels to the Korean jail hospital where the man is kept. On his last breath, the man makes Bei his legitimate heir and Bei inherits money and a small box with a key. Before he is able to find out where the key belongs to there are certain people who would like to get their hands on Bei and his inheritance – and these men have guns and very nervous fingers. Suddenly, Bei finds himself chased from all sides, not knowing what is happening to him. In order to survive, he needs to know who his father was and what business he was in. The revelations is from what he had expected. Bei has inherited much more than just a fat check and a key. He has inherited a tool over life and death!

"The Accidental Spy" is not your typical light-hearted Jackie Chan movie, although it still is very funny at times, and contains all the trademarks of his work. It is a more pensive and serious film, however, that shows more depth and a political statement, nicely integrating all these elements in the Jackie Chan action mix. Of course it is full of absolutely spectacular stunts – and I have no doubt Jackie did them all himself as usual – as well as his trademark moments of perceived innocence and calm before the storm.

The film is beautifully photographed in various locations across the world, most prominently in Korea and Turkey. Especially the Turkish scenes have a certain grittiness and authenticity that is coming through very nicely in the film. The film also has a great pace, giving the emotional moments time to sink in, yet at the same time propelling the premise forward at breakneck speed when necessary. Once the secret behind the inheritance is revealed, the film turns in to a furious and explosive action spectacle with no holds barred, stacking the most cars on top of another since the "Blues Brothers." The finale is simply breathtaking, as you would expect in any decent Jackie Chan movie, leaving the viewer breathless once the end credits start rolling – accompanied by his trademark blooper outtakes.

With ease, "The Accidental Spy" is the best-looking Hong Kong DVD that has ever graced my DVD player. Coming as a <$RSDL,dual-layer> disc – which is quite an exception for these sort of discs – and also featuring a <$DTS,DTS> audio track, this DVD is not your regular quickshot production.
The DVD contains a <$PS,widescreen> transfer in the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but is not <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets. Nonetheless, the transfer is very clean and entirely without scratches or other blemishes. The transfer also has a good level of detail, maintaining good definition throughout with sharp edges that never appear enhanced or unnaturally sharpened. Blacks are very deep and solid and the presentation reveals very good shadow delineation, which is evident especially in the many dark scenes of the film where the background is always clear discernible without pixel break-up. Colors are strong and vibrant, rendering a lively image, always perfectly capturing the cinematography of the movie and its atmospheric settings. In the compression however, the DVD shows its full strength. For the first time we have a DVD of a Hong Kong movie here that is entirely free of compression or other distracting video artifacts. No matter how furious the action is on the screen, no matter how dimly lit the shot, no matter how demanding the material, the presentation always renders a clear image that is devoid of digital artifacts.

"The Accidental Spy" features a Cantonese audio track in <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> and alternatively in DTS. Once again I was very pleasantly surprised by the aggressive and expressive use of the surround channels. Sometimes used for effect, at others to create a lively ambience, these surround channels are extremely well integrated and enhance the experience of the film quite noticeably. Whether it’s overhead helicopters and gunshots, or the subtle interiors of a temple, the surround experience is always rich and immersive with good spatial definition. The frequency response of the track is also very good and the LFE channel is put to good use in many of the explosive scenes. The dynamic range is also very good nicely reproducing even the most subtle moments in the film, while never becoming distorted at any time.

The disc also contains a 20-mintue Making Of Featurette that is available in Cantonese and Mandarin. Sadly English subtitles are not included in this featurette, making it a special only for Chinese speaking viewers, I suppose. It is full of interview segments and behind the scenes footage from the shoot of the film, and leaves a good impression. English biographies of the principal cast members and a selection of trailers can also be found on the release.

It is easy to dismiss "The Accidental Spy" as being not as funny as other Jackie Chan films, but at the same time, none of the other films really has as much depth as this one. I found the film very entertaining, thoughtful and intensive, revealing a side of Jackie Chan that is often overlooked in his lighter comedies – that of Jackie Chan as a serious actor who happens to have the ability to scale walls and kick people to Kingdom Come. If you consider yourself a Jackie Chan fan of any caliber, don’t miss to see this great effort of his.