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Jackie Chan is getting older, and in his profession, that’s a sad thing to happen.

Jackie Chan 101

Jackie Chan goes straight to videoFor those who may not be familiar with Chan, he is more than just a Kung Fu movie star. Chan is also a stuntman, choreographer, singer, director, and producer. Chan wins fans by always being such a nice guy, and he won me by also being a graceful, talented, and fearless stuntman.

I will watch any Jackie Chan movie just to gawk at the stunts. His fight scenes aren’t half bad, either, but when he leaps off a building or jumps headfirst into a moving car, he really does it. The camera never blinks during his amazing stunts, and in that way, he’s a lot like the great Buster Keaton.

Chan’s movies often have ridiculously cliched plots. One is about twins separated at birth, another uses the ol’ amnesia story. Still others just cast Chan as a cop chasing criminals. The point is, it doesn’t matter what the plot is in a Jackie Chan movie, as long as it facilitates a few fight scenes and one or two amazing stunts.

Straight To Video

The Accidental Tourist is a new straight-to-video release from Miramax (Jackie Chan 102: for every Jackie Chan movie you see in the theater, another one comes out on home video). And while it pains me not to recommend a Jackie Chan movie, The Accidental Spy is among the least enjoyable of his movies that I’ve seen.

Chan plays Jackie, an exercise equipment salesman who gets caught in a web of intrigue. Jackie is an orphan. His Korean birth father, Mr. Park (Joh Young Kwon), has hired a P.I. to track him down. Mr. Park is on his deathbed, and he wants his son to have some of his personal effects before he dies. Father and son are able to meet for a brief moment, and then a big fight scene breaks out.

Park’s personal effects get Jackie into a lot of hot water. Jackie learns that his father was a double agent, and the people who were after Mr. Park are now chasing Jackie. With the help of a pretty young “reporter,” Jackie tries to find what the bad guys are looking for before they can get to it.

Getting Older

The plot is more complex than necessary. All we need, remember, is an excuse for some good fight scenes and stunts. Maybe that’s one of the film’s problems: too much plot, not enough action.

But the real problem is that the action is less jaw-dropping than I’ve come to expect. The fight scenes are more edited, from shorter clips, than Jackie used to make. At least on DVD, the film is presented in its original widescreen format, and the action sequences make much more sense. Just that extra bit of visual information on the sides makes them more plausible and lucid. But my biggest disappointment was the relatively small number of stunts. And some of the high-platform stunts are bluescreened and edited, which hugely reduces their impact.

There are always outtakes at the end of Jackie Chan’s movies, and The Accidental Spy is no exception. But even these outtakes are telling. He looks more hurt and less amused at the takes he couldn’t use. We see Jackie getting annoyed with his crew when a stunt involving a long bolt of cloth goes bad. One outtake even shows him yelling at his team as he swings from a gigantic rope off a very tall bridge. I’ve come to expect the happy-go-lucky Chan who can always smile, even after a failed stunt. The Accidental Spy shows that he’s getting older, and that’s something I would rather live in denial about.

So although I’m glad to have seen The Accidental Spy, it was a disappointment, and it doesn’t bode well for the future. Jackie Chan will always be Mr. Nice Guy, but with fewer death-defying stunts, and more cuts in his breathtaking fight scenes, he may not be such a big draw for me.