out of five
: 98 minutes
Jackie Chan's Hollywood success didn't come a moment too soon. For over two decades he'd been risking life and limb in a series of remarkably successful Hong Kong actioners in which he honed his trademark mix of physical comedy and devastating chop-socky.
Thanks to the likes of Project A, Police Story and Armour Of God, he's had more sprains, cuts and broken bones than most of us have had hot dinners. (For the uninitiated, a regular feature of Jackie's pictures is to show outtakes of accidents and mishaps over the end credits.)
East vs West
But for all his fame in the East, all he got from the West was a couple of demeaning cameos in the Cannonball Run movies. Luckily all that changed with 1998's Rush Hour, a blockbuster hit that finally alerted English-speaking audiences to the veteran star in their midst.
Since then Chan has been slowly consolidating his position, improving his English and holding off competition from new kid on the block Jet Li. Part of his game plan involves capitalising on established hits: a Rush Hour sequel here, a Shanghai Noon sequel there. But in The Tuxedo and the upcoming Highbinders, he can be found adding some new surprises to his well-stocked box of tricks.
James Bond-style Dinner Jacket
The gimmick in Kevin Donovan's film is a James Bond-style dinner jacket that conceals more hi-tech gadgets than a dozen Q Branches.
The monkey suit belongs to super spy Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), but when he is injured it falls to his chauffeur Jimmy Tong (Chan) to pick up where he left off.
That means joining forces with rookie CSA agent Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt), thwarting billionaire Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster) and his plan to take over the world's water supply - and, of course, donning Devlin's prized tuxedo.
It's always fun watching Chan leap, high-kick and chop his way out of
trouble, but teaming him with the petulant Hewitt fails to create the same comic sparks he struck with Rush Hour's Chris Tucker and Shanghai Noon's Owen Wilson.
More damaging, however, is Donovan's reliance on digital trickery to augment Chan's already impressive repertoire. It's like thinking you can improve a Ferrari by sticking Go Faster stripes on the doors.