First Strike: Jackie Chan Takes on America

Buy this video from

Music from
Buy The Soundtrack.

Jackie Chan is one of the world's most popular and admired superstars. An inspiration to actors and a vital force in the evolution of action adventure films, he is single-handedly responsible for the explosion of interest in Hong Kong filmmaking. But now, with the success of Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop in the United States, Chan has finally fulfilled a life-long dream of becoming a bankable action star in America.

As a testament to his growing popularity, New Line Cinema has acquired worldwide distribution rights excluding the Far East to Jackie Chan's First Strike and domestic rights to his other most recent production, Thunderbolt. The deal for Chan's latest films also includes first and last negotiating rights on potential First Strike and Thunderbolt sequels, as well as dibs on the next Jackie Chan film.

"New Line Cinema has made a major investment in Jackie Chan, and we are in it for the long haul," explained Michael Lynne, President of New Line Cinema. "We believe he has the potential to cultivate as large a following in America as he has overseas, and we will do everything possible to make that happen. New Line has the utmost respect and admiration for Jackie's talents, and we hope to cement a long relationship with him and our partners at Golden Harvest."

This surge of interest in his career is also prompting a string of television and movie deals. Since hiring an American-based agent, Chan has been cast in the high profile Joe Eszterhas project An Alan Smithee Film, and recently completed an "extreme" commercial for Mountain Dew. But all the hoopla surrounding his career should come as no surprise to anyone knowledgeable about this icon of action cinema.

He is "the last good guy, and arguably, the world's best-loved movie star," proclaimed Time Magazine. "In American terms he's a little Clint Eastwood (actor-director), a dash of Gene Kelly (imaginative choreographer), a bit of Jim Carrey (rubbery ham), and lot of silent movie clowns: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd."

His admirers include many Hollywood professionals who have drawn inspiration from him over the years. According to actor-director Sylvester Stallone, Chan has exerted a decisive influence on the action genre which is still Hollywood's surest box-office staple: "Jackie has elongated a genre that has grown pretty stale," Stallone told Time. "He's infused films with humor and character-driven story while giving audiences these extraordinary stunts that are unparalleled anywhere in the world."

Quentin Tarantino summed it up when he presented Jackie Chan with 1995's MTV Lifetime Achievement Award: "It's one of the achievements of my lifetime to honor one of my heroes of all time....When you watch a Jackie Chan movie, you want to be Jackie Chan. You want to run through the glass the way only he can. You want to fight 25 guys, lose only up till the last moment, and then take them all on the way only he can."

"He is one of the best filmmakers the world has ever known. He is one of the greatest physical comedians since sound came into films....If I could be any actor, I would have the life Jackie Chan has," Tarantino said.

Remarkably, international recognition of Chan's talents has come in response to a career that has been resolutely home-grown. First Strike is only the seventh American film in a career spanning two decades, during which Chan has become Asia's leading filmmaker by making films his way for his own adoring public in Asia's lively, unruly film capitol, Hong Kong.

More than a phenomenon, Jackie Chan is a one-man industry. Jackie Chan Fan Clubs all over the world send emissaries to the sets of his films, which he often writes, directs and produces, using equipment rented from companies he created to improve the technical quality of Hong Kong filmmaking. He was instrumental in forming a stunt professionals union, hiring professionals who belong to the Jackie Chan Stuntmen's Association. In addition, he hires actors supplied by his own casting and modeling agency, Jackie's Angels.

He embodies the cheerful entrepreneurial energy that has made Hong Kong the only national cinema that can compete with Hollywood on its home turf. But all that energy is expended towards improving his art, for Jackie Chan is the kind of filmmaker who lives and breathes film. "Once you are making movies," he told fans in Chicago, "it's like a drug. You can't not do it."

The combination of humor and death-defying stunts defines a style which Chan invented at the beginning of the Eighties, and carried to extravagant heights which American films are only now attempting. Los Angeles-based film writer Manohla Dargis notes: "Nearly a decade before James Cameron had actors hanging off flying machines in True Lies (courtesy blue screens, mind you), Asia's answer to Arnold was swinging off a hot-air balloon in The Armour of God."

A defyer of death, Chan nearly lost his life when he took an unscheduled 45-foot fall in The Armour of God. Among other close calls, he was sideswiped by a helicopter while hanging from a train in Police Story 3. A superb martial artist and acrobat, Chan has built his legend by putting his life on the line for his movies.

The New York Times noted that "for more than twenty years (he) has refused to let a stuntman fill in for him during dangerous scenes." Fans see the proof in the montage of outtakes, with the star singing in the background, which typically ends his films. Jackie Chan, in other words, is his own most amazing special effect.

Chan developed his persona as an antidote to the hard-breathing ferocity that had long been the trademark of Hong Kong action filmmaking. Playing his unequaled skills and authentic on-screen heroism for laughs, he has created the character of the little guy who gets through by sheer courage and determination, showing vulnerability in a genre loaded with trumped-up supermen.

Chan's everyman persona harks back to the silent clown whose legacy he has brought into the Nineties. He is "perhaps the only performer working today," notes critic David Kehr, "with the physical self-possession -- the sense of stylized movement and body control -- that defined the great comedians of the silent era."

What Chan learned from Chaplin and Keaton was nothing less than "the universal language of film," writes Richard Corliss: "Action and passion, humor and heart."

More than anything else, that understanding of the primal power of film has been the secret of his universal appeal. "I write each film with rhythm," he told the New York Times. "I want the audience to feel like they're dancing. When I make a fight scene, I'll write the music first, and then make sure the sounds of punching, kicking and breathing come out like music. When I go into a theater to watch my films, I watch the audience, and if their bodies are moving like they're sitting in a disco, I know I've succeeded."

Back to "First Strike"

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.