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The Tuxedo (PG-13)

Official Site
Director: Kevin Donovan
Producers: John H. Williams, Adam Schroeder
Written by: Michael J. Wilson, Michael Leeson
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Peter Stormare, Richie Coster, Mia Cottet, Colin Mochrie, and Mr. James Brown

Rating: out of 5

Hoo boy, this was one bad movie. The best stuff—mesmerizing assembly line porn at a water-bottling facility—happens under the opening credits, and even that is jacked up by having the camera too close to allow us to appreciate the panorama. The Giorgio Armani tux, however, gets four stars.

In this outing, Chan stars as cab driver Jimmy Tong, who is recruited to be the chauffeur for ultra-smooth billionaire Clark Devlin (Isaacs) by the smirky, mysterious Steena (Mazar). Turns out, though, that Devlin is just a regular guy, and he and Jimmy bond quickly. Turns out also, that Devlin isn’t such a regular guy after all. In fact, he’s a CSA (don’t ask) agent, whose investigation of shady bottled-water magnate Diedrich Banning (Coster) is about to pay off. When Devlin is critically injured in an accident Banning arranges, Jimmy dons the crime-fighting tuxedo and his identity. Meanwhile, the CSA chief (an uncredited Bob Balaban), gives young eager beaver Del Blaine (Hewitt) her first field assignment, as “Devlin’s” partner. Together these inexperienced spies learn that Devlin plans to poison the world’s fresh water supplies to guarantee a steady base of customers for his bottled water.

The movie proceeds by the numbers. There’s the required throwaway tough-guy line. There’s a nutty-freaky mad scientist (Stormare, slightly toning down his fucked-up doc from Minority Report) who’s water-contamination plan suggests a Star Trek episode. There’s a bored, urbane smart ass as the bad guy. There’s also Mr. James Brown, The Godfather Of Soul. Okay, so I didn’t see that coming. Once again we get Toronto, standing in for Any City, U.S.A., and the usual multi-culti society of Chan’s Western movies. The women come off best in this movie. Hewitt is game, and Mazar is her usual bad self. And it was kind of nice to see that even a bad guy can have some employees who are typical slacking layabouts who haven’t bought in to the world domination plan.

But the raison d’etre of any Chan flick is the series of (frequently comic) action adventures before nabbing the bad guy. Well these adventures, oy. Chan’s strengths and his likeability are wasted here, and that’s a crime. Chan shines as the underdog whose special skills and agility enable him to get the best of wicked or vain adversaries. Here, he’s just a guy wearing a tricked-out suit Batman would give his left nut for. The action, for the most part, is terrible, just terrible. Cartoonish wire work and cheesy stunts will have Chan fans wringing their hands and writhing in their seats. Chan’s stock in trade is the character who’s a bit of a rube, but who amazes as the essence of smooth when it comes down to the action. Most of the fight sequences here are just too silly. They are also clunkily edited, employing multiple cuts instead of staying on Jackie so you can be amazed. Chan’s skills are a thespian aren’t what put asses in seats. The fights, people. It’s all about the fights. Louse up the fights and all you’ve got is 80-odd minutes of exposed film.

Better you should watch Rush Hour again, if you need Chan without subtitles.

—Roxanne Bogucka


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