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Chinese Zodiac - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Shi Er Sheng Xiao

China 2012

Action, Comedy

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan
Kwon Sang-Woo
Liao Fan
Zhang Lanxin
Yao Xingtong
Laura Weissbecker
Vincent Sze
Jonathan Lee
Oliver Platt
Alaa Safi
Caitlin Dechelle
Wilson Chen

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Chinese Zodiac

aka CJ12, aka Armour of Gods: Chinese Zodiac

Story: JC (Jackie Chan) travels the world with his team consisting of Simon (Kwon Sang-Woo), Bonnie (Zhang Lanxin) and Liao (Liao Fan) to steal national treasures for rich businessmen. His latest mission is to acquire the missing Chinese zodiac bronze heads which have been stolen from the Old Summer Palace in 1860. Therefore, JC goes to France where he wants to get more information about the whereabouts of the treasures from the antique expert Coco (Yao Xingtong). At the cheateau of broke heiress Katherine (Laura Weissbecker) JC finally finds what he was looking for and he also stumbles across information about the whereabouts of the remaining bronze heads. When Katherine also asks him to find the remains of her long lost great-great-grandfather who at that time was involved in the raiding of the Old Summer Palace, he agrees to help her as he hopes to find more clues about the remaining zodiac heads this way. A perilous hunt for the treasures around the whole world ensues.

Review: "Chinese Zodiac" is actually the third installment in the "Armour of God" series, which was brought to screen in 1986 first. The movies aren't connected at all, our "Asian Hawk" doesn't even answer to the name of Jackie anymore, but JC. The only all-apparent theme is the hunt for treasures located around the world and a protagonist that flips chewing gum into his mouth in the most genuine ways. A lot of reviews didn't leave any doubt that you shouldn't expect anything good here, but "Chinese Zodiac" is an unpolished adventure movie that with its flaws and well-nigh trash character reminds us of Hong Kong's movies from the 80s, when stereotypes, a thin story, countless characters and at times questionable humor were the key ingredients juggled with. Accordingly "Chinese Zodiac" is actually a true Jackie Chan film like back in the old times.

Chinese Zodiac - Film Screenshot 11

Chan has never seen himself as a martial artist or sold himself as such but wanted to win over the audience with inventive action and humor. And that's what he manages to achieve here once again. With his 58 years (!) at the time of shooting he still flies through the air, climbs whatever he sees, jumps across abysses, dashes across the streets with rollerscates... and he is still alive. A small miracle in itself. Surely he is secured by more wirework nowadays, but some of the stunts and action scenes are nonetheless inventive and dangerous. There are only very few fight scenes and some of them seem to have been sped up during post-production, just like in Chan's movies from the 80s - to put it mildly and not link it to Chan's increasing age. In any case Stallone can't hold a candle to Chan with the action scenes he shoots at his age.

Chinese Zodiac - Film Screenshot 12

How much of a Jackie Chan movie "Chinese Zodiac" really is, is pretty apparent in the fact alone that he set a Guinness World Record for "Most Credits in one Movie". He took on as much as fifteen jobs, among them of course that of the director and the scriptwriter. Despite the nice action there are still problems aplenty. For instance, there is the humor. The movie more or less takes place around the whole world and incorporates numerous cultures, which are all depicted very cliché-loaden. Moreover, there are the dialogues that turn out to be pretty bad. But in a way this also gives the film a certain appeal. The story is also overloaden with many characters, which at some point even get their own subplot that suddenly finds its way into the movie. In a nutshell: Quite a mess.

But the story has never been the strength of a Jackie Chan movie. Oddities are part of them as well. Thus, the cameo appearances of Daniel Wu and Shu Qi at the end aren't really a surprise either and that Kwon Sang-woo ("Spirit of Jeet Kune Do") plays one of JC's guys is a nice wink as he embodied someone who admired Jackie Chan in "Almost Love". Furthermore, the movie is crammed with cliché-loaden villains and this even though JC gets along quite well with one or two of them. After all this is a family movie. The wired happy ending is mandatory as well. Questionable, though, is one scene in which China-centrism becomes very apparent. It may be true that China has been robbed of many cultural treasures by western powers but such scenes still seem too biased and particularly educational.

Chinese Zodiac - Film Screenshot 13

Nevertheless, in its chaotic framework "Chinese Zodiac" is a lot of fun. Nice sets - especially the scene in the djungle has something magnificently adventurous about it and strongly reminds you of "Indiana Jones" - and some long, nicely choreographed action scenes add a lot to the movie's standing. Chan's directing is at times half-baked, mixes amateurish filmmaking with big budget shots, but despite that or maybe because of it it's still a fun ride. It remains a fact that this action comedy has a thin plot which is a bad excuse for roving around the world, yet those who don't expect a polished gem, but rather a pebble, that can be appealing because of its oddities and rough edges, will do nothing wrong with "Chinese Zodiac". Chan may have gotten old, but he still shows things that no one else dares to do. With its trashy nature this action comedy could actually surprise me in a positive way and entertain me well for two hours. Sometimes that's just enough, isn't it? Just don't compare it too much with the original installments in the series.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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