Story: Dragon Luo (Jackie Chan) leads a special unit that is supposed to rescue a professor (Jiang Wenli) and hundreds of other people, including his own daughter (Ma Chunrui) from an oil refinery in Baghdad. For some time now, the oil refinery has repeatedly been attacked by terrorists. However, during the extraction, two buses are taken over by mercenaries who then disappear in a sandstorm. Among the mercenaries is Chris van Horne (John Cena), who was persuaded to join the mission under false pretenses. It turns out that Owan Paddock (Pilou Asbęk) is behind the whole thing, and with the help of the professor he plans to carry out the biggest oil heist in history. Unfortunately, the professor does not have the USB key that would make this possible. She gave it to Luo's daughter. In the meantime, Luo has tracked down Chris, and after the mercenary finds out that Owan killed his brother, all he and Luo have to do is to bury their hatchet in order to cooperate. And this turns out to be more than necessary because Owan has already sent his mercenaries. They locate the cell phone, which is in the bag of Luo's daughter along with the USB dongle, and so their first encounter is about to take place. Luo and Chris take a while to figure out what Owan's real plan is, but by then they've already put some obstacles in his way.
Review: "Hidden Strike" is the infamous Jackie Chan/John Cena collaboration which had us waiting so long for the release that we almost gave up on it. It simply took the movie a while to find someone who wanted to bring it to the screens. So, eventually Netflix took pity. One of the reasons why the movie was dropped like a hot potato could have been John Cena, who called Taiwan a country. Him apologizing in Chinese wasn't able to save the situation either, it seems. And all this despite the fact that he actually put so much effort into winning over the Chinese market. We will probably never know for sure, whether this was the real reason why we were denied the movie for so long, which was already shot in 2020. But its mediocrity can hardly be the reason. We've seen worse with well-known stars. And to be honest, I don't understand why people keep on complaining about the bad special effects either.
In this regard, you have to admit that the first scenes in the desert actually do look like the actors are standing in front of a green screen in a studio. Some scenes kind of look unintentionally comic-like, but at the same time, this gives the movie a certain B-movie charm too. Moreover, the first chase comes across like a mixture of "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Fast and the Furious", only cheaper. Apart from that, there are actually a few explosions that look pretty good (with explosions you can always tell the real quality of CGI), and there are even a few practical effects as well as a real helicopter, which is a rare thing. I don't know what version other critics got to see, or whether Netflix just spend additional money to do some touch-ups to the special effects, or maybe my TV is somehow able to upscale the quality (?), but even in Disney productions the special effects have looked worse.
So, there you go, the effects are not that much of a catastrophe. But what about the rest of the flick? Unfortunately, things don't look quite as good, especially when it comes to the humor and the buddy factor. Of course, you don't really have to talk about the story here, as it's actually just about having China and the US work together. It's enough to know that the story takes place sometime after some kind of oil wars in the future. Cena's character plays baseball with a kid and sings "Old-MacDonald Had a Farm" with others, so he has to be one of the good guys, even though he actually works as a mercenary. Once again, Jackie Chan is taking on a more serious role here than what he did in the rather slapstick-like "Kung Fu Yoga", for example, and that alone makes the movie a little bit more watch-worthy. Of course, we get all sorts of banter and quips with Cena, either in Chan's English, which certainly didn't get better in his old age, or sometimes in Cena's newly learned Chinese.
Sadly, things don't really click between the two actors. The scenes in the end credits show that there would certainly have been potential, but the script is just too lousy in this regard. The dialogues often seem as if the protagonists are off by a beat, until the two come to terms with it and a weird form of chemistry even arises from it. As a buddy flick "Hidden Strike" can't score points, though. Another problem is that they stick with some jokes for too long, until you can't help but just roll your eyes. Director Scott Waugh, however, has a good sense for pacing, which shouldn't come as a surprise, as "Need for Speed" is one of his works. There's enough action so that you'll never get bored, and even though Chan sometimes uses a stunt double and there are hardly any real fights here, the action can still be quite fun. Towards the finale, Chan is also allowed to play around with some extinguishing foam and is therefore able to show off his creative streak, too.
Lastly, there is a car chase scene that seems a bit forced, but thanks to some decent special effects (again: did I see a different version?), it's also quite fun to watch. Of course, the ending is topped off with some unnecessary comedy, but you probably wouldn't expect it any other way. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that "Hidden Strike" didn't tap its full potential as a buddy movie, and you also have to wonder where the 80 million dollars production costs did go. But maybe that's simply where inflation makes itself noticeable... As a B-movie, the Chan-Cena mixture is sometimes quite entertaining, though. So much so, that I actually didn't even have to fight my way through to the end of the flick. But perhaps this review is also impacted by the fact that I had lowered expectations due to what most other critics said, so much so that this mainly Chinese production ultimately turned out to be a nice light-hearted ride for me.