Jackie Chan: A maestro of comedy-action
It is safe to say that no one does action-comedy better than Jackie Chan. The action scenes and stunt sequences in his films all have a particular flow to them. His Hong Kong films, especially, have some of the most creative scenes I have ever come across – the likes of which are seldom seen in Hollywood action films, even in Chan's western appearances.
Jackie Chan, as an action director and stunt coordinator, tends to draw inspiration from both Hollywood and his roots and blends them to create his own style. The stunts are carefully choreographed and the script keeps evolving to serve the action while keeping the plot coherent. He goes through hundreds of takes before settling on the perfect shot. In an interview with Film at Lincoln Center, he described how he lacked creative freedom when filming movies like Rush Hour. When you compare similar action sequences from Rush Hour to something like Police Story, you can see the glaring differences.
Whereas Chan's films channel a certain degree of grit and authenticity, Hollywood fight scenes are devoid of the same tenacity. The constant use of jump cuts and ceaseless camera movement just doesn't pack the same punch. Jackie Chan instead opts for wider shots, including both the hit and the impact in the same frame. He also prefers static camera shots with clear lighting directions, and all these choices put together set the stage for a high adrenaline action sequence.
For instance, there is a particular fight scene near the end of the film Wheels on Meals which is a personal favourite of mine. It uses "power cuts," a method which utilises two shots mere seconds before the impact from multiple angles. The technique fully encapsulates the weight of the hit and makes it seem all the more powerful. To add more nuance, it uses slow motion during the hit. You can't help but get immersed and captivated when watching this scene.
The humour in his action scenes lies in his trademark use of environments to craft creative set-pieces. He excels at selling comedy through intensely choreographed scenes. The rope factory sequence from the 1989 film Miracles exemplifies how innovative his action-comedy is. Here, his character tries to even the odds against multiple henchmen by making use of ropes and surrounding equipment. The intensity of the scene is what makes it funny. He fights for his life, all the while dismantling the goons in ridiculously creative ways. And again, each shot is clear and well composed. Perfectly timed cuts meticulously add to the humour without sacrificing the flow of action.
Jackie Chan is immensely dedicated to his craft. He has risked his life on several occasions to give his audience some of the best action movies ever made with unique plotlines and positive messages. That is precisely what makes him and his movies so great. Not only is he a brilliant filmmaker, but there is also passion behind every shot.
Sabil spends most of his time trying to stay as hopeful as possible. You can contact him at [email protected]