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May Movie Challenge Uncategorized

May 3: Rumble in the Bronx | A Martial Arts Movie

Scott Tennant May 3, 2017


By Scott Tennant | @Breakdown_Scott

​In the category of Martial Arts Movie, Scott picked Rumble in the Bronx (1995), directed by Stanley Tong, written by Edward Tang and Fibe Ma, and starring Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, and Garvin Cross. 


The category of ‘Martial Arts film’ is one I was particularly excited about, having just seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon this year. I enjoyed CTHD (I’m not sure if people use that abbreviation or not but I’m going to use it here) quite a bit and was excited to dive back in. There have been some pretty high profile martial art releases in the 20th century, from The Raid and its sequel, to the Ip Man series that Donnie Yen has driven (more on Ip Man soon from Max), there are plenty of options. But I wanted to pick something different, and I wanted to watch a classic icon of cinema that I haven’t really explored yet: Jackie Chan.

Now I am a huge fan of Jackie’s work in the Rush Hour trilogy, which are my guilty pleasure films, but I have not explored much else of his backlog, particularly his work prior to coming to Hollywood. Tony Zhou’s incredible YouTube series ‘Every Frame a Painting’ has an episode about the action comedy of Jackie Chan’s early work, that inspired me to go into one of Chan’s more popular pre-Hollywood releases: Rumble in the Bronx. Jackie Chan works with director and frequent collaborator Stanley Tong to make a fun, goofy vehicle for some great Jackie Chan stunt work and action.
The story of Rumble in the Bronx is thin at best; Jackie is visiting his Uncle in New York for his wedding, and after stopping a gang of hooligans from robbing the local Asian supermarket, becomes a target of that gang’s violence for the remainder of the film. Then, about halfway through the film, this gang ends up breaking up a high-dollar diamond sale with another, more sophisticated and brutal gang, stealing the diamonds, and hiding them in Jackie’s neighbor’s son’s wheelchair’s cushion. That is inarguably the weirdest sentence I have ever typed, and sums up the plot really well. The story is not interesting or compelling in anyway, but it simply acts as a conduit for action set pieces for Jackie Chan. There are annoyances with the story (Jackie’s handicapped neighbor is creepy and annoying), but it’s really hard to nitpick when everything sets up for these excellent action set pieces.

When you compare the action of Rumble in the Bronx to the action in the typical Hollywood blockbusters such as Taken, or the Bourne series, Rumble really shines. Jackie Chan (who also acts as stunt coordinator) is very careful to keep all the action clear and in frame. The hits feel firm, not because of injected sound effects, but because there are no cuts to take the hit out of the screen; you actually see the people getting hit and the clarity of it is noticeable and refreshing right away. There is a constant rhythm to the action throughout each set piece, with hardly a spare moment slowing it down. This helps the movie to fly by and the action to be completely seamless. It reminded me a lot of Edgar Wright’s excellent Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Scott Pilgrim is much goofier, but also features that same brand of rhythmic action.

The other thing I love so much about Rumble in the Bronx is that Jackie Chan utilizes the environment in all of the set pieces really well, not only for more hard-hitting action, but for humorous moments. The fight in the grocery store features food items and magazines. The fight in the gang’s hodge-podge/Hoover-town hideout features broken refrigerators, weird metal scaffolding, and more that are inventive and fun. The action never gets old because of how fresh it feels compared to the modern action blockbuster. Even the more bombastic set pieces, such as the lengthy climactic hovercraft chase scene are funny and fresh takes on action.

There were a couple problems that affect the watchability of the film; the English dub is not very good, not only is the dialogue extremely corny, but there were weird volume mixing issues, at least for me watching the Amazon Video rented version. Also, there was a really odd depth of field technique used to keep the targets of the shots in focus, but the rest of the background of the scene would be hazy/blurry. It was never too bad, but it was noticeable and distracting. The movie very clearly was not filmed in New York City; during some scenes you can see expansive mountain ranges in the background. I haven’t spent much time in ‘The City So Nice They Named it Twice’, but I don’t think there are mountains in the city limits. It also took a while for the action to really start; the movie starts with 20-30 minutes of building the weak story, and it almost lost me before the thrills set in.

​All in all, Rumble in the Bronx is simply a fairly mindless stunt show, with exciting action and not much else to write home about. It’s hard to hold that against the movie though, as it never really takes itself too seriously. If you can look past the fact that the plot lacks nuance and interesting twists, you’ll find a movie that shows off Jackie Chan’s considerable talents for humor and skilled action choreography and stunt work.

Grade: B

Want to keep up with the rest of our scavenger hunt? Check out the rest of our May Movie Challenge here.

Scott (or Uncle Scootz) is a business analyst in Charlotte, NC. After graduating from Clemson University and enjoying some time in Atlanta, Scott has embraced the Queen City. He likes basketball, board games, Back to the Future, and his Baby Little Pug named Mickey. Yell at him on instagram at breakdown_scott!