In the glorious early days of Jackie Chan’s career, the only films you saw him in were Hong Kong imports, not really intended for the Western marketplace. But the cognoscenti got their Chan on in these dubbed B-movies, memorable only for the martial arts tumber/clown’s dazzling stunts.
“Bleeding Steel” is a throwback to those days, slick but cheesy, dubbed, filmed and set in Australia but really for the enormous Chinese film market. And Chan fans will find it memorable for one sequence which shows the 64 year-old can still make a fight funny.
He plays a UN detective who lost his daughter (to leukemia) while he was on the job, battling to save a Western scientist (Kim Gyngell) who has “defected” with this secret tech to create “bio-roids,” nuclear-powered super-soldiers, impervious to bullets and what not.
Yes, that’s where the world is headed, not nuclear-powered super soldiers, but scientists defecting from the regressive West to the ascendant East.
Years later, Det. Lin Dong has “retired” to Sydney, Australia, where he keeps an eye on this cute teen, Nancy (Na-Na OuYang) who has uncanny fighting skills, but is seeing a witch to treat her nightmares.
There’s a best-selling novelist (Damien Garvey) whose latest book, “Bleeding Steel,” borrows its tech from the super-secret scientist’s files, and that’s gotten the interest in the SuperVillain Ande (Callan Mulvey) and his Avengers spaceship borne minions, mainly The Woman in Black (Cape, leather suit, hair), played by Tess Haubrich.
And we also meet also a goofy young hacker (Show Lo) stalking Nancy, helping her where he can. He gets her into the show of a mentalist/magician who might explain those dreams to her. But that’s where the villains have their first shot at getting to her.
And as that show and ensuing brawl takes place in the iconic Sydney Opera House, that’s Lin Dong’s moment to spring into action and Jackie Chan’s chance to shine.
As his first throw-down is a generic shootout with futuristic guns and explosions, and his second, and first actual martial arts fight, is performed in a mask — “Who do you think you are, Spider-Man?” — and thus the work of a stunt double, it’s gratifying to see him turn back the clock, flinging every trick in the magician’s bag — cards, fire pans, a white rabbit — at Andre’s henchmen and henchwoman.
No, it’s not up there with his epic ladder fight in “First Strike,” his playful scramble up a sailboat mast, listing the little boat so that he nimbly drop on a hovercraft in “Rumble in the Bronx.” But it’s a reminder that the violence used to be more slapstick — this is not quite as bloody as “The Foreigner” — and that in his younger days, he took his falls, broke his bones for his art.
Hey, he’s 64 and he’s not Uncle Drew.
If he’s at the Sydney Opera House, you know he’s going to have to climb that shaped-like-sails roof for a fight, and find a way to tumble off it. That’s a tepid imitation of the other times he’s done this sort of this thing.
“Bleeding Steel” has Nancy fighting off Aussie racists (“You’re a credit to us Chinese!”) and the most exhausted “Do not disappointment me again!” and “I’m going to enjoy killing you!” bad guy threats.
There are ways to film around a movie you know will be dubbed, and director Leo Zhang employs these — keep the conversation scenes moving so we don’t notice what their lips are doing — reasonably well.
But even by no-plot/all-action standards of Chan’s early pictures, “Bleeding Steel” feels a bit bled out. Impressive sets, cool minion combat suits (leather with lights), fun settings, but a film that has to content itself with gunfights, blood, explosions and a plot that makes little sense, no matter how many characters stop the movie to explain it.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language
Cast: JAckie Chan, Callan Mulvey, Tess Haubrich, Show Yo, Na-Na OuYang
Credits:Directed by Leo Zhang, script by Siwei Cui, Erica Xia-Hou, Leo Zhang. A Lionsgate release.
Running time: 1:47