"Are you okay?!"
I read an awful lot of people who complain about practical effects versus CGI, and while that debate is undoubtedly a sanctimonious circle jerk in many regards, actual physical confrontation between two people is an undeniable visceral thrill; the closer you get to it, the more intense the feeling it arouses.
A good fistfight is better than a good sword fight. A good sword fight is better than a gun fight. And anything is better than two robots fighting each other with guns. Simple facts of life.
That's why when I put my stock into action movies, they're less of the Hollywood 'men holding machine guns and looking determined' and more of the 'drug out fistfight until we're bloody and exhausted'. Look, I know it's inelegant, but we all have our fetishes.
Cross that interest with my trademark terrible sense of humor, and I don't think it will surprise anyone that I have a deep and unyielding love for martial arts films in all of their cheesy glory. Enter the Dragon was the first blu-ray I owned. I made it through The Crippled Masters. And I have to truly honest here: Jackie Chan is one of my favorite human beings on the planet.
Mind you, Chan was a star on the other side of the Pacific long before his films got picked up by Miramax in the 90's and given a premium treatment. This was prompted by Chan's production company crafting the perfect entry point for Western audiences into his oeuvre: Rumble in the Bronx.
The film is a mishmash of cheesy cliches and undeniably impressive stunt work. Chan's character in the film is mostly closely paralleled with Christopher Reeve's take on Superman: a nice guy, but dangerous when unleashed. He even shares the same sense of innocence and charity, generously helping out a neighbor in a wheelchair or the woman who bought his uncle's grocery store.
Chan's such a nice guy that he's impossible not to root for, and his feats so impressive that it's honestly difficult to believe that the other characters in the film aren't as bowled over as the viewer. Chan does all of his own stunts, which we get to see played over the end credits. How'd he do that? along with Jesus Christ! are the words you'll be reaching for the most throughout Rumble in the Bronx.
How does this film exemplify the 90's?
- Our hero gives the kid a Sega Nomad.
- We run through an outdoor cafe where someone is holding a Jack Skellington balloon.
- The grunge look is very popular in the dance clubs.
- The biker gang's wardrobe is from the Joel Schumaker school of goofy outfits. All biker gangs in the 90's evolved from the Post-Apocalyptic bike gangs of the 80's
- The movie contains a scene involving a gang member meeting their end in a wood chipper a year before Fargo upped the ante by doing it to Steve Buscemi.
- One thing that I like about the film that doesn't stand out much is the humor that's played with Chan's uncle marrying a big and brassy black woman. At first it's played for laughs, then it turns into a rather adorable ceremony. Very tasteful.
There's one other thing I wanted to point out here, and, since this film is set in New York City, obviously, the many shots we get of the skyline all involve the Twin Towers looming above the rest. Since the skyline shots usually look foreboding and only serve to remind us the film is set in New York (and not Vancouver, were it was actually shot), it's still kind of a strange thing seeing these two massive cultural symbols starring back from such an innocuous film.
Certainly couldn't innocently put them in a film after the 90's.
What makes this my pick?
This point cannot be under-emphasized: the action in this film is insane. Jackie takes down four attackers with a windbreaker. He climbs up a parking garage from the outside. He uses a fridge as a pommel horse. He jumps across a street from a dozen stories up. He single handedly takes out a hover boat with only a Ferrari and a sword.
I mean, come on! I know what other films my cowriters on this site picked, and they're certainly not terrible movies, but they're generic Hollywood action blockbusters to a 'T'. They're cold, calculated, and probably all feature at least one character running from a fireball.
Explosions are boring. When it comes to action, I'll always take the movie where the production company's insurance provider gets one of the biggest credits on the film.