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The Asian ApertureRumble in the Bronx
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, January 15, 2012    Share

For years Jackie Chan struggled for international fame and recognition only to have it slip away. Back in 1973 a young Jackie Chan was a stuntman in Enter the Dragon. That movie made Bruce Lee a household name all over the world. After Lee’s untimely passing, the same team that worked on Enter the Dragon collaborated with Jackie Chan to make The Big Brawl. Fred Weintraub and Raymond Chow were back as producers and Robert Clouse returned as director. However, just because the same elements were in place, The Big Brawl was a commercial disappointment for Warner Brothers. While Jackie Chan had stunts, humor, and kung fu, he lacked Bruce Lee’s onscreen presence and intensity. A few years later, Chan tried again for the American market with The Protector, where all of his usual humor was missing and he was directed to look like Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry series. The Protector failed miserably and caused Chan to focus solely on the Asia market. I remember being a 14-year old kid, living in Gladstone, Mo, just outside Kansas City, at Blockbusters and seeing a big cardboard display for The Protector. I was a Bruce Lee fan and my dad saw that display and decided to rent The Protector. I tried to arguing with my dad about not renting it. I thought it looked bad from the poster and watched it anyway to see if I was right. It was such a bad movie that for years later, my dad refused to watch another Jackie Chan movie. I argued that his Hong Kong movies were better and this went nowhere. So once again, Chan was denied international success.

In 1995, Jackie Chan filmed Rumble in the Bronx in Vancouver and had his first taste of success on American screens. Gone were the Enter the Dragon team that could not duplicate another hit. Also gone were US directors who knew nothing about Asian action cinema. In place was director Stanley Tong, who had worked previously with Chan on Supercop, released in the US years later following the success of Rumble. The biggest reason that Rumble in the Bronx hit so well was because Jackie Chan was finally allowed to be Jackie Chan. He stunts, humor, and action sequences were several notches higher than the awful The Big Brawl. Rumble in the Bronx is a very simple premise. Chan visits America for the first time to see his Uncle Bill in the Bronx. Uncle Bill is selling his oriental market to the lovely Anita Mui, a popular Hong Kong singer and actor. Everything goes well, until Chan sees a vicious street gang having a wild motorcycle contest that involves running across the top of parked cars, including Uncle Bill’s. Riding one of the motorcycles is the super sexy Francoise Yip. Later on she shakes her booty inside a steel cage, with a tiger, wearing only a bikini. The street gang is caught shoplifting at the Asian market and the heroic Chan steps in to stop them. This causes ongoing attacks from the gang, who just happen to find Chan walking around day and night. Things really start to heat up when two gang members witness a car wreck and Angelo’s steals a briefcase that contains a bag filled with diamonds. The street gang is nothing compared to the meanness of organized crime. The gangsters are run by the ruthless White Tiger who will hurt anyone to get his diamonds back. His gangsters slap a crippled young boy out of his wheelchair. They take one of the street gang members and put him through a tree shredder, one of the bloodiest deaths in any of Chan’s movies, and then deposit the remains in multiple trash bags at the street gang’s hangout. Jackie Chan is called to be a hero once again. He decides to help out the street gang and let by gones be by gones. The gangsters steal a hovercraft that when grounded does significant damage to buildings and people. Finally Chan is able to stop the hovercraft as the police argue and complain about being able to do nothing. Taking a sword from a nearby store window and commandeering a sports car, Chan flies down the street at full speed with the sword sticking out the window. He narrowly misses being run down by the hovercraft as the sword cuts through the inflatable rubber in one breathtaking sequence. However he is far from done. His new friends in the gang and the beautiful Francoise Yip get inside the hovercraft, which has been duct taped, to head for the golf course. White Tiger is playing golf on the 17th hole and breaks into a run as Chan and company mows him down. This is followed by general good cheer, inside the hovercraft, as White Tiger lays naked with bright red bruises on his butt cheeks. Also, Rumble in the Bronx got it right by including the outtakes to the beat of a punk song. The outakes are the icing on the cake for Chan movies because you see the real pain and suffering he is willing to endure for his art.

Rumble in the Bronx was a big hit in both Hong Kong and the US something that Bruce Lee never achieved. Enter the Dragon was a hit all over the world except for his native Hong Kong. Out of curiosity, I decided to check up on the stars of Rumble, 17-years later. Sadly, the singer Anita Mui died in 2003 from cervical cancer. Bill Tung who played Uncle Bill, died in 2006 from lung failure. My biggest surprise was the fact that Marc Akerstream, who played the gang leader Tony and was in several scenes with Chan and was also played Francoise’s boyfriend, died in 1998 while working on The Crow: Stairway to Heaven also in Vancouver. Akerstream was working as a stuntman and watching a row boat exploding when he was struck by flying debris. All is not tragic. Francoise Yip is still active and has appeared in numerous films. The actor, who played Angelo, Garvin Cross, is still working as a stuntman. Morgan Lam who played the young boy, Danny, in the wheelchair was only in one other movie in ’95 and then faded out. However, they all enjoyed the success of being in Rumble in the Bronx and working with the fun loving Jackie Chan. He finally achieved stardom in North America after numerous attempts.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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