Review: Jian Bing Xia (Pancake Man) (Year: 2015)
Starring: Da Peng and Jean-Claude Van Damme (as themselves), Amber Kuo, Yan Liu
Chinese star Da Peng made his name playing a dorky loser in a popular TV show, but following an embarrassing, drunken incident outside a night club, he is abandoned by his network and loses everything, career-wise at least. Along with his credibility and status, his hot, but shallow girlfriend also does a bunk and he hits rock bottom. Owing a large amount of money to a deranged, meat-headed investor and ex-fan, he decides that it’s time to fulfil his childhood dream of becoming a superhero. After recruiting a gang of oddballs, including a hopeless actress, a clueless paparazzi and an old man who owns a chain of supermarkets to act as his cast and crew, he sets about making his new film and pet-project, Pancake Man, taking on the role of the masked crusader himself. By cunningly employing secret filming techniques, he manages to incorporate various, unwitting Chinese stars into his movie. First, his actors creep up and attack them, then he makes his entrance as Pancake Man and saves the day. The superhero, we learn in a flashback sequence, was a character he dreamed up as a kid. The ludicrously clad hero’s speciality is dousing his enemies with pancake ingredients before pummelling them into submission.
As a rule, I hate superhero movies, but strictly speaking this isn’t really a superhero movie. It’s about a desperate guy making, or struggling to make a movie. That movie within a movie just happens to be a superhero movie, if a rather ridiculous one. Pancake Man is, primarily, quite a nutty comedy and, for me, the comedy works reasonably well. The film also has heart, with Da Peng going through some hard times and learning the meaning of artistic integrity and friendship.
Is it a manly movie? Not so much to be honest. Jean-Claude Van Damme shows up literally in about the last five minutes and has a very short and pretty forgettable fight with Da Peng. He appears from nowhere and, so far as I could gather, without any explanation whatsoever. He’s sort of like an end of level boss in a scrolling beat ’em up on the Sega Megadrive. Still, it was nice to see him. One cutie exclaims “He’s my idol!” which I found kind of hard to believe, given that she looked well under 30.
Oh, there’s also a pretty funny scene where Da Peng eats a hand grenade, which has got to count for something. That said, I don’t think I could watch this twice.