Movie Review: Skiptrace (2016)
What to expect: An okay summer film that’s a bit of the old Chan we’ve enjoyed, but forgettable.
I used to admire the films of Renny Harlin. “Die Hard 2”, “Cliffhanger” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight” are grade-A action gold. Then “Driven” happened. The girlie-man “The Covenant”. “12 Rounds”. “The Legend of Hercules”. Suffice to say, he’s in hard times. So when ol’ Renny decided to set sail for the Far East to helm this little ditty with Jackie Chan and Johnny ‘rarely funny’ Knoxville, I started to fear for the worst. Chan was coming off hot from his latest “Police Story: Lockdown”, a pretty solid, no-nonsense film on its own right, so working with 2010s Renny Harlin should be the last thing he needs now.
I’m gonna bring out the negatives first. This isn’t a particularly good film and you’d probably forget it over the weekend after watching it. The plot is a tired and very rushed buddy cop/criminal routine we’ve seen so many times before that’s done better, even in Chan’s own “Rush Hour” films. It ziplines from point A to point B without much explanation. There’s even an annoying wannabe comic-book-like/Quentin Tarantino/Guy Ritchie-style intro for each character at the beginning. The film’s 80% in English (to pander to those foreign markets), so some of the lines delivered by a few Chinese actors are stilted and wooden.
Here’s the good news, it doesn’t entirely suck. At the very least, the film makes good for a rental on a lazy weekend afternoon, when the kids are around. Harlin shoots the film in nice widescreen angles that’s poised to promote tourism in China, but he doesn’t half ass the action sequences. Steady camera, necessary cutting, so you get to enjoy the effort of Chan’s stunt crew.
The fights are in the cartoony screwball/frothy variety that Chan is renowned for in the 80s and early 90s, but they’re not just slapdashed onto it for action’s sake; some of them look competently choreographed and edited with effort, and as with all of Chan’s films, there’s even bloopers to show you that Chan’s still the real deal, even at 62, and taking real risks and damage for a movie that frankly deserves less effort than what he’s given here. Still, it’s nice to see him do these kinds of breezy roles again.
It’s a refreshing dose of comic silliness to counter the Hollywood PC crowd that take themselves way too seriously. Here, everyone seems to be having genuine fun making the film, even Johnny Knoxville, an actor I particularly dislike in films, yet somehow manages to avoid going full Jackass mode and cracked me up a few times. When he finds himself at the mercy of Jackie’s slapstick wrath, more than once, the film earned bonus points for me. Of course, once they buddy up, the film wavers a bit.
So basically, this is an okay film with a rubbish plot but with actors and crew with their game on. It’s not going to be on anyone’s “must see” watchlist, but as cheerful and harmless PG-13 summer fun, one could do with much, much worse. Rent it, have the kids over.