Rumble in the Bronx and First Strike Blu-ray Reviews

Back in the ‘90s, Hollywood had the idea to dub Jackie Chan movies in English and release them as new movies. New Line was the pioneer of this with Dimension Films following their lead. This week Warner Home Video brings two of the New Line titles to Blu-ray for the first time and I’m happy to revisit them, after nearly 20 years now of obsessively watching everything in which Chan was involved.

rumbleRumble in the Bronx was the first time I ever saw Jackie Chan. Cannonball Run was before my time and probably not my thing as a kid anyway. When I saw Chan move gracefully bouncing off the walls, before there was such a thing as parkour, I was enthralled. And then the fact that he made fighting funny was everything I ever wanted in action. Now I know Rumble is somewhat mild for Chan’s full abilities. There’s a great warehouse fight where Chan climbs through a shopping cart, and another where he dives into a sunroof while a motorcycle drives over him. That would prep me for earlier movies where he fights in a rope factory or future movies where he’d swing a ladder around.

The new Blu-ray for Rumble in the Bronx looks great. It’s a perfectly clear picture with sharp details. You can see all the textures and grime in the warehouse, and on the city streets. The film is full of bright colors too, with the street gang’s flamboyant wardrobe and pastel painted bikes. Bright, sunny Vancouver looks great too, and it’s really close enough to New York. Hollywood uses it all the time.

firststrikeFirst Strike was the victim of more unfortunate cuts, with 23 minutes total removed, including nine minutes from the climactic underwater fight scene. I understand cutting the plot to fit in a 90 minute timeslot, when you can dub over lines to fill in transitions. At 84 minutes there was plenty of room for the full action. Why would you cut the main attraction? Having seen the Hong Kong version back in the day, I recall the extended underwater fight flowed better and gave a better sense of how the fights were breathing in between kicking and punching.

This isn’t the Blu-ray to restore the original fight, and compared to Rumble the First Strike Blu-ray is much rougher too. There’s more fuzz and digital noise which is a shame because the film has better locations with the snowy mountains, the coastal beaches and underwater scenes. There is a dragon dance funeral procession that shows off the bright colors of the Chinese dragon.

Rumble in the Bronx is a definite must own Jackie Chan Blu-ray and First Strike may be only for completist, but it is the one with the ladder fight and some good improvisational fighting in a hotel room. Both Blu-rays are available now.

Irrational Man Review: Crimes and Missed Opportunities

Irrational Man forms a Woody Allen trilogy with Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point. These are movies where Allen explores the morality of committing crime, and the likelihood of even getting brought to justice. Unfortunately, like many trilogies, after two strong entries, the third just feels familiar and repetitive. I know a thing or two about trilogies.

Joaquin Phoenix and Parker Posey in Irrational Man

Joaquin Phoenix and Parker Posey in Irrational Man

Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) is a bad boy philosophy professor, because philosophers are the bad boys of intellectual circles. You think he’s going to have an affair with his student Jill (Emma Stone). This is a Woody Allen movie after all. And, well, it’s not totally without May-December romance but first Abe’s colleague Rita Richards (Parker Posey) tries to help Abe come out of his funk.

You see, Abe is blocked and only a morbid criminal idea brings him back to life. So Irrational Man has characters discuss the morbid crime Abe contemplates, unbeknownst to them that he’s actually planning it. Abe enjoys encouraging speculation and the film falls more on the side of morality than Crimes and Match Point, but that’s the only difference. I suppose it’s worth exploring equally from the point of moral outrage, but the body of the film doesn’t offer any new philosophy. It just gives the moral ones more weight.

Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man

Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational Man

The resolution only opens up more questions to which there seem to be no answers. If I asked those questions here, it would be a spoiler, but the movie doesn’t even ask them. There’s a much more interesting movie if it continues past the conclusion and examines the aftermath, but that’s not Irrational Man.

The film looks great. There are some sunset silhouettes on the ocean that make Rhode Island look as beautiful as the European cities in which Allen has recently filmed. The cast is good. Phoenix, Posey and Stone have a solid grip on Allen’s dialogue. It may put a more palatable cap on Allen’s criminal morality trilogy, but it doesn’t get the same depth of analysis as the early, cynical ones.