After his crossover success in Hollywood with Rush Hour, it’s nice to see Jackie Chan return to Hong Kong for a film to take full advantage of his potential again. Switching up his style and genre to write, produce and act in a more romance-oriented flick, Chan is able to break away from some viewer expectations of him, but only with varying degrees of success.
Gorgeous begins with a focus on Bu, a hopeless romantic Taiwanese girl, who believes in fairy tale romances and stories about soul mates. After a proposal from a man she doesn’t love, she finds a message in a bottle from a man named Albert asking its recipient to return to Hong Kong. Taking it as a sign, she goes to find him and disappointingly discovers he is gay. Later on, C.N. Chan, a wealthy businessman catches her eye and she soon finds herself quite attached to him.
The film kicks off with an intentional (I hope) tongue-in-cheek tone from its cheesy opening music and conversation. Shu Qi primarily contributes to this department with her cute, sugary performance and monologues that must have been stolen from teen girl novels. The earlier fights of the film continue this tone with the typical Chan-style— one vastly superior man versus a bunch of random thugs—taken one step further into absurdity with a clear effort to be flashy for the sake of being flashy and an abundance of zany fight humor.
As a result, the fights and the plot present no real threats because they lack tension and a clear antagonist. The only possible one is Chan’s “best friend,” a man from a rival company who merely wants to show Chan up and beat him at anything. The plot structure soon becomes awkward and irritatingly disjointed when it takes the direction of the Bu-Chan romance, and then makes a sudden second act decision to bring in a subplot of Chan’s martial arts lifestyle and make it the film’s main focus when Chan’s rival brings in an undefeated fighter to humiliate our protagonist. The writing has a ‘do whatever we feel like’ mentality, but this act lacks the earlier light-hearted tone. Once the subplot emerges, sincere attempts are made to create a serious, determined mood so the fight can suddenly matter.
While it destroys the unity of the film, this turn does lead to the film’s one saving grace: the one-on-one sparring with the undefeated fighter. It pays homage to the stunning simplicity of the Bruce Lee-Chuck Norris duel at the end of Way of the Dragon, where two fantastic martial artists just discard the plot and have their fun in a straightforward fight. Here, Chan and Alan engage in a beautiful, frenzied boxing style fight, throwing punches and kicks at blurring speeds in two long, tangential duels that seem to be almost twenty to thirty minutes of pure, unadulterated fighting.
And the film is entertaining. Even though all the various pieces don’t jive well together in one coherent story, viewers will still be able to enjoy the strong humor in the first act and the stunning fights in the later ones without requiring an investment in the characters or their plotlines. That’ll more than do for now. At least until we see Chan fight with this sort of intensity in a Hollywood flick.
Reviewed by Tarun