A lightweight action-comedy has a terrific pedigree, and throws back to an era of fun Asian action films that are thankfully neither gone nor forgotten.
With Jackie Chan announcing his imminent retirement from action films at Cannes this year, a new generation of brawler prepares to take over the mantle. A less than obvious contender is Jaycee Chan, his son and an actor and singer in his own right. Most recently seen in Jeffrey Lau’s East Meets West 2011, Chan has traditionally stayed away from action films to distinguish himself from his famous father. Now warming to the idea of being an action hero, Chan has teamed-up with David Hsun-Wei Chang, the action director of the insane Let the Bullets Fly, for the Taiwanese action-comedy Double Trouble (寶島雙雄).
A 400-year old painting is being shown at a national gallery in Taipei for the first time, and security is on high alert. Jay (Jaycee Chan) is a hot-shot lone gun of a security guard who takes all the responsibility on himself. When he runs into a visiting security guard on holiday from Beijing, the bumbling Ocean (Xia Yu), his encounter coincides with an elaborate theft of the painting. With the painting mistakenly placed on Ocean’s tour bus as luggage, and Ocean separated from his tour group, Jay must reluctantly team up with the affable Ocean in order to retrieve the painting, and restore his good name.
Contrary to the title, Double Trouble has nothing to do with a case of mistaken identity and a long-lost set of twins. Rather, it takes the classic buddy cop comedy and action formula and makes no attempt to alter it. Predictable this may be, but it does mean that the film shouldn’t be held up to the same kinds of narrative scrutiny that we would subject a more sophisticated thriller to. Indeed, Chang seems to have ignored the developments in action films of the last two or three decades, hurtling us back to the simpler days of lightweight action films of the 1980s and 1990s.
Sort of like a smaller scale film from the Lucky Stars series of that era, the emphasis is just as much on camaraderie and misadventures as it is on the action. Much of the kung fu is restricted to a fairly ordinary bus sequence, and an anti-climax of a kickfest on top of some shipping containers. This will perhaps be a disappointment for fans of the director’s previous action works, playing this one more for laughs than for kicks. However, it will be unsurprising for those who have followed action director Nicky Li Chung-Chi, who has credits going back to Chan senior’s Project A Part II (1987).
Nevertheless, Chan and particularly Yu are a pleasure to watch together on-screen. Mostly a showcase for their personas, along with model-actress Jessica C in a bad girl role, the various hijinks take a back-seat to the fun the film pokes at Taiwan and mainland China both, along with the characters that populate the Taiwanese scenery. From a parody of the “Betel Nut Beauties”, the attractive women hired to sell nuts in Taiwan, to a gang of gangsters who just want to do their bit for national pride, Double Trouble is best taken with a grain of salt.
Double Trouble is released in Australia on 7 June in Melbourne and 14 June for the rest of the country from China Lion.