As the third film in the surprisingly popular Armour of God series, Chinese Zodiac sees Hollywood’s kung-fu thrill master, Jackie Chan, take the helm as writer, producer, director and star of what can best be described as a typical Jackie Chan off-the-wall action-comedy.
Chan, who has been entertaining the world for the past four decades, has spoken openly about the rigors of his unflinching stunt work, but Chinese Zodiac sees no sign of the fifty-eight year old slowing down.
The film opens with a short historical epilogue describing the events that transpired in the 1860s when invading British forces embezzled a copious amount of Chinese antiquities from the Beijing’s Summer Palace. Amongst the stolen treasure were twelve bronze animal statues representing the different signs of the Chinese Zodiac; dragon, rooster, monkey, snake, et al.
The precious sculptures had long been thought lost, and eventually forgotten, until they begin appearing in numerous auction houses around the world, grabbing the attention of affluent businessman and antique collector, Lawrence Morgan (Platt). In order to get his greedy hands on the bronze statues, Morgan hires renowned treasure hunter JC (Chan) who, along with his team of hi-tech crooks, heads to Paris to hunt them down. Posing as a National Geographic journalist, JC runs into more than a few obstacles, including Coco (Xingtong); an activist who is looking to bring the treasure back to its rightful place in China.
Chinese Zodiac is the absolute antithesis of ‘less is more’. From the exotic jungles, erupting volcanoes and the labyrinth gardens of French mansions to the film’s peculiar multilingualism; over-the-top doesn’t begin to describe it.
As always, for better and for worse, Chan shows no fear, or shame, as he engages in some of his most ludicrous stunts to date. Whether he’s free-falling without a parachute or rollerblading horizontally in a full fitted Iron Man-like suit, Chan’s over enthusiastic approach fails to deliver any sort of thrill because it completely envelops any sort of acting performance.
The casting, along with the scriptwriting – which took seven years to complete – is completely lacking in direction or substance. As a gluttonous businessman, Platt’s usual charisma is overshadowed by the foolhardiness of the story and Weissbecker’s role as the dotty French duchess who tags along for the ride is insufferable. Even as the one potential complexity of the plot, Xingtong is frustratingly one-dimensional as Chinese antiquities activist, Coco.
Despite his his age, one thing is for certain: Jackie Chan will be back on the silver screen before you’ve had time to figure out why you wasted two hours watching Chinese Zodiac.