“With your assistance, maybe we can make sure no one else gets hurt.”
In Jackie Chan films, a lot of people get hurt. At least, so I understood. Until now, I’d never seen a Jackie Chan film, but I gathered I should expect lots of action, a good dose of humour, and a plot that perhaps stretches credibility just a bit. How does The Accidental Spy (original title Te Wu Mi Cheng) measure up to that yardstick? Well there’s certainly plenty of action and it manages to incorporate elevators, escalators, construction cranes, boats, cars, trucks, and planes in one fashion or another. (What? No trains? Well, there was a train station.) The action is generally well choreographed, if rather derivative. The climactic sequence is simply a variation on the bus sequences in Speed. On the other hand, a whole dock area manages to get destroyed in another sequence and that actually looked pretty cool. As to humour, I can’t say there was much of that. This film seems to want to take itself fairly seriously; there’s no great suggestion of tongue in cheek. Any humour there is arises from how several of the action sequences are set up. For instance, our hero is attacked in a Turkish bath and escaping into a market area, has to fight off his assailants in the nude. The inventive ways he manages to cover his vital areas in the process of doing so is fascinating and amusing at the same time. Then we come to the plot.
Well, that more than lives up to expectations. Not only does it stretch credibility, it’s pretty well impossible to figure out what’s going on and who’s on what side. There’s something about a super grade of opium, Jackie’s long-lost father who somehow stole it, bad guys in Turkey, undercover agents, and the CIA. Jackie manages to get involved because of his father and ends up traveling from Hong Kong to Korea to Turkey, with trouble at every stop. The best thing about all this is the use of Turkey as the main location. This is a welcome change from the usual New York, London, or other major European centres that always crop up in action films. Of course, it would help the plot a little if we weren’t continuously distracted by a terrible English dubbing job. Let’s have these films released in the original language with good subtitles instead of these poor after-thought dubbing efforts. Filmgoers can still read even if their attention spans seem to have deteriorated nowadays.
Jackie Chan still looks pretty limber for a 47-year old and he makes the action sequences look exciting. On the other hand, he’s no great actor, but then he isn’t really expected to be, although there are a couple of scenes with a young woman in which he tries to look contemplative. Mind you, compared to a few of the supporting players, Jackie’s a thespian of prodigious talent. The thing here is that, as with all of his films, Jackie’s enthusiasm and personality and action capabilities carry the film and that’s what his fans want to see most of all.
The Accidental Spy is now available on DVD from Dimension Home Video, distributed by Buena Vista, in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The transfer actually looks very good. It’s crisp and clear with accurate if not super-vibrant colours and has apparently been struck from very clean source material. Too bad then that Dimension decided to excise about 20 minutes from the original running time (contributing of course to the murkiness of the plot). A Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio mix is provided which is fairly aggressive in the action sequences with good directional effects but not overly strong LFE. Dimension, however, apparently figured it could improve on the original soundtrack by substituting a new, entirely-forgettable score. That plus the terrible dubbing job negates any positives that the audio would otherwise impart to this release. Supplementary material is minimal and includes merely promotional trailers for other Dimension releases.
As it stands, The Accidental Spy is at best a passable action time-waster. Dimension hasn’t helped its stock any by mangling the original film. This DVD release is not recommended.