By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Wednesday before the Fourth of July, one week before America traditionally celebrates its own birthday, proved a low point for our nation, and our planet to boot. The Supreme Court’s upholding of Donald Trump’s travel ban, combined with several other Supreme Court rulings favorable to the Big Orange, showed that the Court is firmly in Trump’s pocket, and likely to remain there.
This gives the most outrageous and insensitive president in history effective control over all three branches of American government. I cannot foresee my country, or the Earth, recovering from this blow.
Into the breach, a victim of unfortunate timing (and a few other factors) comes Jackie Chan’s latest starring role, “Bleeding Steel,” masterminded by director and co-writer Leo Zhang. As usual, Jackie’s out and about saving, if not the world, at least the day, through his trademark application of martial arts mastery, comedy, and winning charm.
This time, it’s the world, or at least the world of the 1980s. Zhang decided to cast his lot back to the days of cyberpunk, goth fashions, and high-relief shock-shots of bioengineered monsters. Jackie Chan, playing the Hong Kong Special Agent Lin Dong, gets killed. Then he lives again. His daughter also dies. She also gets to live again.
And the man trying to kill Jackie Chan (Callan Mulvey) dies, but gets reincarnated as a cyborg with one artificial eye. And he keeps trying to kill Jackie Chan. And the daughter loses her memory, but might get it back. Except that her memories keep getting mixed up with the memories of the scientist who saved her.
Then a woman in black (Tess Haubrich) shows up. She tries to kill anybody she can touch. And a small person appears, but he gets killed pretty damn quickly anyway.
And there’s a spaceship. A big one. And cyberpunk soldiers, possibly cyborgs, dressed in more black. And a big fight on top of the Sydney Opera House. And mechanical hearts. And synthetic blood. And…
Well, in case you hadn’t figured it out, this story has a whole bunch of stuff. None of it sticks. It all goes by way too fast, it all looks way too much like a lot of films everyone’s seen before, and none of it makes any sense.
The fight on top of the Sydney Opera House, though… that works. Too many long-shot cutaways, leaving us with the sad realization that Jackie Chan, now 64, having broken (at least once) every bone in his body that won’t kill him, is slowing down, abandoning the intense and lyrical fight choreography of his youth, and leaving some of the work, probably, to stuntmen. (His character often appears masked, making it easy for a stuntman to take his place).
I took Jackie Chan to heart, growing up. When he told his arch-enemies in “Rumble in the Bronx,” from 1995, that he hoped that one day he could drink tea with them, I was touched.
Today, he was saying, we are enemies. Tomorrow, maybe, just maybe, we can be friends.
That seemed reasonable to me. It seemed inspiring. I can no longer follow that sentiment, just as I can no longer hold out hope for the human race. I find those brandishing Trump’s banners intractable and inhumane.
Bleeding Steel’s obligatory big finish finds our hero beaten to the ground. To rally, and save the world, he’ll need more than a little help from his new friends, who through the galvanizing trauma of battle, seem more like family, quite quickly.
That much seems worth holding onto. Friends can be family. And if we’re to make anything out of this mess, we will need all the family we can find.
Bleeding Steel is currently playing at Seattle’s Varsity Theatre, 4329 University Way N.E. For prices, showtimes, and other information, call 206-632-7218 or visit farawayentertainment.com/location/varsity-theatre.
Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.