The Tuxedo Review
Taxi driver Jimmy Tong (Jackie Chan) has an unconventional driving style. Rather than the traditional cabbie routine of taking the long way round, getting stuck in traffic, and generally keeping the fare in the cab for as long as possible Jimmy takes a rather more direct approach. Delivering his fares to their destinations at breakneck speeds is a speciality, and one that certainly turns a few heads. One such head is that belonging to super spy Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), who recruits Jimmy to be his new limo driver, ferrying him around between secret spy missions and upmarket parties. Devlin’s government employers have many rules they expect Jimmy to follow, Devlin only cares about one. Never, under any circumstances, touch his tuxedo.
But wouldn’t you know it, after one chase becomes too much for even Jimmy’s skills Devlin is severely injured, leaving Jimmy no choice but to take up the tuxedo and try to fill the secret agents shoes in order to save the world from an evil water poisoning scheme. What Jimmy didn’t realise is that this is no ordinary tuxedo, filled with gadgets galore that would make James Bond green with envy, Jimmy Tong just became one of the most dangerous men alive.
Jackie Chan has had a hard time making movies in the west, not in the same sense as the physical battering he’s taken on pretty much every movie shot in Hong Kong, but western producers never seemed to know what to do with him. Long before he finally broke America with Rush Hour there was a history of failures such as Battle Creek Brawl and The Protector where Jackie was expected to mould his style to the movie, rather than the reverse. Some people obviously never understood what makes a Jackie Chan film so special. It seems despite the franchise spawning successes of Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, somebody still isn’t paying any attention.
The problem with The Tuxedo is that it never feels like a Jackie Chan film. The often enjoyable action segments have the major drawback of largely relying on wirework and computer effects, two things Jackie has never been known for. His style of frenetic hand to hand combat, augmented with anything and everything found lying around, all meticulously choreographed and endlessly practiced, is all too rarely evident on screen. If you want someone to be flung around on wires, then made to look talented with the miracles of CGI you could hire anyone, the casting session need be nothing more than throwing a rock on any street in downtown LA and hiring whoever it hits (or the person next to their unconscious body if it was a particularly heavy rock), if you hire Jackie Chan you have to let the man do his magic.
Jimmy Tong is meant to be an ordinary guy, with none of the martial arts skills possessed by Chan, and therefore the tuxedo is the real power, playing with Jimmy like a puppeteer it can control his every movement making him dance like a pro (though more often an idiot) and defy physics. This leads to a painfully bad performance in a nightclub, where an undercover Jimmy is forced to take the place of James Brown on stage, billed as the Last Emperor of Soul. He’s anything but, and his ridiculous wire assisted dancing along with some bad miming, make the scene far from the laugh fest I’m sure it was envisaged as. The scene is indicative of the movie’s ill judged attempts at humour, and poorly placed use of effects.
Added to this major drawback is Chan’s lack of a decent comedy sidekick, Rush Hour had Chris Tucker, Shanghai Noon had Owen Wilson, The Tuxedo has Jennifer Love Hewitt. Anyone who saw her performance in Heartbreakers will realise what talent she has for comedy, for those that didn’t – it’s next to none. Sure she looks pretty, but you get the impression that this was the only requirement on the casting directors list, as she fails in all areas required of a decent sidekick. The films two talented actors, Jason Isaacs and Peter Stormare, have far too little screen time between them, with Isaacs written out at an early stage to permit Chan’s entry to the clandestine world, and Stormare never given a chance as the whimpering scientist vital to an evil genius’ plans, though he does manage to sneak in some of the movies funniest lines.
The Tuxedo never manages to pull itself away from mildly entertaining kid’s matinee fare, which is a shame as we’re all aware of how good Chan can be when he’s allowed to create, but this was never a suitable vehicle for his talents. It’s far from the worst film he’s ever made in America, but certainly the worst since he became a household name there.
As you’d expect for such a new film the picture is bold, colourful, and has great contrast levels. It is however slightly grainy, though whether this is a result of a poor transfer or simply a shortcoming of the film stock I can’t say, but it robs the picture of most of its fine detail.
Dreamworks have seen fit to dispose of the DTS track present on the R1 disc, leaving us with simply the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. It’s quite a lively listen, and makes very healthy use of the LFE but the surround channels are positively anaemic by comparison, and barely make a peep throughout other than to convey the score. Even as Jimmy dashes through traffic there isn’t a hint of the cars around him, but the front soundstage is so aggressive it does make up for much of the rear shortcomings.
The Making of The Tuxedo
This is a standard HBO hype style of documentary which offers little besides the principles extolling each others virtues, though the behind the scenes footage of James Brown teaching Jackie Chan how to dance (or at least trying to) is nice to watch.
The Cutting Room Floor
Nine deleted scenes grace the disc, and their quality varies quite a lot, from obvious fat that needed to be lost to a quite extensive extra scene with James Brown. Some of the editing decisions here are somewhat confusing, I assume most were lost for time reasons but it would have been nice to have some input from the director to let us know his thoughts on them.
Three scenes here are slightly extended but it’s easy to see why they were trimmed down as the jokes lost are unfunny and the scenes do drag. Though the same could be said about the film as a whole.
Outtakes and Bloopers
This is an extended version of the outtakes from the end credit, but we really did see the best of them there, though here it does run to 7 minutes. Worst of all though it shows what was once unthinkable – Jackie Chan’s stunt double!
Presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 this makes the film look far more fun than it ever is.
The film is a disappointing attempt to mix Jackie style with an Inspector Gadget like kid’s film. It lacks the creative choreography we’ve come to love from Jackie Chan, and without his association it would have been nothing more than straight to video children’s entertainment. The disc is reasonable, but the kind that most major studios can release in their sleep, though I did find the lack of the DTS track seen on the R1 release beguiling.