Strength in Numbers
The huge box office grosses last weekend for “Rush Hour” — starring motormouthed Chris Tucker paired with motor-legged Jackie Chan — remind me of something: You know how, just when you’ve discovered an actor or a band or TV show you like, there’s always some smug SOB who tells you, “Oh, he used to be MUCH better/funnier/smarter when he was younger/playing in a garage band/still in Hong Kong”? Now that Jackie Chan has broken into the American market — the last place on earth, it seems, that he’s not wildly popular — newcomers to the Chan charm get to hear about how the guy is getting really long in the tooth (he’s 44, which is, apparently, 78 in martial-arts-guy years), and how he was REALLY good in “Police Story” back in 1985 (rent it on video) but even better back in 1971, or in a title you can only find, without subtitles, in a Hong Kong video store.
This in turn reminded me of what the great sourpuss genius Larry David said about “Seinfeld” when it finally caught on: If people didn’t watch it before the show was popular, he didn’t want them watching now. For my movie-ticket money, any chance to see Chan is better than none — his days of wild stunt work probably ARE numbered. But while you’re browsing the Hong Kong shelves, you might just want to dig up any tapes you can find starring Jet Li and Chow Yun Fat, too. They’re beginning to get known in America, and you should have seen them back THEN.