Jackie Chan stars in a contemporary action comedy film set in the rough and tough world of the The Bronx, New York, directed by Stanley Tong.
Jackie Chan plays “Keung”, a Hong Kong cop, who visits New York to attend his Uncle Bill’s wedding.
“Uncle Bill” is played by a regular of Jackie Chan’s films, Bill Tung. Bill Tung has appeared in dozens of his films, including “Project A II”, “Inspector Wears Skirts”, “Miracles”, and the first four “Police Story” movies.
Another regular from Jackie Chan’s movies is Hong Kong singer and actress Anita Mui as “Elaine”. She has appeared in “Miracles”, “Drunken Master II”, “Moon Warriors” and “The Heroic Trio”.
Playing bad girl “Nancy” is Canadian-born Chinese actress and model, Francoise Yip. The success of “Rumble in the Bronx” led to subsequent roles in the Jet Li films “The Black Mask” and “Romeo Must Die”.
Playing the bad boy gang members “Tony” and “Angelo”, are Canadian stuntmen Marc Akerstream and Garvin Cross.
Hong Kong cop Keung, visits New York for his Uncle Bill’s wedding. Uncle Bill introduces Keung to the wheelchair-bound kid-next-door, Danny. Danny catches Keung practicing his martial arts skills on a wooden dummy, and instantly takes to him. Uncle Bill ropes Keung into helping him with the sale of his supermarket in the heart of The Bronx to Chinese businesswoman, Elaine.
Whilst staying at Uncle Bill’s, Keung has trouble sleeping and has his first encounter with the rough gangs of The Bronx. Two factions are having an illegal street race, and Keung intervenes to protect his Uncle’s wedding limousine from being damaged. His actions prevent Nancy, (the gang leader Tony’s girlfriend) from winning, and cost Tony’s gang the race.
Soon after, Tony’s gang, led by his right-hand man Angelo, visit Elaine’s supermarket. Keung spots them stealing and confronts them. The gang think they have Keung outnumbered, but they haven’t reckoned on Keung’s fighting skills. Keung single-handedly defeats them and makes them apologise to Elaine.
That night, Keung is ambushed on his way home by Tony’s gang. This time the odds are stacked against him, and Keung is left badly cut and beaten. Nancy feels guilty and takes Keung back to her apartment to treat his injuries. It transpires that Nancy is in fact Danny’s older sister.
Tony’s gang find Keung on the street and chase him forcing him to take drastic measures to escape. During the chase, Angelo accidentally stumbles on a diamond exchange gone wrong. He manages to steal the diamonds, but has to hide them in Danny’s wheelchair in order to save his own neck.
Unbeknown to Angelo and his friends, the diamonds belong to an extremely dangerous and powerful criminal known as White Tiger.
Angelo is eventually forced by White Tiger’s henchmen to implicate Keung, Nancy and Danny. Can Keung take on White Tiger’s criminal empire and save his friends?
The action and stunts are built up throughout “Rumble in the Bronx”. Jackie Chan looks in great shape, showing off his muscular form in cut-off T-shirts, and performing handstand-presses in his figure-hugging underwear!
We are given a little hint of what is to come when Jackie finds an old wooden dummy. He starts slow, building up to an explosive burst of Wing Chun techniques, leaving a cloud of dust in the air!
The film’s first fully-fledged action scene comes nearly twenty minutes in, when Angelo and his friends make trouble in the supermarket. Jackie Chan takes on multiple foes at the same time, using items from the supermarket shelves, and even his jacket, to defeat his foes. The scene is in equal measure inventive, funny and brutal.
This scene is quickly followed up when Jackie is attacked in the dark and dirty alleyways of The Bronx. The extra space and environment allow Jackie to demonstrate his more acrobatic skills as he flips and jumps up and off walls and fences. Cornered in an alleyway, he is assaulted with dozens of glass bottles as they smash around him, missing his head by the smallest of margins. This scene was actually drastically cut-down for audiences outside of Hong Kong.
Jackie is found by the motorbike riding bad guys and chased through the streets in a sequence of exquisitely-timed stunts. Leaving everything to the last possible second, Jackie narrowly avoids being hit or run over by the bikes, and is squashed against a wall by the side of a moving van. The conclusion to this sequence is an astonishing jump from the top of a multi-storey car park to a balcony across the street!
The next major sequence is when Jackie confronts the gang in their hangout. Jackie is noted for using everything in a given environment in his action sequences, and this is one of his most diverse. He takes on the entire gang single-handedly using a pool table, refrigerators, shopping trolleys, televisions and pinball machines. He even performs traditional Chinese spear techniques with a ski! It is one of the standout fights in the movie, with everything happening at breakneck speed.
The film concludes with an ambitious set-piece involving a hovercraft. Jackie ends up barefoot water-skiing, before chasing the hovercraft through the streets in a Lamborghini!
Interspersed throughout the film are nice little touches, such as Jackie backward rolling to handstand in a short workout scene, or an amusing sequence where he tries to knockout a henchman with various hefty items. There is a large set-piece where the supermarket is literally torn to the ground, giving Anita Mui one of her funniest scenes.
Jackie Chan has worked with his friend, director Stanley Tong several times, most notably on “Police Story III: Supercop”. Tong has performed stunts himself, but also knows how to capture a stunt sequence well on film. “Rumble in the Bronx” is arguably their most successful collaboration.
Setting the film in New York and using lots of English dialogue made the film more accessible to Western audiences. Stanley Tong shot the film in a Hollywood-style, without compromising the quality of the widely shot Hong Kong-style action sequences.
As with many of these films, the cheesy plot and acting aren’t going to win any Academy Awards, and there are a couple of cringe-worthy moments, not least the romantic subplot between Keung and Nancy, and Jackie’s “be nice to one another” lecture to the bad guys. “The Bronx” was actually filmed in Vancouver, Canada, and you can frequently spot mountains in the background of certain shots!
However, there is a strong vein of comedy that runs throughout the film, and the action is a real showcase for Jackie Chan and his team. There is something for everyone with fast and furious fight scenes, incredibly-timed action, and amazing stunts that will leave you wondering if Jackie Chan is incredibly brave, crazy or the most talented action star around.
A highlight of many of Jackie’s films are the outtakes at the end. Here we get to see that stunts such as the car park jump were performed without a safety harness. Perhaps more astonishingly, we learn that Jackie Chan filmed many of the stunts in the conclusion of the film, including the water-skiing, with a broken ankle!
Jackie Chan has claimed that this film was not made with Western audiences in mind, but it proved to be a breakout hit for him, going to number one in the USA. This opened the door for the re-release of some of Jackie’s earlier works in America, Australia and Europe, eventually leading to him starring in “Rush Hour” in 1998.
In many ways, “Rumble in the Bronx” was the perfect introduction to Jackie Chan’s work for the uninitiated, and that is still true today.
- Jackie Chan had been set to reunite with Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in “Don’t Give a Damn”. However, scheduling for this film meant he had to pull out. As a result, 1988’s “Dragons Forever” remains the last time all three starred in a film together.
- Echoing the tragic death of Brandon Lee on the original “The Crow” movie, stuntman Marc Akerstream who plays “Tony”, was killed on the set of the TV series “The Crow: Stairway to Heaven”. He died of a head injury from flying debris while observing an explosion during filming on 14th August 1998.
- There were several injuries during the making of “Rumble in the Bronx”. Jackie Chan broke his right ankle jumping onto the hovercraft. Director Stanley Tong sprained his ankle, and had to complete the film on crutches. Françoise Yip also broke her leg while filming the scene where she rides a motorbike across the tops of parked cars. She insisted on returning to the set after her leg was plastered at hospital. Two stunt women also broke their legs during the filming of the motorcycle chase.
- For the leap from the top of a car park to the balcony across the street, director Stanley Tong attempted the stunt before asking any actors to do so. He tried it with the help of a cable harness, but quickly decided it would be safer without the harness. Jackie Chan landed the jump perfectly on the first attempt with the stunt captured by four cameras.