The Tuxedo

(Kevin Donovan, USA, 2002)


This film marks the saddest moment in Jackie Chan’s career.


Since the mid ‘90s the star’s principal goal has been to break into the English speaking, especially American, market. Rush Hour (1998) and Shanghai Noon (2000) went some way towards achieving this goal, although for devout fans they are still a pale imitation of Chan’s Hong Kong classics.


Each new American project tries to set a sure-fire formula for Chan’s continuing, global success. In Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, this meant making a big comic deal over the actor’s ethnic otherness and casting alongside him an American comic such as Chris Tucker or Owen Wilson. 


The Tuxedo starts over from a different premise. Here, the idea is that Jimmy (Chan) is just an ordinary guy who gains magical powers whenever he puts on the super-suit of his boss, Clark (Jason Isaacs). Jimmy bumbles headlong into a spy adventure, picking up a leading lady, Del (Jennifer Love Hewitt), in his travels.


As an action-comedy combo, The Tuxedo is almost as inept as Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001). Chan’s natural brilliance as a physical performer is overridden for the sake of lame stunts involving elaborate gadgets and special effects. Hewitt is rarely successful as a supposedly feisty, uptight, screwball heroine in the vein of Katherine Hepburn or Claudette Colbert.


Chan has given himself to a tasteless endeavour that has none of the spirited vulgarity of the best Hong Kong comedies. Debut director Kevin Donovan fills the film with dubious tits-and-ass humour, and forces his star to speak uncomfortable dialogue about how “horny” he is. Next to this pathetic spectacle, Chow Yun-Fat in The Replacement Killers (1998) or Jet Li in The One (2001) look like masters of the universe.

© Adrian Martin December 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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