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Shock-O-Rama: Rumble in the Bronx

 

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Rumble in the Bronxis a great number of important things. Before we catalogue them, let’s highlight what it is not. For instance, this film is absolutely not set in the Bronx. Or perhaps it is in the way that 1999: The Bronx Warriors is (totally not). Filmed in Vancouver, the conscious decision not to worry about goes geographical inconsistencies was made early on. Doing this allowed for much more time to focus on the action choreography, which is really why anyone would want to watch this film anyway. Certainly most movie goers don’t attend a Jackie Chan film thinking “I cannot wait for this movie to challenge me on an intellectual level, forever altering my preconceived notions”. No! Chan has a gifted mind capable of crafting beautiful ballets of martial mayhem. In this regard the plot is inconsequential except in that it serves as loose threading to connect amazing fight sequences together (interspersed with incredible feats of daring).

Now let me tell you what Rumble in the Bronx is to me: the gateway to a chop socky world which, to that point in my life, I had only casually dipped my toe into. Like the wardrobe of Narnia fame, it exposed me to an entirely new, rich world, totally unlike the cinematic universe I’d inhabited before. I was fourteen in the summer of 1996; and was incredibly lucky to have had a brand new multiplex open up, within virtual spitting distance of my house, a handful of years earlier. I spent so many muggy summer days within the cool, dim confines of this cinema estate. That July, after getting my grabboid fix in Tremors 2: Aftershocks (and not wanting to head back out into the heat), my buddy and I took a chance on this Jackie Chan guy. At that prescience moment, I couldn’t have known then how important that decision would be.

The plot is a very simple affair. Keung (Chan) is a Hong Kong cop, who flies into the Bronx to visit his Uncle Bill for his wedding. He stays on to help the new owner of his uncle’s store, Elaine (Anita Mui), transition in, while his uncle goes on his honeymoon. The necessary conflict brews when Keung confronts a local gang, who is stealing from the store. Their feud escalates across a number of epic fight sequences, the most spellbinding of which takes place in the gang’s hideout. Chan’s martial prowess allows him to beat overwhelming odds by utilizing any and everything at hand, including refrigerators, shopping carts, arcade machines, and far more. The work that went into crafting these scenes is clear, and it delivers an experience that only rarely sees equal. Eventually, this tragically 90’s gang joins forces with Keung to combat the much more sinister White Tiger and his diamond smuggling operation. If you think circumstances couldn’t escalate to a higher level of zany fun, consider that Keung jousts a hovercraft using a sword and a Lamborghini.

And that typifies the amazing ability of Chan to combine bombastic action with fun humor, in measures equal enough to entertain and enrapture kids and adults alike. I left the theater in the early evening, setting a direct course for the Blockbuster at the other end of the strip mall. I practically sprinted home, my plastic bag dangerously close to spilling out all it’s contents in my haste. Microwave popcorn, boxes of candy, a bottle of Jolt, and copies of Drunken Master II and Operation Condor, invigorated me with determined purpose. The branches of that tree grew strong and continued outward, making each new Jackie Chan release of the 90’s an event for me, and allowing me to find spectacular non-Chan Kung-fu films like Five Element Ninja.

Other interesting side effects? To this day, if a fighting game includes a character practiced in Zui Quan (drunken boxing), I can’t resist the urge to choose them. I became particularly practiced at completely avoiding combat with Brad Wong in Dead or Alive 3 for the Xbox, which drove my more aggressive friends up a wall. I also now prefer cheesy dubbing for all of my Kung-fu excursions. On the set of Rumble in the Bronx, each performer spoke their own language, and even the English language actors were dubbed over. This is partially funny in the cases of Uncle Bill and little Danny. Their dialogue contains some of the oddest cobblings of English and wacky that I’ve ever heard.

If you’ve never seen Rumble in the Bronx, I can’t recommend it for a group viewing among friends highly enough (and these so many cool behind the scenes stories to this film that I didn’t even mention!) But be warned that once you dive in, you won’t be able to resist delving deeper down the rabbit hole. This is the first movie to bring Chan to mainstream American Audiences, and it’s still one of his most fun. I can’t really say where I’d be if we’d never crossed paths, but I’m certain to have been less fun. Enjoy.

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