By teaming up with Hong Kong director Derek Yee (Protégé), Jackie Chan tries shedding both his clean-cut image and his reputation as a mere fighter who can act with this flawed but nonetheless riveting gangster drama that includes the graphic scenes usually deleted during the editing of a traditional Hollywood Chan film.
A gritty, sprawling tale of corruption, Shinjuku Incident finds Chan’s humble Chinese immigrant venturing illegally into Japan to track down the woman he loves who’s disappeared from sight.
From sorting garbage to selling telephone cards on the streets, Chan’s Nick Steelhead quickly scales the Yakuza ladder after saving the life of first a police inspector who looks the other way and then a mob boss whom he discovers has married the woman from his past.
Together with his own crew of fellow disenfranchised illegal Chinese immigrants who must hide in the shadows to evade deportation or the demands of thugs, Chan’s Nick soon takes control of his own territory, promised to him along with forged papers to be delivered when he assassinates some rival goons.
It isn’t often that you see Chan brandish a gun instead of any number of props used in martial arts sequences in which he’s dazzled us over the years but Chan manages to pull off the role well, playing younger than his true age in a work that does confuse us at times in its neglect to tell us exactly what year it is or how much time has passed, which no doubt would’ve enhanced its credibility from a storytelling point of view.
However, despite its need for clarity at times, Yee’s four-time Hong Kong Film Award nominated Shinjuku Incident is a step in the right direction for the director as a far superior film to the standard drugs saga Protégé as a thrilling entertainment that may make the more squeamish of fans of the popular actor want to look away at times in a few downright brutal sequences that Jackie Chan defends in some of the DVD’s extra features.
All in all, Shinjuku Incident, which is sure to gain far more appreciation on disc with its wide release, also serves as a timely and eye-opening tale of immigration in Asia – a subject no doubt that is as foreign to western fans as it is to see Chan take down someone in cold blood.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.