Director - Renny Harlin
Cast - Jackie Chan, Johnny Knoxville, Fan Bingbing
Rating - 0.5/5
Watching Skiptrace is a depressing experience – and not just because it’s terrible.
You see, the thing about Skiptrace is that it knows exactly how horrible it is. There is not a frame in this movie that seems competently put together. Watching it is like getting roundhouse kicked by Jackie Chan in the face while having Johnny Knoxville pretend it’s Jackass days again and sticking bloodthirsty leeches to your naked eyeballs.
Everyone involved in this film needs to spend a good hour in silence, thinking about what they’ve done. Everyone – Jackie Chan, director Renny Harlin, even Johnny Knoxville - they need to look that fat paycheck in the gloating face, take in all those zeroes, and they need to sit in their mansions and repent.
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Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, let’s talk about the lazy retread of older (and better) Jackie Chan movies that Skiptrace is. Honestly, they throw everything at you. It doesn’t matter if you’re an obsessive Jackie Chan fan or someone who’s chuckled at his antics now and then, in Skiptrace, you either go full Jackie Chan or you don’t go at all. It’s the equivalent of a Salman Khan film, where all that’s required of Bhai is for him to swagger in and swagger off. Here, Jackie Chan is at his Jackie Chan-iest, hitting the same old beats as always, deluding himself into thinking that he’s giving his fans just what they want.
He plays the imaginatively named detective Bennie Chan, in what is just the first of this movie’s many little details that indicate its shrug-like attitude to plot, character and action. Detective Chan has been hot on the heels of a mobster named Matador – for TEN years! The key to getting to him is to transport a cackling American conman named Connor, played by Johnny Knoxville, from Siberia, across the Gobi Desert, to China – because, reasons…
Hilarity, believe me, does not ensue.
Jackie Chan is a legend, and even Johnny Knoxville has had his moments (he was so good in Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand, playing Arnie’s deranged sidekick). But perhaps no one has missed the point as tragically as Renny Harlin, who has made at least two films in his career that are still remembered today – Die Hard 2 and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Obviously, this isn’t the ‘90s, so Renny Harlin is pretty much a schlockmeister now, but still. Believe it or not, it’s a step down from his last disaster, the epically terrible The Legend of Hercules.
Here, he fails to understand what makes Hong Kong action cinema so enjoyable. Skiptrace falls into that uncomfortable no man’s land between the west and the east, and in an effort to please both audiences, all it manages to do is alienate them. When you look at Keanu Reeves’ John Wick, and it’s glorious gun-fu, you realise what a tragedy Skiptrace is. Not only does Harlin shoot and edit the fistfights with the frenzy of a meth addict, he does in the most dreary manner possible. He sets up about 4-5 cameras, points them in the direction of Jackie Chan, and yells ‘action’. The lack of vision is unbelievable.
In fact, going into such detail about the failings of this film feels so pointless. It has no respect for its audience, so why should we waste more time talking about it?
So unless you’ve ever found yourself wondering what it would be like to watch Jackie Chan dance to a Mongolian tribe’s cover version of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, you needn’t suffer Skiptrace. Or if you’re Chris Tucker. Chris Tucker probably needs to sue someone.