Monday, February 15, 2016

Nostalgia Nugget: First Rumble with the Supercop!

A violent argument erupted
over who was tough and who
was deadly.
In the 1990s we had plenty of over the top action movies. The 1980s had really cemented the genre of mainstream action spectaculars with crazy plots, sinister villains and a hero willing to do anything to save the day. Rambo: First Blood Part 2, and Commando gave birth to stuff like Speed and Die Hard 2: Die Harder. But there was also a bit of martial arts boom, with Steven Segal unleashing hell in Above the Law or Jean Claude Van-Damme in Bloodsport. I was working in the video store during this era and let me tell you, people loved their action movies. Hollywood or direct to video antics like Tough and Deadly it didn’t’ really matter. If it had exploding cars and people hitting each other it was all good.

In all honesty there were some really good action flicks from that era. We hadn’t really hit the time of computer generated stunt work yet, so we were seeing all kinds of real folks doing real crazy stuff. Then we started to hear about the Hong Kong action films, with John Woo leading the way. Movies like The Killer and Hard Boiled introduced the concept of bullet ballet. Right around that time, we heard about Jackie Chan.

The surprisingly rare DVD from
Criterion Collection.
I’ve mentioned this before but I was never as into action films as I was into genre movies. Sure I enjoyed action movies, but I didn’t seek them out unless someone recommended a good one to me. Well one of my coworkers was the guy who knew his action movies. He loved all the old 70s Kung-fu classics and knew quite a bit about Hong Kong action flicks. He was the one that pointed me to The Killer and Hard Boiled. One day he comes in and is all excited because Jackie Chan is going to make a Hollywood action movie. Well the rest of us had no idea who Jackie Chan was, but we just smiled and nodded and started singing along to The Lion King again, because I think that played on the TV at the video store for about 11 years straight in the mid-90s.

Anyway, Rumble in the Bronx comes out and we all end up watching it in the space of about a week. Well my action loving friend was actually disappointed. His expectations were really pumped for this one. But the rest of us got a huge kick out of the movie. We were quoting the outrageous dialog for years afterward (I'm serious here). I can’t tell you how many times one of us goofed up at something and the other would turn and say in his best Little Danny voice, “Hooray! You’re number one!”

At least he's snuggly, right?
There was this strange trilogy of Jackie Chan movies that I vividly remember watching from that time. Rumble in the Bronx was the first one I saw and was my favorite one. The combo of ridiculous fantasy New York mixed with insane stunts and lots of hand to hand fighting made it the best mix. And did I mention it was super quotable? I did? That’s because I’m Number ONE! Then Supercop arrived. My action loving coworker thought this one was the best. As much as I liked Michelle Yeoh and Jackie Chan in one awesome movie, I have to say that it felt less colorful and crazy than Rumble. The final Tong/Chan film was First Strike, which turned out to be Police Story 4 in China. So yeah a sequel to Supercop, kinda sorta. Anyway, this one was even more like a James Bond movie but with more silliness and locations in Australia. I mostly remember the goofy bear hat, insanity involving a snowboard and helicopter, and the scene where Chan uses a ladder to beat the tar out of a bunch of guys. Certainly the least of the three movies, but still fun.

Oh it is on, like Donkey Kong!
Eventually this action craze died down, especially once CG really came into its own in the late 90s. Big time stunts were on the decline and even Jackie Chan was focusing more on comedy than crazy life endangering stunts (can’t say I blame him). But because of Supercop we got Michelle Yeoh in a James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, and then we saw her real acting chops in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (where she also showed off her sword swinging skills).

Don't try this at home.
So when Rumble in the Bronx shows up in my Netflix cue and I immediately flash back to the 90s and the video store and that huge Tough and Deadly poster that was behind the counter. I wanted to watch the movie again and catch a bit of that fun. And for the most part these movies hold up as solid entertainment. But I’m also willing to admit that they are probably not quite as good as they were the first time we watched in awe at this crazy new (for us) actor Jackie Chan.

Because in the Bronx fast is the only way to live.

"Bad touch! Bad Touch!"

Ladies and gentleman you will never look at a ladder
the same way again.

Rumble in the Bronx ends with a freeze frame.
A FREEZE FRAME! I can't say how much
joy that gives me.
Enjoying this trip down memory lane, click an ad before you go.


  1. Expectations matter a lot. Younger viewers tend to have high expectations in the fx and production values, and so often are disappointed in old movies -- watching with them while making excuses isn't always fun. But, as I remarked on your last post, I find the old school fx, stunts, and stunt performers all the more impressive for having been done the hard way.

    1. Yeah I wonder how someone who grew up with the crazy CG car stunts of "Fast and Furious" would react to something more old school like "The French Connection" or "Ronin" where all the car stunts were done for real.

      Something like "Mad Max: Fury Road" had a ton of practical effects mixed in with the CG and that may be the direction we are heading with these types of action scenes.

  2. The best Roddy Piper movie for me was They Live. The fight scene somewhere around the middle of that film was rather crazy as it just went on and went on. Seemed crazy for that reason.

    The Seven-Ups had another fast action car chase scene in it, and is often overlooked when talking about this type genre. It's a great movie too. Of course there's always Bullet as well. I think to some part action movies will always be with us as people enjoy that and enjoy the adrenaline rush and escapism. I think now that has been channeled into some of the super hero films somewhat, but then I'm glad that John Wick and Jack Reacher are still an active draw.

    1. I need to revisit "They Live". I had so many people tell me it was their favorite John Carpenter film that I had really high expectations for it, but overall I found it kind of slow moving. Piper was probably the best part of the movie, and that fight scene was the highlight... well I still love the "chewing bubblegum and kicking ass" line, who doesn't.

      Oh man, I've never seen "The Seven-Ups" but yeah I remember my action loving coworker really liking that one. We were talking car chase scenes and he had that one and "Vanishing Point" on his list. I had just seen "Ronin" so that was on my list.