Bleeding Steel is a consistently insane sci-fi actioner that revels in Jackie Chan’s stardom without realizing he’s getting a little too old for this kind of role.
Jackie Chan is 64 years of age. He’d qualify for a free bus pass. Not that he’d ever use it; a career sprung out of combining martial arts with slapstick comedy has convinced the bloke that the usual rules of biology and physics don’t apply to him. He’d be on the roof, most likely, or underneath it, or running alongside it. In Bleeding Steel, the new sci-fi actioner written and directed by Leo Zhang, Chan plays Lin Dong, an undercover cop navigating a compilation of action set-pieces designed to prove he’s still got it. But he hasn’t – and it shows.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still got more than most. His stunt work still has the capacity to authentically awe an audience, such as in this movie, when he’s dangling from one of the Sydney Opera House’s iconic shark fins. But Chan’s shoulders still sag under the physical weight of a dumb-fun summer blockbuster. You worry about him, and not in that vaguely enjoyable way you worry about, say, Tom Cruise in those Mission: Impossible movies. You worry he might actually die.
According to Bleeding Steel, he’s still alive in 2020. Zhang must have a lot of faith in what can be accomplished scientifically in just two years. His film includes an artificial heart transplanted into Chan’s dying daughter, Nancy (Nana Ou-Yang), which is also somehow tied to a nutty sort-of-cyber super-soldier plot that incorporates an army of caped cyborg murderers led by a Maximum Goth villain who flies a fucking spaceship between Hong Kong and Sydney. And I promise I’m not making any of that up.
Unlike The Foreigner, which at least asked Chan to act his age, Bleeding Steel revels in the aura of Jackie Chan’s stardom, to varying effect. There are moments of embarrassing self-aggrandizement that reference and celebrate Chan’s mere presence, as if simply having him in the movie improves it. It’s not enough. There is no goofy genre movie that would be improved by more smugness, and this one has it to spare. It’s enjoyable enough in an undemanding way, and I’d much rather see Chan fistfight atop buildings than try and authentically convey emotion. But there has to be a point when watching a man of this many years act like a teenager stops being entertainment and starts being an actual fetish. I think we’re almost there.