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:: The Tuxedo

It’s hard to figure out the Hollywood attitude towards Jackie Chan – whether it understands him properly or if it can write a good script for him. He is a box-office drawcard, known for his athleticism and comedic brilliance. To date, his Hollywood films have only shown occasional glimpses and, as he gets older, the chances are diminishing that his famed Hong Kong movies will ever be relived.

The Tuxedo doesn’t contain a true old-style Jackie Chan moment and therefore he is underused. His stunts and physical activities are limited to minor things. Several scenes indicate that the film is aimed at a young audience – right from the opening scene when a deer urinates in a stream – and in casting Jennifer Love Hewitt in a challenging role as Chan’s sidekick. Still, the film’s gimmick is quite reasonably satisfied – that a top secret agent owns a tuxedo that gives the wearer an ability to perform remarkable feats. It seems to remind of The Mask.

Chan plays Jimmy Tong, a taxi driver for secret agent Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). When Devlin is ambushed and ends up in a coma, Jimmy dons the tuxedo and takes over on his latest mission in tracking down Diedrich Banning (Ritchie Coster). Banning is a bottled water magnate who wants to poison the world’s water supplies so that the survivors are forced to use his product. Jimmy teams up with rookie agent Del Blaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and it’s an interesting combination.

Chan hasn’t lost any of the irresistible warmth and likeability that are his trademark but in line with his recent films, the focus is on personality rather than action. Jimmy is bemused by the power of his unique eveningwear. One of the film’s highlights has him accidentally knocking out James Brown (yes, the famous singer) just before a concert, and he takes Brown’s place on stage.

The irony of the story is that the usually skilled Chan gets to play someone who only becomes a butt-kicking hero when he wears the tuxedo. Unfortunately, he is let down by a dull screenplay. The specifics are a bit silly and underdeveloped that much of the premise seems an afterthought.

Jackie Chan should have been given freer reign and let him what he does best, and not having to conform to a role that many other actors could have done as well. He enjoys some good moment with Jennifer Love Hewitt, although there is no obvious chemistry. She has a charming personality and is much easier on the ear than Chris Tucker (Rush Hour movies). However, Jennifer shows a few new skills in improving her sense of comic timing and she will be better for the experience. Let’s hope that Jackie and Jennifer could again work together with a better storyline.

The Tuxedo has some good laughs and cool action to enjoy, enough to keep the audience engaged enough to forget about the holes and clumsy moments.
Carmine Pascuzzi

Screening on general release