Monday, December 5, 2016

Foreign Film Spotlight: SKIPTRACE

Welcome to another installment of FOREIGN FILM SPOTLIGHT, where we showcase some of the best (and occasionally the worst) in foreign cinema to broaden your horizons. This week, we're turning our eye to the 2016 Chinese box office hit SKIPTRACE, starring recent Oscar Honorary Award-recipient Jackie Chan and directed by Die Hard 2 director, Renny Harlin.

This week, I have watched a lot of wonderful movies, some of which were not made in the United States. I experienced Sing Street, which took over the Top 10 in my 2016 Rankings. Then, as I was researching for our lovely readers, I ran across one of the highest-grossing films in China. I couldn't resist the urge to watch it and review it.

I wish I had fought that urge harder.

Skiptrace, in a year with Gods of Egypt and Zoolander 2, is without a doubt one of the worst movies of 2016. I understand that its genre is full of cheesiness and over-the-top action. I get that Skiptrace does not set out to be an Oscar-contender. However, I do expect even cheesy action movies to make a fair amount of logical sense and be moderately creative. I expect acting to be at least passable.

But today in Where Were All the F***ing Guns, I give you another entry in the Jackie Chan Punching S**t anthology.

First, let's talk plot. Skiptrace follows, so far as I could tell, a detective named Bennie. His partner died in the line of duty and Bennie is single-mindedly seeking vengeance against the killer. This killer, known as The Matador, has eluded Chan's character for nine years. I say "so far as I can tell" because this movie takes "show don't tell" to the extreme, completely throwing you into the middle of the action without any real exposition until thirty minutes into the runtime. This sounds like a cool story technique, but in a movie where you get a gratuitous Wilhelm scream five minutes in and Jackie Chan running through bamboo huts collapsing like dominos within the first ten, it would really help me feel invested even a tiny bit in the utter ridiculousness of Skiptrace if I knew what the hell was going on.

This is also a movie where a character is taken out of commission by being crushed under massive bags of soda cans. I couldn't think of a good moment to mention that, so I'm just throwing it in here because it is so mind-numbingly idiotic that it deserves to be mentioned.

In terms of acting, need I say more than Johnny Knoxville plays a lead? I was genuinely curious to see him flex his acting muscles and surprise me with even a passable delivery. No such luck. I won't blame the horrendous script (although "You've gotta get out there. Take a pilates class. Have some fun" is a real line that is really genuinely supposed to be emotionally-compelling that Knoxville was somehow forced to deliver straight-faced). Instead, I'll blame whoever thought the Jackass guy would be a good candidate to play off Jackie Chan, who is as wooden and unemotional as ever. Chan is an Oscar-winner now. He needs to retire before he tarnishes that gold statue too much more.

There is one scene that must be mentioned simply to demonstrate the depth of the ludicrousness in Skiptrace. Halfway through, Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville are kidnapped by a Mongolian village. They proceed to get very drunk and, for no apparent reason, begin to sing and dance a choreographed routine to Adele's hit single from over six years ago, "Rolling in the Deep," almost in its entirety. This scene is not mentioned again. Adele never came up earlier. It's simply there.

Everything in this ridiculous piece of cinematic horse manure is just simply there.

I suppose if I had been extremely drunk I could have found humor in how bad Skiptrace really is. However, I finished it and instantly began reevaluating the state of my life where two hours of my existence had gone down the tubes for the sake of such a ridiculously awful movie.

Cinematographer Chan Kwok-hung died by drowning during the course of filming this horrendous film. This film didn't just kill my evening. It killed a critically-acclaimed cinematographer.

This isn't Nine Lives. Don't watch it for the sake of experiencing a so-bad-its-good movie. This is just offensively bad. Skiptrace only saves itself from being the worst movie of the year because Zoolander 2 is so obnoxiously horrid and because the presumably mentally-ill casting director seemingly spent all of his time finding beautiful female co-leads when he should have been finding a better lead than Johnny freaking Knoxville.

Thanks for ruining Adele for me, Jackie.

Jonathan's Score: 1.5/10

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