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殺手壕 (1980)
The Big Brawl

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 02/05/2008

There is nothing more depressing than watching a film starring Jackie Chan where perhaps out of sheer spite for the lack of entertainment you find yourself rooting for the people attacking Jackie. Chan's first outing in Tinseltown probably has at the very least a passing resemblance to the average Hong Kong cinema fan's definition of grotesque. At the time of filming Chan did not speak enough English to order himself breakfast let alone deliver his lines with even a touch of comprehension (in fact he was taught English by way of phonetic cue cards in addition to off camera coaching on when to react to his co-stars). "Enter the Dragon" director Robert Clouse was brought on board for all the obvious reasons but curiously tied Chan's arms behind his back and refused to let him elaborate on much of anything and boy does it ever show.

Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 05/20/2006
Summary: Humdrum for the most part

Back when I was new to the “scene”, this seemed pretty special – a full on English language film with Jackie Chan. I rated it highly then, but it has to be said it was only the third film I’d seen him in.

Nowadays, of course, it’s pretty bad. In fact, most of the elements that make up this film are bad – so much so that I won’t even bother to go into them.

However, at least the creators (including Robert “I did Enter The Dragon and sod all else” Clouse) attempted to preserve Jackie’s comedy and a sense of fun to the proceedings. And it’s still a far better film than the woeful Protector and his appearances in the Cannonball Run “classics”.

Interestingly, this film has now been almost totally forgotten – when Mr Nice Guy was being plugged to death in the 90’s, one of the big selling points was “Jackie Chan’s English language debut”.

So in closing, it’s bad, but it may not be as bad as you think.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 08/30/2005
Summary: Jackie's first American Venture

Jackie Chan’s first American venture was the result of Golden Harvest keeping Jackie out of harm’s way and to try to push Jackie internationally. When Chan broke contract with Lo Wei for Golden Harvest and five million HK dollars, Lo wanted to do everything he could to get Jackie back (or punish him) even deal with the Triad group Sun Yi On to do this. Jimmy Wang Yu, whom Jackie worked with in The Killer Meteors and had Triad influence, offered to broker a deal between the three parties. He would later require a few favors such as Jackie to appear in Island of Fire and Fantasy Mission Force. Jimmy was quite successful in his talks with the three parties early in Jackie’s foreign journey, but Jackie would have to appear in two American films: star in The Big Brawl and have a small part in the horrific Cannonball Run while running the emotional gamut known as the American Press.

Battle Creek Brawl aka The Big Brawl is a mediocre attempt at trying to showcase Jackie’s skills. While it is not as bad as the American version of his second attempt – The Protector – it was still only an OK film. It was directed by Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon and the craptacular Game of Death) but he was relegated to B-movie fare at this point in his career though he would later direct Gymkata. Clouse’s static style conflicted with the dynamic nature of Jackie. Though there were several other areas of annoyance for Chan including his working with a language that he did not understand at the time and a stunt coordinator who did not understand his style.

Jackie stars as Jerry Kwan, a prodigal martial art student studying under his uncle Herbert Kwan (played by the prolific Japanese actor Mako) in the late 20’s or early 30’s Chicago. Herbert is a chiropractor when he is not torturing Jackie or going after large women. He is a disappointment to his father, even when he breaks up extortionists of his father’s restaurant, who wants him to be more like his brother Robert, the Doctor. Jerry’s fighting ability gets the attention of Dominichi (Jose Ferrer) a local gangster and obtains the ire of his nephew David Leggetti. Dominichi needs a fighter to be able to beat his nemesis, Mr. Morgan, who has control of a beast of a man Billy Kiss who kisses his opponents, sometimes a bit long, after he wins (played by H.B. Haggerty who looks like a 19th century circus strong man.)

For Dominichi to control Jerry he kidnaps his brother’s soon-to-be fiancé from China named Mae (Rosalind Chao who is forever known by Trekkers as Keiko O’Brien.) He then enters Jerry in a fighting contest called the Battle Creek Brawl which takes place in Texas. The purse is 15,000 dollars (which seems ridiculously low now.) The biggest problem with this contest is that all the fighters resemble professional wrestlers (yes the great Gene Le Bell is amongst them) and not fighters. This is especially evident in the beginning brawl-for-all where there is a camel clutch, body slams and plenty of large men in tights. The fighters are incredibly slow compared to Jackie, but they do add certain campyness to the film (or do the capes and tights make this point already evident.)

One of the more interesting scenes took place earlier in the film when Jackie is part of a relay roller derby contest. He would also use this new found skill of roller skating in an awesome stunt sequence in Winners and Sinners. But the rest of the film never quite captures my interest the way that scene does. The romance between Jerry and Nancy was handled in an interesting nonchalant manner though. I also did like some of the fight scenes, but not as much as most of Jackie’s Hong Kong fight scenes. I am glad that he was able to add humor to several parts of the film. I would not recommend this film to most people, because there are so many better “Jackie” films to watch. I did find this a nice diversion and not as bad as many of the American fight films of that era. NOTES: stunt coordinator Pat E. Johnson has his name on the fighter’s tournament chalk board. Some versions (especially early Hong Kong prints) of this film take out the relationship scenes between Nancy and Jerry.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/18/2003

After the enormous success in Hong Kong of Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master, Jackie Chan found himself in a dilemma. He was still under contract to the inept director Lo Wei, who was trying to make Chan into the next Bruce Lee. Chan had long resented trying to be molded into Lee, and with his recent success, he thought he had proven that other forms of martial arts films could do well. However, Lo thought the same formula he had used with Lee on Fist of Fury would work for Chan, and didn't hesitate to keep using it over and over, even though the dismal box office returns told him otherwise. Eventually, Chan walked out on Lo in disgust during the filming of Fearless Hyena 2 and signed with the Golden Harvest studio. Chan thought Golden Harvest's success would free him from Lo's clutches, but Lo had some tricks up his sleeve. He was connected with the Triads (Hong Kong gangsters) and sent thugs to the set to threaten Chan. Eventually, things got so bad that Chan's manager Willie Chan suggested that he travel to America for his first starring role in the States.

On the surface, things looked good. The movie was being backed by the Warner Bros. studio and would have a budget bigger than any of Chan's Hong Kong movies, and was going to be directed by Robert Clouse, who had helmed the most popular kung fu film of all time, Enter the Dragon. Thematically, it was to have contained many elements from the Hollywood Golden Age (films from the 1930's and 40's) that Chan admired so much. In fact, the film was pitched to Chan as an "Eastern Western" -- something that was a dream idea of Chan's. However, one thing lurked beneath the surface -- something that would make Chan miserable and turn this film into the horrible mish-mash that it is. Everyone involved -- the producers, the director, the studio -- wanted Chan to become the thing he had run away from in Hong Kong. They wanted him to become the next Bruce Lee.

The film's shadow of a plot revolves around Chan inadvertently putting the proverbial monkey wrench into gangster Jose Ferrer's plans. Eventually, Ferrer puts the squeeze on Chan's family and Chan finds himself competing in a bare-knuckle fighting tournament to save the family business (which is, of course, a laundry). Really, the particulars don't matter. This movie's horrible from beginning to end. The script, the cinematography, the acting -- they're all bad. Probably the biggest disappointment are the fight sequences. No one on the set allowed Chan any input at all, and as such, well, they're just pathetic. One of the movie's major sequences has Chan battling the gangsters during a roller-skating race. Now, this could actually be good; anyone who's seen Rollerball could attest to that. But in this movie, it comes off as what it is -- a bunch of people who can barely skate attempting to create a fight scene under the supervison of a director who has no idea of what his star can do.

This may (and I stress may) be worth a look for major Chan fans who want to see his US debut. But, honestly, this kind of movie is better left forgotten.

And to wrap up the long-winded story I've set up in this review, Chan was able to go back to Hong Kong via some help from old-school star Jimmy Wang Yu, who had his own Triad connections. He was eventually able to make his Eastern Western (albeit twenty years later) with Shanghai Noon. After the dismal failure of the film, Robert Clouse found himself regulated to doing B-list martial arts movies... and, in perhaps one of the most pathetic attempts to cover ones' tracks, later stated in the documentary The Deadliest Art that Chan was "one of the best people he had ever worked with."

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 01/12/2002
Summary: Good, but nothing special.

One of the earlier movies produced to push Jackie Chan internationally, The Big Brawl is an 'okay' film, but nothing special, it's no more than a 'less than average' American film.

Jackie is growing up in America with his family, and is always getting into trouble. His teacher has told him to stop fighting people, but people keep picking on him and is forced to fight back. A rich man has seen him fight and decides to get him to fight for him in a fighting contest in Texas. Jackie is not willing to do so, and so they kidnap his girl and bribe him to fight in the contest, which he has to do.

The story is not as bad as it sounds, and the action scenes are okay, but a lot of the moves are terribly fake as a lot of American stunt men are in this who don't want to get hurt I guess! Jackie still has his funny fighting ways though, which looks good on scene.

Note: This is one of the first, if not the first, full English speaking roles Jackie has.

Rating (of 5): 3

(This rating is based on the year & genre, so don't think it's based as a comparison on new releases etc.)

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/05/2001
Summary: Ok-ish

Jackie's first attempt i think to break into the American market and you can see that Jackie's influence is subdued and minimal!!

It's a ok movie with ok action. It has some funny scenes but seems like you have seen it all before.........


Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Chan must fight in the contest at Battle Creek in order to free his brother's fiancee who has been kidnapped by one the mobs. Jackie must defeat the opposing mob's fighter Les Kiss in order to win through. Jackie's first attempt at breaking into the American market that is good for some laughs but don't expect much from the fight scenes.


[Reviewed by Dave Warner]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Set in the USA in the 1930s, this tells of a fightcontest which offers a huge cash prize to the winner. An interesting melding of martial arts and gangster genres with a good deal of humour and a strong cast.


[Reviewed by Elliot's Guide to Films on Video]