The Tuxedo (2002) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for action violence, sexual content and language
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Ritchie Coster
Director: Kevin Donovan
Screenplay: Michael J. Wilson, Michael Leeson
Review published September 29, 2002
I've come to the conclusion that watching a Jackie Chan film involves some of the same elements as watching a porn flick. Amid all the exciting action, there's usually a really dumb plot set up as a device to hold the moments together, and sometimes you'll find yourself impatient and fast-forwarding through all of the contrived story elements to get to "the good stuff".
Almost every Jackie Chan vehicle has the same thing in common. Without him, the scripts aren't worth the paper they are printed on. I had high hopes for THE TUXEDO, sporting the biggest budget for a Jackie Chan non-buddy flick, with the weight of Dreamworks and all the special effects magic they could muster behind it. Regretfully speaking, if there's going to be a movie that does for Chan's career what THE TERMINATOR did for Schwarzenegger, THE TUXEDO isn't going to be it, because for all its gadgetry, energy and audacity, at its core it is never succeeds in fixing the one Achilles heel of all Jackie's previous outings: the god-awful plot.
This plot involves Jimmy Tong (Jackie Chan), a New York City cab driver turned chauffer for millionaire playboy Clark Devlin. A hit is put out for Devlin, who is more than he appears, and he ends up comatose. Before he goes under, Devlin reveals that he is really a spy and the tuxedo he has used is a government project, which Jimmy ends up trying on, and granting him uncanny abilities to do such things as fight, dance, and be a suave playboy himself. What occurs afterward is a series of events that force Jimmy to assume the role of Devlin, using the suit to carry out the unraveling of a plot to pollute the world's water supplies with a toxin that destroys anyone partaking of it.
Before I get into the negatives, let me just say that THE TUXEDO is terrific fun about 70% of the time, with Jackie Chan pulling out all stops to entertain. One of the film's highlights comes when Jimmy is forced to go onstage for the legendary James Brown, who was accidentally knocked out when coming in contact with the suit. It's only fitting that the man who ends up walking out after being introduced as the "hardest working man in show business" would actually be Jackie Chan, because Jackie puts life and limb on the line with almost every film he makes, and in addition, has no boundary to the lengths he will go through to put on a good show for the audience, whether through singing, dancing, or just plain hamming it up for a laugh. There are actually quite a few such moments that make THE TUXEDO worth the price of admission, and if it weren't for the fact that the plot dominates the last third of the film, this very well could have arguably been Chan's best film. There's energetic direction from first-timer Kevin Donovan, a good score, and some very ingenious fight scenes and funny bits.
OK, now the bad news. While we don't really expect much plot in Chan's films to begin with, and even at their best, they are still uninteresting when compared to the action, THE TUXEDO introduces a plot so repugnant that it only serves to undermine the good feelings and excitement that Chan had built up since the beginning of the film. With moments that might even border on making this a semi-horror film, the last half hour of the confrontation is too dark and distasteful, especially when the tone had been marked for the first hour by exuberant comedy and exhilarating action. Luckily the film does manage to set itself right for the amiable ending, so we don't suffer from sour aftertaste.
THE TUXEDO is still recommended for the wonderful elements, as it's one of the funnier and most exciting Jackie Chan films most of the way. The special effects and inventive energy also make for some great entertainment as well. Yet, go see it knowing you'll probably have some great reservations. THE TUXEDO may look and feel like a more expensive suit, but inside it's still the same old Jackie Chan film we've seen many times before.
©2002 Vince Leo