J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Bleeding Steel: Jackie Chan Fights Universal Soldiers

At this point, Jackie Chan has probably replaced all his bones with titanium, but he does not play one of the “bioroid” genetically-enhanced soldiers. It doesn’t matter, he’s still indestructible in Leo Zhang’s Bleeding Steel (trailer here), which opens (again) today in New York.

Dr. James was a Frankenstein-style mad doctor, who created the so-called bioroids, before attempting to defect back to law-abiding society. It is Agent Lin Dong’s duty to escort him into protective custody, which he does, even though his ailing daughter Xixi is slowly slipping away. It is a good thing he is there, because his team is ambushed by a lethal squad of bioroids, led by the sinister Andre, who looks a lot like the MST3K version of the mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

Sadly, while Lin is getting his butt kicked sideways, Xixi tragically dies, except maybe she doesn’t, if Dr. James manages to pump her up with his super-secret-nano-bio-Macguffin. For a while, the film tries to be coy on this point, but duh, obviously. Lin had made himself scarce to protect the college kid now known as Nancy, but he silently watches over her. He is also investigating the bioroid cabal, as is a punky hacker-thief named Leeson. Of course, they will have to work together and reveal themselves when the ‘roids try to abduct Nancy for her blood.

And then a bunch of stuff that makes little or no sense happens. It is darn near impossible to discuss Bleeding Steel coherently. It is not even worth explaining the title, because that would open up too many other cans of worms. Yet, the film is not without its merits. For one thing, Chan spares us the rah-rah Chinese flag-waving this time around.

You also have to give Zhang, stunt coordinator Max Huang, and the JC Stunt Team credit, because the opening ambush-fight sequence is a knock out. People will re-watch this movie on DVD repeatedly, just for that scene. The climatic battle isn’t bad either. Chan also goes a few rounds with Andre’s cape-wearing femme fatale lieutenant on the roof of the Sydney Opera House. It is definitely a cinematic spectacle, but Zhang should have let it play out longer.

Unfortunately, there are just as many misfires in Bleeding, particularly the embarrassing scene in which Nancy visits her fortune-teller in a blighted housing project that is apparently home to every paroled sex offender in Australia. It also seems like Leeson’s only purpose in the film is to annoy the audience.

Frankly, Chan looks his age and then some in Bleeding, but he still has the moves and the high pain tolerance. Everything about Show Lo’s Leeson is unnecessary. There is no great need for the character of Lin’s cop buddy Susan either, but at least Erica Xia-hou shows some real action chops. Plus, she gets to drive a sports car no honest cop could afford and never ages a day over the film’s thirteen years.

It is hard to say which is worse, the hodge-podge screenplay or the continuity-challenged editing. Yet, Chan remains steadfastly committed to the chaos, every step of the way. As a result, it is all sort of fun, in a stupid, meathead kind of way. If this sounds familiar, you maybe remember the first time Bleeding Steel opened in New York. Heck, the small specialty distributor even took out a Times Square billboard for it (immortalized on YouTube here). You have surely seen dopier movies (some of them also from Chan), but with the New York Asian Film Festival in full swing, you can probably wait on Bleeding Steel until the next distributor takes a shot with it. For Chan super-fans, Bleeding Steel opens today (7/6) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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