Skiptrace (HK/CN/US, 2016)

Wow, didn’t think they made stuff like this anymore! I feel like I just got back from 1995 after watching some lame, mismatched, double team, buddy action flick. Instead its 2016 and somehow I’m still watching some lame mismatched, double team, buddy action flick. Take the title, its some kind of jargon for tracking people basically, although you can just as easily use the word ‘tracking’ but I guess that doesn’t sound as cool. The title isn’t even that relevant to the movie frankly, pfft!

Anyway so this is a Jackie Chan movie, so that inevitably means lots of slapstick action and gymnastic-esque martial arts, the usual routine. The guy he gets awkwardly partnered up with is Johnny Knoxville, so right away you know that Chan is the more straight laced of the duo, whilst Knoxville will be the jackass (no pun intended). Sure enough, Chan plays a by the books Hong Kong cop who’s after Knoxville’s character, whilst Knoxville plays a loud, brash, bumbling American conman on the run.

For such a basic plot its certainly convoluted in its execution. Bennie Chan (Jackie) is after a crime boss called ‘The Matador’ who he believes is responsible for his old partners death (and he’s a crime boss). The man in question being Victor Wong. The daughter of Bennie’s old partner (Samantha) works at a casino which is owned by Wong and also happens to be the same casino where conman Connor Watts (Knoxville) manages to rinse a load of money. Wong believes Samantha helped Watts in this scam so she’s in trouble with him. So Bennie must track down Watts in order to help Samantha to prove she wasn’t involved. But Watts has been kidnapped by Russians because he’s in trouble with them for getting a crime bosses daughter pregnant.

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At the same time! Watts also witnessed the murder of a woman at the hands of Wong before being kidnapped by the Russians. So Wong is also after Watts (as well as Samantha) because this murder was all recorded on a phone that Watts still has. So Bennie must travel to Russia to get Watts, then bring him back to Hong Kong to clear Samantha, at the same time using the phone to nail Wong for a murder whilst also trying to prove he’s this Matador character.

The first action sequence is set within some Russian factory and sees Bennie taking on all the henchmen whilst Watts is all tied up (long story). As you would expect in a Jackie Chan movie, he is able to fend off all enemies without killing them in his usual circus routine. At the same time Knoxville’s character is completely bound and is solely dependent on Chan getting him outta trouble. This involves Chan bounding around the place trying to keep the immobile body of Knoxville/Watts from coming to harm by rolling, throwing, tumbling, pushing, hoisting him all over the shop. I know this is a Chan movie so I know this kind of thing is expected but it was just lame, I’m sorry but it was. I can’t even say it was impressive, more juvenile and ridiculously fake looking. It doesn’t help when Knoxville is obviously being replaced with a stuntman and Chan clearly isn’t moving as fast as he used to or doing anything as remotely dicey.

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The whole movie progresses in this fashion, from one obviously fake looking set piece to the next. In between that we get what looks like a selection of simple tourist videos highlighting the natural beauty of the east (mainly China). Seriously I know the Chinese market is massive now and everyone is sucking up to them big time but this was such an obvious move by the Chinese side of this production. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a heinous act or anything, some of the landscape shots within China are awesome, stunning, but they don’t really add anything to the movie and just feel like mini holiday adverts. But back to the so called action scenes, they suck, they are literally terrible and not amusing in the slightest. After Bennie manages to capture Watts he must escort him back to Hong Kong. But because Watts is an asshole he burns Bennie’s passport meaning they are unable to fly. So Bennie decides they must make their own way on foot…all the fecking way to Hong Kong…from Russia, yeah.

So this takes up the bulk of the movie, watching these two buffoon their way across Russia, Mongolia and China. This involves crap predictable action scenes on a major river, high jinx on a cliff face with extremely bad CGI and greenscreen effects, various escape attempts by Watts but always being caught by Bennie; sleeping naked together in a cave, a few fisticuffs with Russians (yep they’re after the duo too); and spending time in a native Mongolian camp where they all end up singing Adel songs. During this time the duo never manage to change their clothes, eat or drink properly or get sleep much. Yet they somehow manage to arrive in Hong Kong alive with their clothes spotless and dry.

The finale throws the usual plot twist in your face which you do kinda smell coming when we see Wong getting killed by an unknown baddie. Other than that its just business as usual with yet more boring gun fights and martial arts between various faceless characters. This entire movie just feels so damn dated its unreal, the problem is its not even a good hark back to the old days. Jackie is clearly too old for this shit and can no longer whizz around defying death. Knoxville is just a redneck idiot who can’t act and I still have no idea how or why he’s still in the movie business at this point (also, how much makeup is on him in this?!). The action is awful and slow, the humour is weak and cliched. The plot is a total mess and as I’ve already said the biggest sin is that it doesn’t even feel like an actual movie half the time. The only plus points I can give are for the visuals of rural China and Mongolia, other than that the whole thing is as predictable as seeing the end credit bloopers of Jackie hurting himself.

3/10

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