Jackie Chan, an icon of the action-comedy genre, now has an honorary Oscar. But as these films show, he is a surprisingly deft dramatic actor too.
Leonardo DiCaprio, after being nominated for an Oscar five times in his career including four in the past decade alone, finally won for The Revenant early this year. The internet exploded and everyone rejoiced, for “finally, credit was given where it’s due”. After a career spanning over half a century and 200 films later, Chan Kong-sang, better known internationally as Jackie Chan, finally has his. Early this month, he was conferred an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards in Los Angeles.
It’s hard to believe that it took so long for The Academy to recognize his contribution to cinema. As Tom Hanks rightly put it during the ceremony, it was gratifying to be able to acknowledge the actor’s work as martial arts and action-comedy were two genres often overlooked during the awards season.
A visibly ecstatic Chan accepted the award and thanked his friends and fans, who, he said, gave him the strength to “continue to make movies, jumping through windows, kicking and punching, breaking my bones”.
To say he was typecast early on in his career would be erroneous as it takes a special set of skills to carry an action film and make it entertaining, which Jackie Chan has. The Martial-arts Action Comedy genre has immortalized the actor, turning him into a pop-cultural icon. However, though Chan is mostly known for the aforementioned genre, he has shown his acting chops in quite a few non- comic films as well:
Jackie Chan plays the cook at a monastery who never really excelled at martial arts. Yes, you read that right. Playing a supporting character here, he is the only character who shows kindness initially to the repenting warlord Hou Jie (Andy Lau) and is the closest he has to a friend at the temple. The film is an epic tale of redemption that focuses on Hou’s path to enlightenment with some help from his friend Wudao (Chan).
The Karate Kid (2010)
The only Hollywood release on this list, this remake sees Chan in his first dramatic outing in Hollywood. His character Mr. Han, being a far cry from Pat Morita’s Oscar-nominated turn in the 1984 original, is his most subdued performance as he reluctantly begins to train young Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) for the tournament.
The Shinjuku Incident (2009)
The film is about a Chinese immigrant in Japan, played by Chan, who is searching for his ex-girlfriend. Slowly pulled into a life of crime, he finds her married to a feared Yakuza boss. Later on, he tries to take on more than he can handle and inadvertently becomes the catalyst for an all-out gang war and is unable to do anything as his world starts spiraling out of control.
New Police Story (2004)
The fifth instalment in the acclaimed ‘Police Story’ series also serves as a reboot of sorts. It follows a disgraced detective Chan Kwok-Wing (Chan) who unknowingly led his team into a trap while trying to apprehend a gang and is the lone survivor. He is then joined by a new and younger partner who wants to take down the same gang but has hidden motives of his own. This instalment in the series has darker undertones than the previous films and features some of Chan’s best acting.
Crime Story (1993)
A technically well-made film, this follows Chan as a member of the Serious Crimes Squad assigned with protecting a real estate developer who is the target of the fearsome Triads. Slick editing and action choreography make for a thrilling watch and the lighting sets a moody and ominous tone for the entire film. All of this combined make for a tense viewing experience. Also the fact that this is based on a true story that was eventually hushed up only adds to the intensity of the film.