Racing Movie Month: "Thunderbolt" Review

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

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Rating: R
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: August 05, 1995
Directed by: Gordon Chan
Genre: Action / Comedy / Drama

Every Jackie Chan movie brings something new to the mix, and "Thunderbolt" doesn't disappoint with its creative fight scenes mixed with racing and edgy drama. When an expert mechanic named Foh helps the police to catch a notorious criminal known as Cougar, things take a turn for the worse when Cougar is sprung out of jail and proceeds to kidnap Foh's sisters. Foh must now race Cougar in Japan if he ever wants to see his sisters again. This action-packed film has enough creative stunts and high-speed sequences to keep audiences on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.

Chan Foh To (Jackie Chan) is a talented mechanic who runs a small garage in Hong Kong with his father (Yuen Chor) and two sisters, and he has just come back from Japan after studying with Mitsubishi Motors. He also assists the Hong Kong Police Force in taking down illegal street racers by checking out cars that have illegal upgrades. When Foh stops one night to help a beautiful news reporter (Anita Yuen) whose car has run out of gasoline, he sees a familiar face. A dangerous criminal named Cougar (Thorsten Nickel), who is wanted by authorities in several countries, is on the run, driving down the street at top speed. Foh uses the news reporter's car to chase after cougar, eventually apprehending him at a police blockade. After a few setbacks, Cougar eventually lands in jail, and all seems well for Foh.

This does not last long as Cougar's thugs break him out of jail, passing by Foh's garage to injure his father and kidnap his sisters Sai Mui (Annie Man) and Dai Mui (Wu Oi-Yan). Cougar uses his hostages as leverage to get Foh to agree to race him in Japan. Foh agrees, and he soon gets to work to brush up on his old racing skills. With the help of his racing team, Foh builds a  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III and gains permission to drive it on the expressway. Ready for battle, Foh arrives in Japan and storms a building belonging to the Yakuza gang. He prepares for the high-speed race that will decide whether he is able to return to Hong Kong with his beloved sisters by his side.

""Thunderbolt"" brings audiences everything they expect from a great Jackie Chan movie, including realistic fight sequences and an exciting plot. The fight scenes are choreographed for fast-paced action that keeps viewers' eyes glued to the screen. Jackie's stunts never cease to amaze throughout the film, ranging from fighting off enemies with a sledgehammer to practicing lightning-fast kung fu. Unfortunately, Jackie's recent leg injury prior to the film led to his inability to perform some of the stunts, so a stunt double was used in certain scenes. The film also emphasizes a number of high-speed race scenes which are equally exciting and well-executed.

Director Gordon Chan does a fair job of keeping the movie fast-paced and interesting, although some of the cinematography does not show the best sides of some of the martial arts fight scenes. The soundtrack adds to the film's adrenaline pumping scenes with heavy drum beats and great electric guitar solos.

The acting in this film has its ups and downs, with Jackie Chan delivering the most emotional and believable performance. Dedicated Jackie Chan fans appreciate this more serious alternative to his numerous comedic films, which do not allow him to branch out in his acting as much as ""Thunderbolt"" does. Thorsten Nickel's performance is decent, although his over-the-top acting is sometimes distracting. Michael Wong delivers a strong performance as Steve Cannon, and Anita Yuen is convincing as the beautiful, pestering news reporter Amy Yip.

The movie ""Thunderbolt"" does have a few downfalls, although they are not enough to keep the film from being fun and entertaining. The plot of the film is fast-paced and interesting, but there are a number of plot holes that perplex viewers. For instance, it is never completely clear how Foh became involved with the police to the point of helping them with important investigations. The dialog is often cheesy, and some of the camera angles during the fight scenes do not allow audiences to clearly see what is happening. Despite these setbacks, ""Thunderbolt"" continues at high speeds, entrancing viewers with great action sequences and Jackie's signature moves.

"Thunderbolt" may not be Jackie Chan's best film, but it is certainly an entertaining and worthwhile addition to any collection. Featuring great stunt work and a satisfying plot, this unexpectedly fun Hong Kong film is a great watch for any action movie fan.

Rating: 3 out of 5