JIAN BING MAN Review: A superhero meta-comedy with a pancake superhero, a full star cast and Jean Claude Van Damme as final enemy.
Da Peng is a popular Chinese comedian, who had a successful web series on the Chinese internet called “Diors Man”, who had his moment of glory when Conan O’Brien accused him of plagiarism on his show, and for a few months, the two were throwing fun gibes to each other from their respective shows. For this crazy meta-comedy, he became an orchestra man, being the screenwriter, the main actor, and debuted as a director in a major film, surrounding himself of the best of the chinese entertainment industry.
The plot of the film revolves around his own persona, basically playing himself, a popular internet comedian, who in order to buy a ten million engagement ring of ten million for his fiancée, accepts the offer of a triad´s leader to shoot a movie, unfortunately, Da Peng gets involved in a scandal where in addition to losing his shame, he loses the engagement ring and is falsely accused of sexual harassment, which leads him to lose his girlfriend, to suffer public scorn and have to deal with the demands of the gangster who claims back his the ten million that he had already spent. But the shameless Da Peng, saves himself by coaxing the gangster, deceiving him that he is using the ten million to shoot a blockbuster full of stars … So accompanied by a bunch of “no good-for-nothings” losers like him, he begins a guerilla shoot of a superhero flick of his own, called “The Pancake Man”, getting the participation of all those stars, assaulting and kidnapping them in the most awkward ways possible, while they shoot their film secretly and without their consent.
The script delves into the ins and outs of the Chinese entertainment industry, with its triad bosses putting money on the productions, extorting money from the stars and even demanding them to act in their movies. Although everything is shown in a very funny and light way, it is not far from reality.
The film is a fun meta-cinema exercise, in the same line of Da Peng´s internet shows but a bigger scale. Filled with cameos of chinese and Hong Kong entertainemnet industry of yesterday and today, including a scene that pays tribute to the “Young and Dangerous” film series, where the entire cast shows up from the shadows, accompanied by the main theme of the saga.
As all the promotional posters announced, Jean Claude Van Damme has a triumphant final cameo, as the star´s final enemy, in a scene where the Muscles from Brussels parodies himself, does his famous splits and has a final showdown against Da Peng, in which incomprehensibly he was doubled by a chinese stunt in some movements that he could easily do. However, he seemed to had so much fun and that´s something that goes beyond the screen. A brief but very funny cameo that is extended in the post-credits scene where we can see JCVD sharing some pancakes with Da Peng.
The film is filled with local humor that might be hard to fully comprehend by western audiences not used to watch chinese cinema. In the west, the pressence of JCVD was probably the the biggest claim to sell the movie, nonetheless, this is not a Van Damme film, so whatever approach for that reason, is a mistake that would end up in disappointment, on other hand, and for those who are fully aware of what they are about to watch, it is a really fun flick that captures Da Peng webseries sense of humor and pays a beautiful homage to Chinese and Hong Kong film industry with its lights and shadows.