RIDE ON Review: Jackie Chan Trots Out Fun Family Drama And Excitement With A Love Letter To His Roots
Ride On is now available in U.S. theaters from Well Go USA
Action star Jackie Chan turned 69 this past weekend, just in time for the arrival of his newest film, Ride On, which stands to invite more brouhaha from fans who’ve long taken note of the last decade or so of blurbs making the rounds of the actor’s retirement from the action genre. Invariably, the requisite cat-and-mouse set pieces and fight sequencing with Chan outrunning goons between punches and kicks with gags are ripe for the taking in Yang’s fifth and latest movie, but the effort toward a poignant, more substantive, and drama-heavy push isn’t wasted.
At the core of Ride On is the celebration of industry in Hong Kong cinema, one specifically focused on the stunt community that so notably underscored the field as it did in the eighties and nineties. Vignettes and easter eggs highlighting moments from the star’s real-life oeuvre of stunt work in film serve as the backdrop to Chan’s portrayal of a washed-up stuntman and street hustler named Luo, who is deep in debt with a small gang of goonish collectors, and also happens to be the target of looming litigation with a company seeking re-ownership of Red Hare, a horse that Luo saved from euthanasia and trained and raised personally.
As fate would have it, the only person he can turn to is perhaps the one person who wants nothing to do with him: his estranged daughter, Bao (Liu Haocun), whose legal underpinning as a student alongside boyfriend and young upstart Mickey (Kevin Guo) stands as his only chance in an unforgiving legal system. Gradually, this comes just as Luo is sought after by younger stunt colleagues to join the fray once more as a stunt performer, joined by his dauntless steed on a quest for redemption in an industry that will also challenge an unrelenting Luo’s old-fashioned ways of doing stunts.
As kitschy and mundane as some of Chan’s recent titles have been, there are some bright spots worth pointing to, and Ride On certainly makes the effort at times. It doesn’t take long before the first action scene arrives and by then the film’s already established the key relationship on which the film focuses, setting up an exposition that paves the way for Chan and Liu’s roles to finally bring things inward some without feeling forced. There’s great development between the two as well with co-star Guo getting in some screentime as Bao’s meek suitor who Luo looks to groom properly through some strength training which adds to the comedy some.
The cast invites several guest favorites of the genre including Yu Rongguang in addition to Andy On, Shi Yanneng and Wu Jing, and even Stanley Tong to name a few. That’s plenty where the film plays right into the narratives of commemorating Hong Kong stunts, albeit shy of a Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung cameo, which would’ve been sweet to see, in addition to some of the stunt scenes themselves which Luo is seen filming. There’s at least one nod to 2004’s New Police Story that’s sure to catch the eye. The rest of the film’s muscle falls squarely on the conflict resolution between Luo and Bao, two members of a family broken by tragedy and disappointment, and incomplete answers to questions that will test just how strong their bond will be, between a daughter coping with trauma and loss amid a startling second chance, and a father hanging by a thread to hold onto what little he has left.
Ride On is a touching family drama that aims to please multiple audiences. At just a little over two hours, the film can be an emotional rollercoaster at times, but it rolls along with some splendid highs in between and guarantees anyone who’s been feeling let down by Chan’s adherence to the same shtick in his recent films that he’ll do way better than just horse around.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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