Myth, The

dir: Stanley Tong
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Jackie Chan films are, by and large, pretty silly. The Myth is even sillier than most, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely unentertaining. Is there such a word? That’s it, I’m copywriting it.

Who cares, either way. The Myth is a silly but not unentertaining film about two guys in two different time periods played by Jackie. Let’s fact it, even Jackie’s best films are pretty silly. And here, paired with the same director who made Rumble in the Bronx and the appalling First Strike, this flick happily resides somewhere in the middle.

I love Jackie Chan. It’s impossible not to love him. Anyone who doesn’t love him barely retain the tattered remnants of a soul that makes them human. He’s just so lovable, like puppies, like cute little babies, like panda cubs.

That’s not the same thing as saying that a) he’s a great actor, or b) most of his films are good. Most of his films are crap. Really, really crap. So crap that they make you want to gouge your eyes out and those of the people sitting next to you. And the longer his career has gone on, the more crap his films have generally become. Of course, he’s been in 97 movies, so it’s not surprising that most of them are shite.

Interspersed within his long career are a few gems that keep the faithful like me still loyal to him. Drunken Master II, Project A, Rumble, one or two of the Police Story flicks, Canton and Lady Rose and a bunch of others make up, a bit, for all the other wretched stuff.

All of this is a wickedly long preamble in order to talk about his latest flick and how it is neither the best nor the worst of any of the flicks Jackie has been party to.

Back in the olden days before hygiene was invented, Jackie plays General Meng-yi, who is tasked by the Emperor with the safeguarding of his soon-to-be bride, who is coming all the way from Korea for the nuptials. The bride, Ok-soo (Kim Hee-seon), is beautiful but has a face permanently frozen in one expression.

Regardless, General Meng does his best to protect her when her ex-boyfriend rocks up and tries to get her back. Thus follows an introductory fightfest to remind us what Jackie can do.

As nice as it always is to see Jackie smashing shit up old school, the sequence is fairly overflowing with dumbness. This is the first few minutes of the film, so it’s not like it’s spoiling anything to mention it. The Korean princess is trapped on a horse drawn carriage that is on fire and suspended over a cliff. The General tries to hold her in place to save her. The other guy shows up, wanting the princess and reluctantly willing to fight Jackie. They both want to save her from harm, but instead of a) pulling the cart back over the cliff, b) having the princess scramble out before the cart falls or she catches on fire, she just sits there occasionally screaming as the two guys keep one hand on the carriage and one hand free to fight with.

Now, come on. That’s goofy even by the standards of goofy Chinese films. I felt like slapping all the people involved, so that’s not a good way to earn my trust in the opening section of a film.

Flash forward to the present, and it’s revealed that the badly plotted action we’ve just been honoured enough to watch was a dream, had by a modern day adventurer also played by Jackie. In a real stretch of the intellect, the guy is called Jack.

He is trying to figure out why he is dreaming about General Meng’s adventures, and why Ok-soo keeps appearing in his dreams. At the same time, an old uni friend called William (Tony Leung Ka Fai) is searching for some mysterious materials that can make things float in the air.

Can you guess whether the two plots will continue to intersect over the course of the next tiresome hour and a half, or are you still having trouble tying your shoelaces?

The two friends travel to somewhere very close to India, which, forgetting about all the plot bullshit, has copious scenes of hot Indian women doing yoga in skimpy clothing. One of them, an Indian princess (Mallika Sherawat), who develops a thing for Jack, made the film almost worth the price of admission alone.

Why Jack continues to be fixated on the mannequin Ok-soo in his mind when the alive and very healthy Indian girl is right in front of him is a testament to both true love and the stupidity of men. They have a pretty funny sticky action sequence in a factory that cleverly incorporates both the tantalising prospect of Samantha’s almost nudity with potential death.

Alas, the good times can’t last, and we end up being subjected to a dreary philosophical lecture from some guru who tries to teach Jack how to blah blah his blah blah blah.

The search continues for, I dunno, some plot device and some other clues to get the storylines to converge.

It turns out that there’s some amazing floaty material linked to something that happens in the past during General Meng’s time, all connected to the seemingly miraculous fact that Ok-soo, the expressionless princess from the old timeline, is still alive in a floating palace of bad CGI!

Not only her, but another loyal attendant of General Meng’s have been sitting around in an underground floaty palace for thousands of years, apparently, with nothing to do apart from wait for the return of General Meng. I am struggling to capture the true inanity of this script. It’s a singular achievement, it really is.

Explaining further the whats, whos and whys would aggravate you and irritate me, so perhaps I should leave it there. This story requires something further that the usual suspension of disbelief to enjoy: it requires the suspension of much of the brain’s neural activities in order to be even tolerable.

And tolerable it is. Even passed fifty, Jackie can still move like a demon on speed, and the fight scenes are reasonably entertaining. The love story, though, is as painful as having something try to claw its way out of your intestines with steel claws. I still argue that Ok-soo, who seems unspeakably dumb but loyal like a retarded cocker spaniel, comes a distant second to the charms of the Indian princess. It’s not an interracial competition, I know, but still, that Korean chick is a dead loss.

The script is terrible, the plot utter nonsense, and the attempts to mesh action / comedy / romance with period piece action / drama comes off like a bad genetic splicing of an octopus with a parrot. To rip off The Simpsons, Polly shouldn’t be.

Jackie tries to get real serious in the dramatic bits, and it’s fairly disastrous. His version of playing ‘serious’ involves maintaining a facial expression that implies he is trying to pass a kidney stone. He does have one great scene in the Before, Before section, where he takes on an army on his own, and ends up standing at the top of a pyramid of vanquished foes. Now that’s classy.

I would be lying if I said I understood what they were thinking with the dreadful ending of this flick, but the trick the makers pull, like they do at the end of most of Jackie’s flicks, is to distract you from how bad the ending was by showing the gag reel of fucked up stunts that occurred during the making of the film. You get a giggle and think that the film was all right. Well, it sure as shit worked on me.

Even though, it has to be noted that the gag reel acts as an indicator of what era a Jackie Chan flick is from, ignoring all the other signifiers. When you compare the messed up stunts shown at the end of his earlier flicks, where Jackie and his co-stars would be breaking limbs, skulls and generally getting seriously hurt when stunts went wrong, and compare it to now, where the gag reel consists of fluffed lines and missed cues, it shows the sad progress of time on an action star who seemed indestructible for so long.

Still, it’s Jackie, and that’s why I cut The Myth more slack than it deserves.

5 times I wonder whether Jackie Chan actually understands as much English as he thinks he does out of 10

‘I used to think about it (longevity) whenever I saw how fit young people are. Someone once asked me if I would give up all my wealth to be 30 years younger. But that would mean breaking my bones all over again!’ Jackie Chan, in an interview about The Myth.