Let me start out by saying that I am as big a fan of Jackie Chan and his movies as anyone who might be reading this review. Having stated that, allow me to say that Jackie's super-ego is wrecking havoc among Jackie's filmmaking ids [i.e., the actor, the director, the film editor, the producer, etc.]
Reviewer Score: 8
Gordon Chan Car-Seung is the very talented writer and director of Fist of Legend  starring Jet Li. Hot off this success, he teamed up with Jackie on Thunderbolt and receives the "directed by" credit on the film. Apparently, during production the two had a falling out over style or content [or both]; Jackie took over the film, and brought in 2 old friends to finish up shooting. Frankie Chan Fan-Kei, who co-directed Armour of God 2: Operation Condor  with Jackie, is credited with the racing sequences. Longtime Jackie cohort Sammo Hung Kam Bo is credited as the action director of the film. The last credit on the opening "training" sequence reads "A Jackie Chan Film" and that is certainly what Thunderbolt is!
After the first 45 minutes or so you can notice the change in tone and development in the film. Sammo's presence is most evident at the end of the pachinko parlor fight scene when the tattooed yakuza attack Jackie. Hung Kam Bo uses what I call "the speeded-up slow-motion style" as Jackie beats them. Jet Li fans familiar with Kung Fu Cult Master  will remember the style Sammo used in the final tai-chi fight sequence of that film. This "style" pops up again in a couple of places throughout Thunderbolt. The final racing sequences, directed by Frankie Chan, are very different from the one at the beginning of the film. The racing footage at the end is clearly sped up and at times looks pretty hokey! The street racing at night in the first part of the film, directed by Gordon Chan, is very exciting!
Thunderbolt begins as a dark film with scenes inside dimly lit garages and outside at night. Jackie plays a heroic well-trained Hong Kong automotive mechanic who also happens to be a great race driver. He is a quiet humble individual and shuns a nosy reporter, played by the lovely Anita Yuen, when he is thrust in public eye. Of course, by the end of the film, they are happily in love and what a cute couple they make! As usual, a bevy of long-legged Japanese beauties are thrown in to make Jackie's huge Nippon audience happy! The now legendary outtakes at the end of the film show only Jackie being Jackie; directing, acting, mugging, practicing, etc. The other collaborators are not shown [maybe Sammo].
There are, of course, the prerequisite fighting sequences that are part of any Jackie Chan movie. The previously mentioned pachinko parlor scene is probably the best work Jackie has done combining hand to hand fighting with wire-trick stunts and in-camera tricks. The first fight scene at the family garage is an incredible mix of camera movement, camera angles, and masterful editing! As a true filmmaking artist, Jackie always manages to show me something I've never seen before in a movie!
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Copyright © 1996 J. Crawford