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Chinese Zodiac

十二生肖 / Armour of God III: Chinese Zodiac / CZ12 2012 | 109 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

Chinese Zodiac


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Movie appeal

Martial arts49%


Theatrical release date

 18 October, 2013

Country of origin

 Hong Kong

Technical aspects

3D (converted)



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Chinese Zodiac


Screenshots from Chinese Zodiac Blu-ray

Chinese Zodiac Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, October 18, 2013

“Chinese Zodiac” is reportedly Jackie Chan’s swan song to massive action comedies, the type that tear up the screen with slapstick of enormous scope while celebrating the star’s inability to be killed by stunts of his own design. If this is truly the final bow for Chan’s cartoon persona (after all, he’s turning 60 next year), “Chinese Zodiac” is an appropriate note to end on. Teeming with Chan’s customary choreographed hellraising, the picture is routine but captivating in its widescreen craftsmanship, with Chan the director making Chan the star look like a superhero as the story smashes through all manner of infiltration and escape while trying to impart an important lesson on the raiding of history.

J.C. (Jackie Chan) is a master adventurer tasked with retrieving lost bronze heads, originally a part of an ancient Chinese collection of zodiac busts. While the MP Corporation, run by Lawrence (Oliver Platt), dangles an enormous reward for such a find, J.C. deploys his array of high tech devices to help unearth the missing treasure, eventually traveling to France to meet with Catherine (Laura Weissbecker), the great-great-granddaughter of a ship captain responsible for pillaging artifacts, with his final resting place home to bronze heads and a fortune in gold. Using deceptive means to gain access to secretive areas, the barefaced greed of J.C.’s team upsets Coco (Yao Xing Tong), a woman devoted to the repatriation of lost relics. Caught between a monster payday and the restoration of China’s past, J.C. jumps into battle, using his physical skills to help thwart Lawrence’s destructive plans, hoping to secure the remaining bronze heads before it’s too late.

Although it’s never directly addressed, “Chinese Zodiac” is an indirect sequel to Chan’s 1987 adventure, “Armour of God,” and its 1991 follow-up, “Armour of God II: Operation Condor,” returning the actor to a franchise that’s been a successful hybrid of martial arts and Indiana Jones. Perhaps Chan wanted to avoid the burden of comparison, but fans should be able to detect jokes and physical might associated with the series, though “Chinese Zodiac” has the luxury of a larger budget, allowing the production to dream big when it comes time to sort out this business with bronze heads, a tree trunk full of gold, and endless spy gadgets that give the proceedings a James Bond tilt, practically doing all the work for our hero.

“Chinese Zodiac” carries a particular stiffness, but the lethargy of career repetition doesn’t completely wipe out Chan’s contributions. It’s a lovely picture to look at, with varied locations and a welcome use of color to squeeze out a little grandeur. The cinematography is also quite fluid, matching Chan’s ballet of flips and flops to create momentum, aided by editorial transitions that keep the feature restless, always off to the next big showdown. Select sequences in “Chinese Zodiac” are more impressive than the whole, with one encounter featuring J.C. dressed as a human rollerblade zipping down a treacherous mountain road exquisite in its invention, timing, and gasp factor, commencing the movie on an ideal note of cinematic abandon. Chan’s typical dosage of tightly choreographed action remains a priority for the film, finding J.C. battling foes while skydiving, lost in a hedge maze, inside a photography studio, and sitting on a couch, keeping cliché bearable by varying the war zones.

The plot of “Chinese Zodiac” isn’t nearly as interesting, loosely detailing the retrieval of the bronze heads while exploring J.C.’s technical gadgets -- the best being latex gloves that act as scanning equipment for a 3D printer back at his base. Shorn of 20 minutes for its North American debut, the movie seems to be missing its meaning and cultural fingerprint, though the message of relic hunting and its destructive residue on history remains. Perhaps depth was never an option for the picture, leaving its whirlwind storytelling empty but mildly engaging, with broad characters and outlandish adventures in exotic lands passable for patient minds. However, the feature’s baffling handling of J.C.’s greediness is never resolved to satisfaction, leaving the character more of a villain than the actual antagonist of the effort, imagined as a selfish opportunist until the plot needs him to have a change of heart.

Chan dials up the goofiness on occasion, preserving the picture’s mass appeal, playing to his strengths as a bruised entertainer. “Chinese Zodiac” may disappoint fanatics on the hunt for something new from the superstar, but it’s harmless work with intermittent thrills, delivering the basics with surprising polish and speed.

Starring: Jackie Chan, Laura Weissbecker, Oliver Platt, Sang-woo Kwon, Fan Liao, Sung-jun Yoo
Director: Jackie Chan

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