Actor, director, writer, producer, singer, cartoon character, action hero and all round good guy Jackie Chan returns to our screens in Stanley Tong’s action adventure The Myth, two movies for the price of one. Co-starring Tony Leung as the faithful sidekick, Kim Hee-Sun as a sumptuous love interest, Mallika Sherawat as the body to die for, and what can best be described as a high kicking - got to see it to believe it - kung-fu horse. Yes, that’s right folks, a kung-fu horse.
The Myth is a curious beast for sure, where we're faced by both sides of the Jackie Chan coin. Firstly, Jackie stars as General Meng Yi, a warrior assigned to protect Korean princess Ok Soo (Kim Hee-Sun) from the advancing armies of General Choi, in a Qin Dynasty-era action epic, high on drama but low on traditional Jackie Chan comedy mayhem. The flipside is present day reincarnation Jack Lee, an archaeologist who along with friend and local neighbourhood scientist William (Tony Leung), is investigating gravity defying abilities through the use of meteorite fragments.
Present day Jack keeps dreaming of princess Ok Soo but isn’t sure why. A journey to India however, not to mention the raiding of some mystical tombs with voluptuous beauty Samantha (Mallika Sherawat), will probably solve any mysteries The Myth has to offer. What they won’t explain is why director Stanley Tong has saddled the movie with a four-legged comedy sidekick with moves like David Beckham.
Jackie’s present day shenanigans are exactly the kind of thing we have come to expect from Asia’s finest export, all goofy slapstick, well-choreographed fight scenes and Chan doing his best impression of Jackie of old. The Qin Dynasty segment comes complete with solid action spectacles but is burdened by a love-line that is both unconvincing and heavy on the over-dramatics. It’s a bizarre mix for sure, both a welcome departure and a jarring combination, which succeeds and fails in equal measures.
Jackie’s performance can’t be faulted; the loveable present day Jackie is far removed from the brooding past incarnation, but both are worthwhile interpretations. It’s refreshing to see Jackie in an action epic, because some of the scenes, especially the battle scenes, work really well. It’s just a shame that he's lumbered with a script that repeats them over and over. Yes, Stanley, we get it. Ok Soo is in love with Meng Yi. Stop banging on about it or I’ll be forced to insist on the return of that damn horse.
I feel sorry for Korean superstar Kim Hee-Sun because she really isn’t asked to do anything other than whine and stalk our hero. Bollywood starlet Mallika Sherawat isn’t asked to do much either, but at least she loses her clothes in the name of comedy. For that we should all be grateful. This set piece in particular is vintage Jackie Chan.
The ending is a little too daft, relying on wirework and a gravity defying suspension of disbelief, but all in all The Myth is a fresh and invigorating Jackie Chan experience. It won’t be remembered as one of Jackie’s best pictures, but it’s not one of his worst either. The Myth is a heady mix of action, comedy, high emotion and drama, with distressed damsels and badly rendered comedy horses as support. We’ll leave it at that. AW